Growing Blueberries

Blueberries are great for baking or just eating by the handful. Their high levels of antioxidants make blueberries a healthy part of your diet. This is a guide for growing blueberries.

April 25, 2009 Flag
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Planning Tips:

Unlike most of the other berries grown in the North America, blueberries are natives. Gardeners in zones 2-9 can enjoy growing their own. Although there are cultivars that require cross-pollinations, most blueberries are self-fertile, but seem to grow bigger, more robust crops if planted near one or two other companion plants-specifically other varieties of blueberries. Planting a variety of cultivars with different ripening seasons will also extend your harvest. Try Earliblue, Bluecrop and Coville for respectively early, mid-season and late-season crops. Select virus-free plants in one of 4 types, depending on which is most suitable to your region: highbush (zones 4-7), lowbush (zones 2-6); midbush (a combination of the highbush and lowbush varieties) and rabbiteye, or southern highbush (zones 7-9).

Site Preparation:

Blueberries prefer nutrient-rich, highly acidic soil (a pH of 4 to 5) and full sun exposure. They will tolerate partial shade, but yields will be lower. Prepare your site 6 months to 1 year in advance by working acidic amendments like peat, wood chips and pine needles into the soil as necessary. Alternatively, consider creating raised beds. A combination of equal parts builders-sand and peat moss mixed with a bucket of compost will provide an acidic base rich in nutrients. Avoid planting in low spots and in areas where water tends to stand, or within 300 feet of wild blueberries.


In warmer areas, plant bare-root blueberries in late fall or late winter. Cooler areas should plant blueberries in the early spring after the danger of heavy frost has passed. Container blueberries can be planted anytime during the spring and summer. Highbush varieties should be spaced 5 feet apart, rabbiteye varieties 8 feet apart and lowbush varieties 2 feet apart in each row.

Care & Maintenance:

Blueberries will stay healthy and productive if pruned regularly. Young bushes up to 2 years old should be trimmed only to remove dead or diseased canes removed. Mature bushes (3 to 8 yrs.) require removal of prostrate canes and canes longer than 2 feet in length. Lowbush varieties can be pruned with a lawn mower. Because they will not produce berries the year following pruning, cut back half of the bushes each year and keep the other half of your plants in production.

Harvesting & Storage:

Blueberries should be taste-tested before harvesting. Berries that have just turned blue are not the best tasting. Gently shake a cluster of berries to determine ripeness. The ripe ones will fall easily off the bush. Store blueberries in the refrigerator immediately after harvesting. Cooler temperatures than the average refrigerator (31 to 32F) will keep them fresh for up to two weeks.
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April 26, 20090 found this helpful

We live in the Seattle/Tacoma of Washington State & have been looking for easy-to-read directions on growing Blueberries. I was just thrilled when I saw your wonderful article! It's easy to read, concise & informative. Thanks for taking the time to write it!

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July 6, 2016 Flag
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Photo Description
I am so proud of my blueberry plant. It has stayed true to the adage, of plants, and how they grow slow at first. The first year, the blueberry plant, slept, I hardly even saw a leaf. The second and third year, it crept, grew about five or so feet and started spreading out and produced a few blueberries. The fourth year, the blueberry plant leaped into life and it seems so happy. So this blueberry plant slept, crept, and leaped. I wanted to take a close up picture of my plant, since I am so happy to see it so happy!

Photo Location
My backyard :)

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July 7, 20160 found this helpful

Ummm...I'm definitely confused. This is a grapevine.

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July 8, 20160 found this helpful

You are correct, not confused.

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July 8, 20160 found this helpful

It is a blueberry plant, not yet ripened ;)

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July 8, 20161 found this helpful

I think it may be a grapevine. I am rather disappointed, since grapes are so very toxic to my animals. Well, I will make the best of it. Thank you for noticing what the plant is......hmmmmmm.

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July 8, 20161 found this helpful

Oh no..... it's a grape plant ;0 Lol

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February 4, 2011 Flag
10 found this helpful

Planting several blueberry bushes is a wonderful way to incorporate edible ornamentals into your landscape. The fruits are delicious to eat and contain a broad range of health benefits, and the plant's foliage provides a great source of fall color. Here are three keys to growing blueberries successfully.

