Vaccinium corymbosum 'Duke'
Duke is the leading early ripening Northern Highbush variety. It is known for its high yields of uniform sized, quality fruit.
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Duke is the leading early ripening Northern Highbush variety. It is known for its high yields of uniform sized, quality fruit. Duke’s mild flavor seems to improve with cold storage. Maintaining the plant vigor of Duke can be a challenge over a long period of time but is well worth the effort. Duke blueberry is an early-season variety and is extremely popular in the Mid-Atlantic region. It is high-yielding and hardy. The attractive fruit is medium to large, light blue, and slightly tart. Berries are very firm and retain their quality better than most other varieties. Duke was developed right down the road from us at the USDA Beltsville location. Bluecrop Blueberry is best grown in acidic (pH of 4.8 to 5.2), organically rich, medium to wet, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Shallow, fibrous roots need constant moisture and good drainage. Bluecrop Blueberry appreciate a good organic mulch. Although blueberries are self-fertile, cross-pollination produces the best fruit crop (larger berries and larger yields). Therefore it is best to plant more than one variety that will bloom at the same time. Blueberry season can be extended by planting early, mid-season and late varieties which will collectively ripen fruit from late June until mid-August (USDA Zone 5). Best to remove flowers from plants in the year of planting and following year so as to prevent fruit set and encourage new vegetative growth. Prune as needed in late winter beginning in the third year after planting. This Bluecrop Blueberry is an upright, deciduous shrub which typically grows 5-8' tall (less frequently taller), but is arguably more manageable as a fruit crop when pruned to 6' or less. Dainty, waxy, bell-shaped, white flowers appear in May. Flowers are followed by light blue blueberries (to 1/2" diameter) which ripen in mid-season (mid to late July in USDA Zone 5). Ovate, dark green leaves (to 3.5" long) turn attractive shades of red in fall. Reddish stems can be attractive in winter. Although often planted solely for the fruit crop, this versatile shrub also has excellent ornamental value (white spring flowers, dark green summer foliage, red fall color and reddish winter stems). Very effective when planted in shrub borders or as part of less formal shrub plantings. Particularly effective in conjunction with rhododendrons and azaleas which share similar acidic soil requirements. Also makes an excellent hedge with the added benefits of summer fruit which can be harvested or left for the birds.