Growing Blueberries

Category Growing Food
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 page for growing blueberries.


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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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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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May 8, 2008

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?

Blueberry Bushes

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Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

June 11, 2009

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 Cynthia from AL


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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Share on ThriftyFunCheck out these photos. Click at right to share your own photo in this page.

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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Photo Description
I barely remember reading a little quip years ago. It mentioned an American ambassador who was visiting Africa. He was taken to a remote village and introduced to the tribal chief. After the introductions, the ambassador said to the chief, 'I am just tickled to death to be here'. The interpreter, never having heard the expression before, struggled a bit and then came up with his best interpretation. He looked at the chief and said, 'I am scratched til I die to be here.

Well, that's just how I feel about this picture. I have tried to grow several varieties of blueberries with only minimal results. I am tickled pink over this little beauty. As of February 20, it is covered with blooms, and soon will be covered with blueberries.

My sister gave the plant to me. As it is out performing all my other blueberry plants, I sure would like to know the name of the variety. Wouldn't you just know, she doesn't remember. That's OK, no sweat. If I want more of these plants, and I definitly do; I don't have to know the variety. I will root cuttings from the gift bush.

I do wish all gardeners were as sticky as I am about knowing the names of the plants they grow. Oh well, I'll survive, and the berries will taste just as good. Yes!

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I just relocated my blueberry plant to the backyard.

Blueberry Plant

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