Choose the Right Variety

If you garden in Zone 2-9, you can find a blueberry variety suited to your growing area. There are four common variety types, each distinguished by climate suitability and ripening season. They are: Northern highbush, lowbush, half-high, and rabbiteye. Some varieties produce small yields of large berries (best for fresh eating and desserts), while others produce large yields of small berries (great for pancakes and muffins). Some have upright growth habits, and others work well as groundcovers. Many offer the bonus of brilliant fall foliage. And for gardeners who don't like the color blue, the first-ever pink blueberry, Vaccinium 'Pink Lemonade', has been developed by Briggs Nursery.

Northern Highbush blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum)

Highbush blueberries (Zones 3-8), are the most common. They are native to the mid-Atlantic region and grow to heights of around 6 feet tall. Once they reach maturity, a single highbush plant can produce as much as 6 pounds of berries every year.

Lowbush or "Wild" blueberries (V. angustifolium)

Lowbush varieties (Zones 2-6) are northern natives and very cold hardy. These dwarf bushes can act like a groundcover and spread via underground stems. They produce high quality berries that are small in size, and have a distinctive "wild" flavor. Expect mature plants to yield a few cups of berries each year.

Half-high blueberries (also called mid-high)

These compact hybrids (Zones 3-7) combine the berry size of highbush blueberries with the hardiness of lowbush blueberries. They grow approximately 2 to 4 feet tall. Half-high blueberries yield approximately 3 pounds of berries per plant at maturity and all varieties produce a beautiful display of color in the fall.

Southern Rabbiteye blueberries (V. ashei) Rabbiteye blueberries (Zones 7-9) are also referred to as Southern highbush blueberries. They are native to the Southeast and are better adapted to high temperatures and drought than other varieties. Rabbiteye blueberries can grow up to 15 feet tall. Like highbush blueberries, mature rabbiteye blueberry plants produce about 6 pounds of berries per year.

Plant multiple varieties: Some types and cultivars of blueberries require cross-pollination while others are self-fertile. Even when cross-pollination isn't necessary, planting two or more varieties next to each other will encourage all of the bushes to produce bigger and better tasting berries. Also, by planting varieties that ripen at different times, you'll maintain a fresh supply of berries throughout the season.

Acidify Your Soil

Blueberries require soil with a pH of 4.5 to 5.0. If your soil has a pH of 7.0 or above, it's going to be challenging (although not impossible) to create the acidic environment they prefer. Start with a soil test. If you're unfamiliar with the process, contact your state's county extension agency for more information. Once you submit your sample get the results (usually within 5-7 days), amend your soil based on the lab's recommendations. Because blueberries have shallow roots, you will only need to alter the pH in a small area of soil. This is usually done by incorporating ground sulfur (fastest acting), peat moss, pine needles, leaf mold, or sawdust into the soil several weeks or even months before planting. As your plants grow, you'll need to test the soil periodically to make sure it remains acidic.

Blueberries in containers: If the soil in your area is not suitable for blueberries or your growing space is limited to a deck or patio, growing blueberries in containers is a great option to consider. Half-high and lowbush varieties work especially well for this. To create an acidic growing medium, mix together 1/3 peat moss or pine bark, 1/3 potting soil, and 1/3 builders sand. Stir in 1/2 ounce of sulfur for each cubic foot of soil. Fertilize plants with products labeled for use with azaleas, and top the pots with mulch to keep the shallow roots cool and moist. Replace the soil and prune back the roots every 3-4 years before repotting.

Prune to Maintain Production

Pruning is one of the most important aspects of growing blueberries. Annual pruning is necessary to invigorate the plants, encourage fruit production, and prevent the bushes from overbearing. Blueberries bloom on 2 to 3 year-old branches and plants reach full production after 5 to 6 years. Annual pruning helps maintain a good supply of 2 to 3 year old branches, while removing branches that are 4 years old or more.

