There are certain varieties of blueberries that are known for their full flavor. The Rubel blueberry is one of them. These northern highbush blueberries, though small in size, pack a real punch with their signature sweet flavor and high levels of antioxidants.
If you want to how to grow this northern highbush plant and yield a bountiful harvest of Rubel blueberries, you’re going to need to know a little more about the fruit, its ideal growing conditions, and more.
Fortunately, you’ve come to just the right place. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about the Rubel blueberry!
History of the Rubel Blueberry
The Rubel blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) isn’t a particularly new variety of fruit, compared to some of the modern blueberry varieties that have been discovered and bred over the past 20 years.
Rather, Rubel is reported to have been discovered around 1912–1913, and Ruben Leek is the man credited with finding this highbush plant in the New Jersey wild. After bringing the plant cuttings to Elizabeth Coleman White and Dr. Frederick Coville, the blueberry was aptly named after him—the “n” from his first name being substituted with the “l” in his last name.
The Rubel has since become one of the top-rated blueberry varieties, largely due to its full, intense flavor. What’s more, the Rubel blueberry boasts incredible nutritional value and possesses as much as two times the antioxidants that the average blueberry contains!
Characteristics of the Rubel Blueberry
How do Rubel blueberries differ from other popular varieties? To start, here are some of the main most notable characteristics of the Rubel bush:
- Berry Size: Small
- Attributes: Excellent firmness, average-to-strong tart flavor, deep blue fruit color
- Chilling Level: High chill
- Bush Type: Northern Highbush, Deciduous Shrub
- Bush Habit: Upright, Multi-Stemmed, Slow-Medium Rate
- Market: Fresh, Processed
Because the Rubel blueberry is a northern highbush fruit, its ideal conditions are high chill environments—namely, the northern and northeast regions of the United States that are known for their cold winters.
With a chill requirement of roughly 800 hours each year, your Rubel bushes will need plenty of exposure to 32° – 45° F weather in order to thrive!
The Rubel blueberry bush tends to bear fruit during its fifth year, and its fruit will typically ripen mid-to-late season (late July to early August). You can expect your Rubel blueberry bushes to deliver a high yield of up to 15–20 pounds of fruit per year!
While relatively miniature in size, the Rubel blueberry delivers an outstanding firmness and flavor. Its sweet and somewhat tart characteristics make it the perfect ingredient in dishes that need the blueberry flavor to cut through without completely overwhelming other flavors.
Rubel blueberry plants are also known for their vibrant colors. While the fruit itself is deep blue, the bush possesses bright-white blooms, its deep green foliage turns shades of orange during the fall, and its twigs turn fiery red in the winter.
Like many species of wild blueberries that were discovered before modern breeding programs started producing larger berries, the Rubel blueberry is quite small—comparable to that of a large pea.
As a northern highbush berry, Rubel needs colder environments and plenty of chill hours in order to grow and thrive. For this reason, the majority of expert blueberry growers recommend planting in USDA zones 4–8; though some experts claim that Rubel is best planted in USDA zones 3–7.
Size and Spacing
Once they reach full maturity, Rubel bushes stand at 5–7 feet tall and 3–4 feet wide. For the most convenient location for manual and mechanical harvesting, plant your Rubel blueberry bushes roughly 4–5 feet apart and keep approximately 9–10 feet between rows.
The Rubel blueberry plant is self-pollinating, allowing you to plant these northern highbush varieties without relying on other species for pollination. If you wish to increase your crop yield, however, you may choose to cross-pollinate your Rubel plant with other northern highbush varieties!
Rubel Blueberry Shrub Care
As is the case with most blueberries, proper shrub care is essential for Rubel’s growth and survival. Keep the following tips in mind when caring for your Rubel bushes, and be sure to check out our ultimate blueberry growing guide, How to Grow Blueberries for more information!
The Rubel blueberry requires a minimum of 6 hours of full sunlight per day, but 8–10 hours of sunlight is preferable. While your bushes can be partially shaded, direct sunlight will yield the best results.
Like most highbush varieties, Rubel blueberry seeds or bushes should be planted in acidic soil (in the range of 4.5–5.5 pH). Be sure to apply organic matter and iron, and use an acidic fertilizer when needed.
