Blueberries are a fantastic choice for a low maintenance, non-invasive, and easy to harvest plant that thrives in most North American climates. As a perennial, blueberries are permanent bushes that offer the benefits of being both beautiful decoration and a source of delicious nutrition. Although caring for and pruning blueberries is simple, they do require transplanting when the plants have become too large for a particular area, or are growing into each other. Side shoots of blueberry plants can also be planted in new areas to multiply your blueberry patch, or start one from a generous friend or neighbor’s established plants. Learn how to successfully transplant blueberries with our 7 step guide!
Blueberry bushes should be transplanted during their dormant season, which spans from early November to mid-March, dependent on climate. Transplanting during a hard frost is never advisable, so aim for early fall or spring if you live in a harsher climate. During this time the roots of the plant will have regulated to a temperature at which they can maintain enough heat to stay alive underground. The plant will also not be sending energy to its leaf buds at that point yet.
1. The initial step in transplanting involves choosing a site for your blueberry bushes. Different blueberry varieties enjoy different amounts of sunlight, but the general rule with these berries is approximately 6-8 hours of sun for most of the summer season. A relatively isolated transplanting site that is not too close to trees or other large plants is also beneficial, as the new berry bushes wont have to compete for water and nutrients.
2. You can test the soil in the planting site with a soil testing kit, and augment it for acidity if necessary. Blueberries like soil with pH levels between 4.0 and 5.0. Wood chips, and oak leaves can be used as mulches once the bushes have been transplanted, or mix peat moss into the topsoil. Depending on the size of the bush you are transplanting, you will have to dig a hole slightly larger than the root wad and soil you will be transferring. Make an approximate measurement, as you will still be able to make the hole larger if necessary. If planting several plants, make sure to leave at least 5 to 6 feet in between each plant, and 8 to 10 feet between each row of plants for better yields and easier harvesting.
3. Blueberries have a shallow root system with no tap root, so you wont need to dig too far into the ground to release them–one foot deep at maximum. If transplanting an established plant, dig a trench with about a one-foot radius from the base of the plant with a flat garden shovel. You will have to slice the larger roots that spread further out with the tip of the shovel. Once you’ve made the trench and severed the ends of the larger roots, gently lift the plant by sliding the shovel underneath it. Repeat this around the entire plant until its roots are completely free of the ground. Gently drag or wheelbarrow the plant to the transplanting site.
If you are transplanting a side shoot, take a flat garden shovel and carefully cut the root approximately halfway between the base of the established plant and the base of the side shoot. Dig the side shoot out in the manner described above, making a smaller trench around the base. Carefully carry the transplant the new site, or pot in acidic soil until you are ready to plant it.
4. Once your transplants are in the ground, make sure to water the thoroughly if the soil is dry and you are not expecting rain. Mulch the base of the plant with oak leaves, wood chips or sawdust, as these help retain soil acidity and keep moisture close to the roots of the plants. Don’t tuck the mulch too close to the base of the plant, leaving a ring of bare earth approximately two inches in radius to allow air circulation.
6. Making sure that your new transplants receive enough water is key. If no rain is in the forecast, water you blueberry bushes once a week for about an hour, ideally using rainwater rather than tap water, which increases the soil’s alkalinity levels. Your yield may be set back for the first year after transplanting, but your plants will be happier with better air circulation and more sunlight. Small side shoots will take several years before they produce a proper yield, but will last for decades afterwards.
7. Once drier weather sets in, blueberry plants should be watered approximately every 3 days for about 2 hours straight. Blueberries take overhead watering well, so sprinkler system provides an easy set up. Taking care of your berry bushes and spreading them out will be well worth it when those delightful blue-purple morsels of sweetness appear on the delicate branches. Blueberry pizza anyone?
Images: David Christian
By Rachel Tiemeyer
- How to Transplant Blueberries
- How can I safely transplant blueberry bushes planted in the spring before the winter hits?
