Growing Blueberries in Containers

container gardening picture of blueberries in a Smart Pot
Blueberry Container Garden. Photograph © Kerry Michaels

Growing blueberries in containers is easy and is something you might want to consider even if you have lots of space and gardens galore. For many people, growing blueberries in pots is the easiest and for some, may be the only way they will ever successfully be able to grow this delicious and incredibly vitamin and antioxidant rich fruit.

One of the main advantages to growing blueberries in containers is that blueberries are acid freaks so to thrive and produce berries, they need to be in a soil that is high in acid and most garden soil doesn't come close to these levels.

If you grow your blueberries in a container, you can easily buy or create an acidic blueberry-friendly potting soil and your plants will thrive.

The bad news about growing blueberries in containers, or anywhere else for that matter, is that if you want a plant that will produce well over the long haul, you need to be a little patient. As is true with most fruit bearing plants, it can take a couple of years to for the plants to produce lots of fruit.

What you need to know about growing blueberries in pots.

Use a large pot. If you're growing blueberries, chances are you are in it for the long haul. Your plants can happily produce fruit for years with very little care, but you'll want to start them off right. That means putting them in the largest pot that you can - at least 18"

Use a potting soil designed for acid loving plants.  When planting your blueberries, fill your pot 2/3 full of your regular potting mix and the top third with a potting mix designed for acid loving plants, like rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias.

You can probably find this in a nursery, even in the houseplants section. If you can't find a high acid potting soil, you can mix in a fertilizer for acid loving plants into your potting soil. I use Holly-Tone, by Epsoma.

Make sure your blueberries get full sun. Blueberries need full sun - a full 6-8 hours.

In my experience, people often will over estimate how much sun an area gets, so unless you are absolutely positive about it, take the time to really figure out if your plants will get enough sun. This means either using a sun calculator or taking your watch and timing through the day how much sun your plants will get.

Water well and wisely. For blueberries to thrive in containers, they need water - lots of it. That said, they don’t like to be sitting in water, so try to keep the soil consistently moist, not sogg,y. Even if it rains, don’t assume that you don’t have to water. The leaves of the blueberry plant can act like an umbrella shedding the water so that it misses the container completely. Always check the soil with your finger, to see if it’s wet below the surface. If you have to leave your blueberry plant and can't water it, make sure to move it to the shade to conserve water. A layer of compost with a topdressing of pine bark can also help conserve water.

Fertilizing blueberries. Blueberries don’t like too much fertilizer. Twice a year in the early spring works well. For organic fertilizer try blood or cottonseed meal, or a fertilizer designed for acid loving plants.

Blueberries need friends. To get your blueberries to fruit, you will need at least two blueberry plants for pollination, three plants is even better.

Be sure to place your blueberries fairly close together. Also it’s a good idea to grow a couple of different varieties of blueberries, because they will produce fruit at different times which will extend your blueberry season.

Protect your blueberries. While growing blueberries you’ll have few pests to worry about other than birds. To protect your fruit from feathered poachers, you can cover your bushes with a light sheet or netting a few weeks before the berries are ripe.

Overwintering your blueberries. While blueberries are tough plants, if you live in a cold area, and are overwintering them in their containers, move them against a building or into a protected area to keep them out of the wind. You can also mulch your plants with straw or wrap them in burlap. In the winter, while plants are dormant, they don’t need much water, but don’t let them completely dry out.

Choosing a blueberry variety. There are four main types of blueberries – highbush, lowbush, rabbiteye and half-high. Within these types there are so many varieties to choose from, you can check with your local cooperative extension service or favorite nursery to find out what will thrive in your area. Make sure to choose a blueberry variety that is suitable for your region. Also, varieties with large berries tend to be good for eating, where smaller berries tend to be better for cooking.