The key to watering your blueberry bushes is to keep them consistently moist without over-watering them. Your plants should receive roughly 1–2 inches of water each week. If they don’t already get this from natural rainfall, supplement as needed.
While it might be tempting to start fertilizing your blueberry bushes shortly after they are planted, be sure to hold off until the spring. If possible, use an acidic fertilizer that contains sulfur-coated urea or ammonium sulfate.
When your Rubel blueberry bushes have matured, you should start pruning your plants during the late winter—removing any old wood in order to prevent disease and make your crop of berries easy to harvest. For more information on pruning, visit our detailed guide, How to Prune Blueberries.
Although there isn’t any disease that Rubel blueberry bushes are particularly susceptible to, you should take action to ensure that disease doesn’t affect your crop load. For more information about blueberry diseases, take a look at our article, 10 Blueberry Bush Diseases and How to Treat Them.
Certain pests may threaten your blueberry bushes. Prevent them from wreaking havoc on your blueberry crops by taking good care of your shrubs and checking on their leaves regularly.
For information about how to identify, eliminate, and deter pests, read our blog post on the 9 common pests you’ll encounter with blueberries.
When to Harvest Rubel Blueberries
Rubel blueberries typically ripen around late July, though this window may vary from crop to crop. Check out our guide, When Is the Right Time to Pick Blueberries? and nail down the ideal time to harvest your Rubel blueberries!
Common Uses for Rubel Blueberries
Due to their miniature size, potent yet balanced flavor, and high levels of antioxidants, Rubel blueberries make for a healthy snack or a sweet addition to any pie or dessert.
The Rubel bush itself is also a versatile landscape shrub, thanks to its array of vibrant colors year-round. As the plant is largely drought-resistant, it can persist in all types of conditions!
What Does This Blueberry Taste Like?
The Rubel blueberry’s texture is very firm, and its flavor is noticeably sweet and tart without being overpowering.
Rubel blueberries can be used in most desserts or baked goods that require a sweet or tart flavor. Because they are smaller than the average berry, you can add a higher quantity of Rubel blueberries to your recipe without overpowering the dish. After using the berry for baking, you’ll find that it is very aromatic!
Because Rubel blueberries are loaded with flavors and nutrients, they can be eaten raw and still taste equally as delicious. Just remember to wash any fruit before eating it!
When storing your blueberries, there are a few different methods you can try.
For canning or jarring, be sure to use syrup with berries you plan to use in pies and water with berries you plan to eat raw or use in baked goods.
For frozen blueberries, simply lay the berries out on a baking sheet, throw them in the freezer overnight, and transfer them to a bag or container for further freezing.
If you have the means to dry your blueberries (if you own a food dehydrator, perhaps), you can add the dried fruit to your yogurt or cereal!
If you need fresh recipe ideas for your Rubel blueberries, we’ve got you covered! Be sure to try a few of our favorites:
Health Benefits of Rubel Blueberries
Blueberries are known for being highly nutritious, and Rubel blueberries are especially high in antioxidants.
To learn more about the ways in which blueberries can enhance your overall health, take a look at our article, Health Benefits of Blueberries.
Where to Buy Rubel Blueberry Plants or Seeds
If you’re on the hunt for Rubel plants or seeds, your best bet is to try your local nursery or department store.
If you’re unable to find plants or seeds locally, not to worry—Rubel plants can often be bought online and shipped to your doorstep. Order yours from Willis Orchard Co., Arbor Day Foundation, or StarkBro’s!
Where to Buy Rubel Blueberries
Rubel blueberries may be difficult to spot in your local grocery store, particularly if you live in the southern or southwest regions of the United States. If you live in the northern or northeast U.S., however, you may be able to find these small berries at your local farmers market!
Final Thoughts on the Rubel Blueberry
Rubel is not only one of the most nutritious berries you can grow but also one of the most stunning blueberry bushes out there. Add an array of breathtaking colors to your property and enjoy a delicious blueberry harvest by planting your very own Rubel blueberry bushes today!
If you’ve ever grown the Rubel blueberry, we’d love for you to share your experience with us in the comment section below! Otherwise, learn about some of the other varieties of blueberries here.