- How blueberry plants develop and grow
- Shoot types and growth
- Plant growth and development
- Flowering and berry development
- Photosynthesis, transpiration and source-sink relationships
- Can You Transplant Blueberries: Tips For Transplanting Blueberry Bushes
- When to Transplant Blueberries
- How to Transplant Blueberry Bushes
- How to care for your blueberries this summer
- How to Grow Blueberries
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- Share on Pinterest
- Share by Mail
This spring, I received a very special gift from my parents who were moving–FIVE BLUEBERRY BUSHES from their backyard! These bushes are about three years old, so they are already producing quite a few blueberries each year but still have some growing to do. After doing some major research about how to transplant blueberries, my husband and I got to work. And, I’m happy to report that our blueberry bushes are currently thriving now seven weeks later. They are well on their way to producing a lot of blueberries! You can see the results after about a month and half in our backyard at the bottom of this post.
Thinking about putting in some blueberry bushes at some point? Or, do you have some that need to be moved this fall? Here is a step-by-step tutorial of how to transplant blueberries, based on my research and experience. Pin this one for later!
1 –Decide on Your Transplant Location
Ideally, you want to transplant your blueberries when the bush is dormant (so after the first frost would be a good time). Find a location to transplant your blueberries that provides plenty of sunshine. Make sure each plant will have ideally 3 feet on either side. (We had to plant ours a little closer than that due to lack of space. My mom’s were closer than 3 feet and produced just fine, too.) Blueberries produce the best crop in soils high in organic matter and with good drainage, as well as soil that is acidic (a pH balance around 5.0). I will later discuss ways that you can help enhance your soil naturally in almost any location.
2 – Gather and Purchase Supplies
Here’s what you’ll need…
- gardening gloves
- a shovel
- a hand spade
- top soil – I found that I needed a little less than 1 small bag per blueberry bush, when mixed with the peat moss below.
- peat moss – Buy enough to mix in with the top soil so there is about a 50/50 mix of each to surround each blueberry bush. This will help keep the soil loose.
- a wheel barrow – This is helpful when mixing the soil and peat moss or moving the blueberry bushes to the new location.
- Blood Meal – plant food
- pine mulch or pine needles – Either of these will help create an acidic soil environment for your blueberries, which they love.
2 – Dig Up the Bushes from Original Site
Wait until your plants are dormant (tops are dry and brittle), usually after the first frost of the year. When digging up the blueberry bushes from their original location, be sure to dig far enough around and down to keep as many roots in tact as possible. I stored mine in trash bags and buckets for about five days in cool weather on my back porch until we were ready to plant them. I made sure they stayed moist during that time, and they did fine. But, ideally you want to move them to the new location as soon as possible.
3 – Dig a Hole in New Location
If you are planting more than one blueberry bush, plan out where you want each bush. I set each of mine on top of the soil in their buckets/trash bags to see which order I wanted them in and to eyeball how big of a hole I would need. Dig about 10-15 inches deep, depending on how big your roots are for each plant.
4 – Place Your Plant in the Hole
Fill in the bottom of your hole with the top soil/peat moss mixture. (I did this to make sure there was nutrient-dense, loose soil below my plants as well as on all sides.) Set your plant in and see if the stem reaches ground level. If not, add more of the soil mixture. Remember, the soil will settle a little bit so add a bit more than you think is needed.
5 – Fill In
Once you have your plant at the right height in the hole, fill in around the plant with additional soil until filled. Sprinkle some of the blood meal around plant as plant food. In addition, the smell helps keep the rabbits and deer away. If you plant them near your house, like we did, make sure the grade of the slope is away from your house.
6 – Add the Pine Mulch
Add pine mulch or pine needles around your blueberries. This will help to add acidity to the soil, which is the ideal soil condition for blueberry plants.
7 – Water
Water your new plants and you’re done for the day! Continue to water the bush(es) until the ground freezes every 2 or 3 days.
Another tip: Add vinegar, coffee, and/or coffee grounds to your water to add even more acidity to the soil. I have been doing this every time I water my plants for the past few weeks and they love it!