For the first several years, remove only weak growth and branches growing close to the soil. On mature bushes remove one-third of the oldest shoots each year, as well as any broken or diseased branches. Prune in late winter or early spring before growth begins.

Newly planted bushes should be given a full growing season to get established before allowing them to bear fruit. Remove all blooms as they appear the first year after planting. If your bushes are heavy producers, it's also good idea to remove a small portion of the flower buds each season. If you leave them all intact, you may find that your plants produce an over abundance of small, low quality fruits.

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February 5, 20110 found this helpful

What a fantastic post, thanks so much for sharing all this knowledge. Have just read the entire thing aloud to my old man. Answered lots of our questions as to why we weren't having much sucess with our blueberries, and given us the solutions too! We are away to the woods for some pine needles this weekend.


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May 8, 2008 Flag
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We are getting ready to plant blueberry bushes. I have read online that we need to cut off the top 3rd of the plants when we plant them and then not let them produce for the 1st 2 years. Does anyone out there have experience with blueberries? Any help will be appreciated. Thanks and God bless!

Becki from Seymour, MO


Hi Becki,

Yum! I can taste them already!

I'm going to guess that you're growing blueberries of the Highbush variety. These are the blueberries people are most familiar with-the kind most often sold in grocery stores. FYI: There are also Half-High, Lowbush, and Rabbiteye blueberries.

Highbush blueberries generally start producing around age three. They may produce small clusters of berries before this age, but if not pruned back or "trained" during the first few years of growth, overall productivity can be somewhat delayed. Producing fruit takes a lot of energy, so it is always better to let a plant expend energy on becoming established during its first few years of life, rather then split its energy between growing and producing fruit. This isn't required, of course, but if you have the patience to train them for a few years before allowing them to swing into full production, you will be glad you did. The payoff is better fruit production down the road.

Blueberries are pruned during "training" (1-4 years old), and as needed throughout their life to maintain their shape. They may also be pruned to "renew" their vigor once they reach 8-10 years of age.

The Missouri State Extension Agency has a nice publication on growing blueberries in Missouri.

They also advise removing the flower buds for the first two growing seasons in order to allow the plant to become established.

Here is an additional resource from the North Caroline State University Extension Agency on the principle of pruning Highbush blueberries.

Good luck!


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April 18, 20080 found this helpful

I've never heard of cutting them down like that, but that doesn't mean anything... Maybe i'll try that with my new bushes.

I DO know that blueberries need a LOT of nitrogen in their soil. We "ring" ours with chicken when we clean out the coop in the spring and fall. You don't have to work it in, just spinkle it in a ring about 5 -12 inches from the "trunk."

Ours are still small too so no berries yet, but at the farm where I grew up we had bushes over 8 feet tall!

(i live in south western michigan in what's called the "fruit belt.")


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May 26, 20080 found this helpful

I just planted some last year. The plants were a year old when I got them, so when I planted them, they were already on their second season and there were no berries. This year--their third season--they have some berries. I'm not sure where you live in MO, but where I live in AR, highlands do not do well. I bought varieties (from Stark Bros. in MO) that do best in my area, hot and humid. It's best to get more than one variety for a longer season and variety. I hear that they're easy to root, so I plan on rooting my cuttings for additional plants later.

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August 13, 20080 found this helpful

I'm not sure how to do the root cutting. Can someone help me root cutting for blueberry bushes?

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September 3, 20080 found this helpful

When do you transplant blueberry bushes in New Hampshire? Time of year etc.

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May 5, 2014 Flag
0 found this helpful

I just relocated my blueberry plant to the backyard.

Blueberry Plant

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June 11, 2009 Flag
0 found this helpful

Any ideas on how to help our blueberries taste good for next year? Last year's crop was a great mix between tangy and sweet. This year, they are so bland and blah. We haven't done anything different but would like to ensure great tasting blueberries next year.

Hardiness Zone: 7a

By Icook_Ucleanup from AL

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June 17, 20090 found this helpful

I didn't even get a chance to eat any of mine. I went to pick mine one afternoon and everyone of them were gone. The Birds got them.

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