How to Grow Blueberries

Fresh Organic Blueberries on the Bush

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Blueberries are one of the easiest fruits to grow in your garden. They don't take up much space, can be grown in containers, and are quite attractive. Plus, you'll never have to overpay for a pint of flavorless blueberries at the supermarket again.

In addition to being an excellent food plant, slow-growing blueberry bushes are rather pretty. They can take 10 years to reach their mature height; some reach 12-feet tall. Their glossy, dark green leaves turn bright red in fall. Small white or pink flowers turn into white berries that turn a bit bluer, day by day. Add them to a shrub border, mixed bed, or pots on your porch or patio. Plant your blueberry bushes in the spring or late fall, unless you live in one of the colder weather zones—below zone 5, wait until spring.

Botanical Name Cyanococcus
Common Name Blueberry
Plant Type Perennial flowering bush
Mature Size 2-12 ft. tall, depending on variety
Sun Exposure Full sun
Soil Type Acidic
Soil pH 4.5-4.8
Bloom Time Spring, summer
Flower Color White or pink, that turn into dark blue berries
Hardiness Zones 3-9
Native Area U.S., South America, Asia, and Europe
Toxicity Non-toxic to humans and animals

Blueberry Care

Blueberries are hardy in zones 3-9. They grow well as part of a mixed shrub border, in a raised bed, or even in containers.

There are two basic types of blueberries: lowbush and highbush. Lowbush blueberries are low, bushy, spreading shrubs. They grow 4-24 inches tall and spread 1-2 feet. The fruit from these bushes ripens in mid-summer. These work well in the front of a border or edge of a garden bed. Lowbush blueberries are slightly more cold-tolerant than highbush blueberries. Highbush blueberries have a more upright habit, growing 3-12 feet tall.

Light

Blueberries are best grown in full sun for optimal fruiting, but will also tolerate partial shade.

Soil

If your soil isn't naturally acidic, you'll have to amend it regularly to maintain proper acidity for blueberries. You can do this by merely topdressing the soil around the plants with mulch.

Water

Blueberries need moist but not soggy soil. Plants need 1-2 inches per week of water, and drip-irrigation is a great way to deliver it.

Temperature and Humidity

Blueberries are cold tolerant and can survive frigid winters.

Fertilizer

Blueberries appreciate a feeding in early spring when the buds begin to burst, and another at fruit set. Fish emulsion or compost or manure tea all work well for this, applied as a foliar feed or directly to the soil. Aside from feeding and keeping the soil acidified, you'll want to weed around your plants regularly and make sure that they're getting at least 1-inch of water per week.

Put mulch around your plants to retain soil moisture and keep weeds at bay. If you mulch with pine needles or coffee grounds, you'll do double-duty by adding acidity to your soil.

Pruning

Blueberry bushes need to be regularly pruned in mid-to-late winter to keep them healthy and blooming. You'll need clean, sharp garden shears and a small wood saw. To start, clip away any dead branches back to where they join fatter branches. Next, cut away branches that cross or rub against each other. Finally, cut back 1/3 of the total branches, all the way to the ground. You'll know you're done when the center of the plant is getting air and sunlight.

Propagating Blueberries

Blueberries can be propagated with cuttings made from either soft or hardwood. Softwood cuttings should be harvested in the early spring, selecting 5-inch lengths of new growth and cut with a clean garden shear. Remove all but the top leaves. Plant immediately in a damp growing medium.

For hardwood, take cuttings in late winter. Select 5-inch lengths from healthy stems; place into a growing medium, indoors, and keep warm and damp. By spring, they should have produced roots and be ready to be planted outdoors.

Potting and Repotting Blueberries

Blueberries can be purchased as potted plants throughout the growing season. They are best planted in early spring or fall. Just plant your blueberry at the same depth it was growing in its original container.

Blueberries can be grown in containers, too, but they will need to be repotted often to accommodate root growth. To do, find a container larger than the one your shrub is already planted in, at least 16-20 inches wide. To meet soil requirements, 4.5-4.8 pH, prepare a soilless potting medium of 1-part pine bark, shredded, and 1-part sphagnum peat moss. Remove blueberry shrub from its container and shake the existing soil off its roots. Repot with soilless medium and monitor its watering needs: blueberries don't like to sit in water, but watering less often can be a problem.

Overwintering

Blueberries in the ground need very little thought when it comes to overwintering: just top the soil with a few shovelfuls of mulch before the weather gets cold. For blueberry shrubs in containers, surrounding them in frost blankets can help get them through the winter.

Common Pests/Diseases

Blueberries don't have many pest and disease problems. Rust, scale, and powdery mildew can sometimes be issues, but all can be treated with neem oil. More often, birds are the primary pest you'll be dealing with—they'll undoubtedly be after your berries! Luckily there are several things you can do to protect your berries from birds, such as draping bird netting over your plants or displaying a scarecrow.