I have a few different varieties here in my little mulch bed. The ones on the end are fuller, but the middle ones still have plenty of berries forming, as well. I think another year of good soil, sunshine and TLC and they will be back to fighting condition (fingers crossed!).
See my little blueberries forming? My kids can’t wait to get their little paws on them!
I hope my research and tips assist you well with how to transplant blueberries!
Top picture credit: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/
How can I safely transplant blueberry bushes planted in the spring before the winter hits?
There are a few things to keep in mind when transplanting blueberries.
- Blueberries like slightly acidic soil. So if it’s growing well now, it sure does like the soil. When you transplant it to a pot and later to your new place, you should ensure that the pH levels are about the same so that the plant doesn’t suffer a shock over and above that from regular transplanting.
- Blueberries don’t have very deep roots. They have a crazy mess of shallow fibrous roots which can easily get damaged when the frost hits especially if it’s not established.
That said, if you can ensure that the plant gets the same pH at your new place and if you dig enough around the plant to not really disturb the roots all that much, I think you have a shot at transplanting the plant. Also, since blueberry season is generally in July-August, the plant should be able to shake off the shocks (if you keep it to a minimum by being careful) and establish itself by then. Blueberries typically bear fruit year after year till it grows very old. Hence if properly done, transplanting shouldn’t affect fruit production (maybe slightly decreased the first year).
Transplanting is a bigger problem with berries that produce fruit only on year old canes, as the shock can reset the plant’s internal clock. When I transplanted my established year old blackberry plant a little over a year ago, it went into severe shock and lost all the canes it had produced and shriveled back to just a little stub and stayed that way till spring. This year should’ve been its second (fruit producing), but instead it started putting out new canes vigorously (now I understand why it’s a weed in some places…). So although the clock was reset, the plant is still very healthy and will (hopefully) fruit next year.
All this said, I second bstpierre’s pragmatic answer. Sometimes the trouble of waiting and going through the hassle twice (once to the pot and then to the ground) might just not be worth it. But if I were you, I would get a new one and transplant the old one, just to experiment with it and see if it works or not; that sure is a good way to learn and you’ll have first hand experience at transplanting and also first hand knowledge of what happens to doubly transplanted blueberry bushes!
How blueberry plants develop and grow
Highbush blueberries are long-lived, perennial, deciduous, woody shrubs that belong to the Ericaceae, or heath, plant family. Other members of Ericaceae include cranberry, lingonberry, huckleberry, rhododendron, azalea and heather.
Highbush blueberry plants usually require six to eight years to reach full production and range from 5 to 8 feet high at maturity. The climate and soils of the Pacific Northwest are conducive for good growth, development and high yields. Depending on the region, average yields of mature blueberry plantings range from 7 to 10 tons per acre for early-season cultivars such as ‘Duke’, and even greater in many mid- and late-season cultivars such as ‘Liberty’, ‘Legacy’, ‘Elliott’, and ‘Aurora’. A good understanding of plant physiology is important for good management practices to sustain these high yields and achieve good quality fruit over time.
To learn how to better manage blueberry plants, let’s examine root and shoot growth, photosynthesis, transpiration, flower development, and dormancy.
Blueberry plants have a fine, shallow root system. Roots larger than 1 mm in diameter anchor the plants and transport water and nutrients to the shoots.
The next type of root is dark brown and are long-lived (ranging from 150 microns, a little more than the thickness of a human hair, to 1 mm in diameter). These mainly transport water and nutrients.
The finest roots (ranging from 40 to 75 microns in diameter) are white or light brown and take up water and nutrients from the soil. These roots are short-lived, with a lifespan of only 115 to 120 days, and are sometimes referred to as “feeder” roots.
The finest roots are often colonized by mycorrhizal fungi. These fungi help the blueberry plant take up nutrients. The smaller “feeder” roots have a short life; half the plant’s roots die within 100 days. These shed roots are replaced by new root growth.
The roots are sensitive to plant and environmental factors. Irrigation, fertilization, mulch type, and raised beds can all influence blueberry root system growth and development.
Blueberry plants produce new roots throughout the year. Root growth usually begins in early April, when soil temperatures reach about 55 °F, and continues through early November.
We often find two peaks in root production in Oregon. The first peak occurs in late spring or early summer and is triggered by high water and nutrient demands for fruit production. The second peak occurs in mid- to late summer, after harvest, as the plants begin to accumulate carbohydrates and nutrients in preparation for dormancy.
In general, blueberry roots do not extend very far from the plant. In most soils, 50% to 60% of the roots are located in the top foot of soil and are within 8 to 12 inches from the crown. However, this rooting pattern can depend on management factors. For example, plants irrigated by drip have roots concentrated near the emitters, while those irrigated by sprinklers tend to produce a uniform layer of roots. Plants also produce more roots when grown on raised beds than on flat ground and produce deeper roots with weed mats than with sawdust mulch.
In sandy soils, roots will grow deeper than in clay or silt loam soils. In Florida, where a pine bark system is often used, blueberry roots will only grow in the upper pine bark layer, which has the preferred lower soil pH and a higher organic matter than the sandy soil below.
Shoot types and growth
There are generally three types of shoots in blueberry:
- Suckers that develop from buds on roots. These are typically only found in rabbiteye blueberry cultivars.
- Whips that develop from latent buds (buds that have been dormant for at least one year) on older wood at the base of the crown or higher up on the bush from older wood. These are found in all blueberry types
- Lateral shoots. These develop from vegetative buds on 1-year-old wood (last year’s growth).
Whip growth occurs later in the season than lateral growth, typically starting in June in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. The number of whips per plant is affected by pruning severity and light exposure to the base of the plant. Some cultivars, such as ‘Duke’ and ‘Berkeley’, do not produce whips from the base of the plant, instead producing most whips from higher up on the bush.
The growth of all types of blueberry shoots occurs in “flushes.” At the end of each growth flush, the bud at the tip of the short aborts, dies and turns black. This small, black tip is referred to as the “black tip” stage. Growth will often continue from an adjacent bud.
Most highbush blueberry cultivars have one to three flushes of growth per growing season. Whips often have more growth flushes than lateral shoots.
The number of flushes varies with cultivar, length of the growing season, vigor (pruning severity or crop load), and management (particularly fertilization with nitrogen). Growth must slow in late summer for flower buds to develop. Late flushes of growth are also more sensitive to frost damage in autumn.
Plant growth and development
Growth of blueberry is first visible in the spring with the onset of “bud swell” on 1-year-old wood (last year’s growth). This wood has vegetative buds (small, scale-like buds that will only produce a shoot with leaves). It may contain flower buds (larger and wider buds that only contain a flower cluster). Flower buds, if present, are located at the tip portion of the 1-year-old wood.
Shoot growth occurs rapidly in the spring and begins to slow in midsummer. Flower buds develop in late summer to early fall as days get shorter and night temperatures cool.
The number of flower buds per shoot is related to the number of days of good weather.
For example, ‘Duke’ will produce more flower buds per shoot when grown in Oregon’s Willamette Valley than in Michigan, which has a shorter developmental period in fall.
Flower bud initiation starts at the tip of a shoot and progresses downward. Shoot growth must slow or stop before initiation can occur. Factors that promote late shoot growth reduce fruit bud set. Other factors that affect flower bud initiation include light intensity (less in shade), plant carbohydrate status (see below) and cultivar. Typical fruit bud set (the proportion of buds on a lateral that become fruit buds) in the Willamette Valley ranges from 22% to 55%.
Once flower buds have initiated, differentiation (development of flowers and flower parts within the buds) occurs. The number of flowers that develop within each bud depends on the cultivar. In an eight-year study, ‘Duke’, ‘Draper’, ‘Bluegold’ and ‘Legacy’ had about seven flowers per bud; ‘Reka’, ‘Bluejay’, ‘Liberty’, and ‘Aurora’ had eight flowers per bud, and ‘Bluecrop’ and ‘Ozarkblue’ had nine to 10 flowers per bud.
When temperatures become too cool for plant development, flower bud differentiation will stop. It typically continues in later winter/spring prior to bloom. Plants then start acclimation, or entering dormancy. Acclimation is the gradual physiological process by which a blueberry plant adjusts to colder winter temperatures.
Falling temperature and shorter days kick off acclimation. The degree to which a blueberry plant “hardens off” in the fall depends on multiple factors, including the length of the growing season, photoperiod, alternating day and nighttime temperatures, nutrition, pruning and fluctuating temperatures. The length of the acclimation phase depends on the climate and the cultivar.
Once plants are dormant, they require a period of cold temperature before they will grow normally. Northern highbush cultivars have a chilling requirement of 800 to 1,500 hours (between 32 and 45 °F), whereas southern highbush and rabbiteye blueberry cultivars have a chilling requirement of 200–600 hours and 300–600 hours, respectively. While rabbiteye blueberry blooms relatively late, southern highbush blooms early in late winter or spring, after chilling is satisfied, making these poorly adapted to the Pacific Northwest. After chilling is satisfied, the plants enter a deacclimation phase. After this phase is over, bud break occurs once temperatures are warm enough.
Cold hardiness increases from the beginning to the end of the acclimation phase in autumn. Once plants are dormant, they are at their maximum cold hardiness. During the deacclimation phase in late winter to spring, cold hardiness decreases.
Blueberry cold hardiness varies tremendously across species and cultivars. Fully dormant northern highbush cultivars are considered cold hardy to at least -13 °F. However, ‘Legacy’, which is part southern highbush, is considerably less cold hardy, as are rabbiteye blueberry cultivars. The overall level of cold hardiness varies among plant parts. The wood is more cold hardy than the buds. Also, flower buds are less cold hardy than vegetative buds.
Open flowers are damaged when the temperature is about 28 °F. The level of damage depends on the stage of plant development, how rapidly temperatures change during a cold event, and how cold it gets.
Cultural practices that promote late fall growth can affect cold hardiness. Excessive or late fertilization with nitrogen encourages late-season growth that is susceptible to early fall frosts. In warm regions, plants may not enter dormancy.
Flowering and berry development
Flowering occurs in spring when floral buds swell and open (“bud break”). Floral buds near the tip of 1-year-old shoots open first, followed by the buds below. Timing and duration of bloom vary by cultivar and prevailing weather conditions. The flowers of highbush blueberry are urn-shaped and consist of:
- The calyx, which ends up at the tip of a berry.
- The corolla, or fused petals.
- About 10 stamens that each have a pollen-containing anther at their tip.
- A pistil, with an ovary at the base containing many ovules (which become seeds if they get fertilized by pollen).
Flowers are receptive to pollination and seed set for 3 to 5 days after opening.
Some cultivars will not set many seeds unless pollen comes from a different cultivar.
Rabbiteye and southern highbush cultivars need a pollinator for good fruit production. Flowers need a large number of visits from bees or other pollinators for good fruit and seed set.
Fruit set (the proportion of flowers that become berries) averaged 93% in an eight-year study in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Fruit set may be lower in regions that get a lot of rain or cold weather during bloom, which reduces bee activity.
After pollination and fruit set, the berry goes through three phases of growth:
- Cell division, where the berry increases in size but is still green.
- Embryo development, where the berry does not increase in size much.
- Cell expansion, where each cell increases in size.
The development of pink and then blue color starts at the end of the second phase of berry growth. Sugars increase and acids decrease during phase three. Berry weight is dependent on cultivar, crop load (severe pruning will increase berry size), stage of development (berries increase in size after turning fully blue), and the number of seeds per berry (in most cultivars). Berry firmness is mainly affected by cultivar but is also impacted by ripeness, cultural practices and weather.
Photosynthesis, transpiration and source-sink relationships
Photosynthesis is the process by which plants use the energy of sunlight, carbon dioxide and water to make carbohydrates. Inorganic salts, chlorophyll (the green pigment in plants) and other catalysts are important in this process. Many of these organic salts and catalysts are taken up as nutrients from the soil. In blueberries, photosynthesis may be limited by light, temperature, and water. For maximum production of carbohydrates, none of these factors is limited.
Water initially moves into the root by osmosis, because the dissolved chemical components of the root cells are higher than that of the surrounding environment. This creates a root pressure that extends into the xylem cells, or water pipes of the plant. Water moves out of the plant as a vapor through the somata, or pores, on leaves. This is called transpiration.
This loss of water creates a pressure deficit and causes water to move through the plant. Transpiration is affected by light and water, which affect stomatal opening, as well as relative humidity and temperature, which affect the rate of water evaporation.
Wind also influences transpiration. Strong winds lead to increased transpiration.
Transpiration has an important cooling effect for leaves and the plant but can lead to excess water loss if the water is not replaced by rain or irrigation.
In the plant, there is a flow of carbohydrates from the “source” of production (leaves) or a storage source (roots, crown and older canes) to a depository known as the “sink” (fruit, shoot tips and root tips). The supply of carbohydrates by the “source” must be greater than the demand by the “sink,” or growth will be limited.
Sink strengths also vary in importance. Fruit is a stronger “sink” than flowers, which are stronger than shoot or root tips. Shoot and root tips are a stronger “sink” than the storage organs. The plant will allocate limited carbohydrates or resources to the sinks in this order of priority.
If a plant is not pruned well, there is too much fruit (the strongest “sink”) on it, then the growth of the shoots and roots will suffer, and the plant will not store as many carbohydrates and nutrients as it would if it were “balance” pruned. Careful pruning is important for balancing future vegetative plant growth with production of high-quality fruit.
Can You Transplant Blueberries: Tips For Transplanting Blueberry Bushes
Blueberries thrive in USDA zones 3-7 in full sun exposure and acidic soil. If you have a blueberry in your yard that isn’t thriving in its location or has become too large for the area, you might be wondering if you can transplant blueberries. Yes, you can easily transplant blueberries! There are, however, a few key steps to ensure success with transplanting blueberry bushes. The correct timing for blueberry plant transplanting is crucial as well. The following will walk you through when and how to transplant blueberry bushes.
When to Transplant Blueberries
Blueberry plant transplanting should take place when the plant is dormant. This depends upon your location, generally from early November to early March after the worst of the frost has passed. A quick light frost probably won’t hurt the plant, but extended freezes will.
Blueberries can also be transplanted early in the fall after the first frost, again, when they are dormant. Dormancy is indicated when the plant has gone through leaf drop and no active growth is evident.
How to Transplant Blueberry Bushes
Blueberries like acidic soil with a pH of 4.2 to 5.0 and full sun. Choose a site in the garden with the appropriate soil pH or amend the soil with 1 cubic foot of peat moss and 1 cubic foot of un-limed sand.
Dig a hole 10-15 inches deep, depending upon the size of your transplant. If possible, think ahead and add in some sawdust, composted pine bark, or peat moss to lower the soil pH in the fall before transplanting your blueberry bushes.
Now it’s time to dig up the blueberry you wish to transplant. Dig around the base of the bush, slowly loosening the plants roots. You probably won’t have to go down any deeper than a foot to completely dig up the root ball. Ideally, you will transplant immediately, but if you can’t, wrap the root ball in a plastic bag to help it retain moisture. Try to get the blueberry in the ground within the next 5 days.
Transplant the blueberry in a hole that is 2-3 times wider than the bush and 2/3 as deep as the root ball. Space additional blueberries 5 feet apart. Fill in around the root ball with a mix of soil, and the peat moss/sand mix. Tamp the soil in lightly around the base of the plant and thoroughly water the bush.
Mulch around the plant with a 2- to 3-inch layer of leaves, wood chips, sawdust or pine needles and leave at least 2 inches free of mulch around the base of the plant. Water the transplanted blueberries deeply once a week if there is little rainfall or every three days in hot, dry weather.
How to care for your blueberries this summer
Growing your own blueberries at home has become a real hit, and if you have a few bushes you will be getting a pretty good harvest.
Although they are self-pollinating, blueberries will produce much more fruit if you grow a couple of different varieties. There are some big blueberry plantations around WA now so the availability of varieties is increasing every year.
Blueberry bushes grown here in WA will be more adaptable to the warm weather we experience in summer and less likely to suffer dieback through heat stress. Many gardeners will notice browning on the tips of the leaves, dieback on branches and fruit fall, mostly because of those hot days with howling easterlies.
The varieties that perform best in WA’s warm winters are Southern Highbush varieties (Vaccinium corymbosum) and Rabbiteye blueberries (Vaccinium ashei).
All blueberries prefer a slightly acid soil (similar to camellias and azaleas) and protection from the hot afternoon sun. Growing them in pots is a great way for the home gardener to ensure success. The pots can be moved into full sun in winter and dappled light or shade in summer. It’s also easier to maintain the watering regime when they come into flower. At this time of the year spray with DroughtShield to prevent excessive transpiration.
It’s important to get good quality potting mix. You can use camellia and azalea potting mix, add a small amount of compost and mulch the pots with pea hay or lucerne.
Raise the pot off the ground, ensure adequate drainage and liquid fertilise in the summer months.
How to Grow Blueberries
By Ann Whitman, Suzanne DeJohn, The National Gardening Association
You can grow blueberries in USDA Zones 3 to 10. The blueberry plant (Vaccinium species) offers small white flowers in spring, glossy green leaves in summer, and spectacular crimson foliage in fall. As an edible fruit, blueberries can’t be beat for fresh eating, pies, pancakes, dessert sauce, and jam.
Choose one of these three species to suit your climate:
Lowbush blueberry (V. angustifolium) is the hardiest for Zones 3 to 6. These 8- to 18-inch-tall plants form spreading mats and produce small, intensely flavored berries. Grow them as ground-covering landscape plants in well-drained acidic soil, and enjoy the fruits as a bonus or leave them for wildlife. Prune only to remove dead, damaged, or diseased plants. Varieties include Northsky and Putte.
Highbush blueberry (V. corymbosum and hybrids) can grow from Zones 4 to 10, but some varieties are better suited to either extreme. If you want plenty of large, flavorful, easy-to-pick fruit, choose highbush blueberries. Shrubs grow 2 to 6 feet tall and produce more fruit when you plant at least two different varieties. In the northern United States, try Bluecrop, Blueray, Earliblue, Northblue, Patriot, and Northland. In the South, plant Gulf Coast, Misty, O’Neill, and Reveille.
Flower buds, which appear larger and rounder than leaf buds, form in the summer the year before the plants bloom and are most abundant on the 2- to 5-year-old woody stems, called canes. Prune in late winter to remove the oldest and most unproductive canes, leaving the most vigorous 15 to 18 canes.
Rabbiteye blueberry (V. ashei) grows in the warmer Zones 7 through 9. Growing up to 10 feet tall, the varieties of this species have thicker-skinned berries. You need to plant two different but compatible varieties to get fruit. Good companions include Beckyblue and Bonitablue or Powderblue and Tifblue.
Blueberries have very specific soil needs, including lots of decomposed organic matter and an acidic pH of 4.5 to 5.2. They grow where azaleas and rhododendrons naturally thrive, but you can also alter your soil with acidifying peat moss and sulfur to accommodate their needs. It takes at least 6 months to a year or more for amendments to significantly lower soil pH, so plan ahead, and test the soil before planting.
All blueberries have shallow roots and need moist, well-drained soil. Mix 1/2 cubic foot of peat moss per plant into the soil at planting time. Cover the soil around the shrubs with organic mulch to maintain the soil moisture and control weeds. Keep the soil moist throughout the growing season. Avoid deep cultivation, which can damage the shrubs’ roots.
Blueberries have relatively few serious pests or diseases, but good sanitation practices are a must. Mummy berry fungus causes trouble in some areas, spreading from fallen fruit. You can prevent other fungus diseases by pruning, to encourage air circulation through the plants, and by keeping the foliage dry. Birds are the most serious pests; cover the plants completely with bird netting before the berries turn blue.