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Blueberry Plant Care: How to Grow Blueberries in Your Home Garden

Jump to RecipeBlueberries growing on a blueberry bush.

Blueberries are one of my all time favorite foods. Beyond enjoying their flavor, they are so fun to grow in the garden. I have had some successes and failures in growing these beautiful fruits.

In this article I will go through all the tips and tricks I have learned throughout the years to grow the best blueberries. I think blueberries are such a fun addition for any home gardeners. There are many different varieties, but in general they all follow similar planting and growing requirements.

Steps to Growing Beautiful Blueberry Bushes

1. Choose the Variety

When selecting the right blueberry varieties there are a few things to look at including your climate, soil type, and available space. If you are in a cooler climate look for Northern Highbush blueberries or Low bush plants as they thrive in these conditions. If you are in a warmer climate you can look for Southern Highbush, these are often found in Florida and are evergreen plants. Rabbiteye blueberries are another one that is found in warmer climates.

For reference, I live in Michigan in a zone 6 and grow the northern highbush variety. This is the most common among growers in this area. We have cold winters and warm summers so the plants will have a longer dormant period than varieties grown in the southern United States.

In each of these categories there are multiple types that differentiate in ideal growing season, drought tolerance, and flavor of the berries. When looking for plants to grow each one should have a description on the tag including the benefits of growing that variety.

Another thing that will factor into the variety you choose is the access you have to blueberry plants. Most of the time you get whatever your local nursery has. In good news, most of the time the plants that your local garden centers have are one that will do well in your area so you can feel good about choosing one from there.

2. Location and Soil Preparation

Once you've chosen the appropriate variety, it's time to prepare the planting site. For best results plant your blueberries in full sun. They can tolerate some partial shade if needed but they may produce less fruit the less sun they have.

You want to have well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. Another thing to consider in the pH of the soil. Blueberries actually prefer acidic soil. The ideal pH for blueberries is 4.5 but is happy with anything between 3.8 – 5.5. You can amend the soil with compost or peat moss to improve its acidity if necessary. If you are not sure what your soil pH level is in your area and you really want a better idea, you can conduct a soil test to determine the pH level and make adjustments accordingly. There are tests you have buy online or sometimes even find at your local garden center.

If you don’t have very acidic soil or you are growing in a smaller space, consider growing your blueberries in containers. This is nice because you can fit them anywhere in the garden and you have full control over the soil you are adding to the pot. To grow blueberries in containers you can do this in raised beds, grow bags, or large containers. Here is a good video that breaks down how to grow blueberries in containers that I found helpful.

Another thing to consider with the location is what is planted around your blueberry plants. There are different plants that can actually be beneficial to the growth of your blueberries. As a rule of thumb they plant really well with azaleas, strawberries, ferns, borage, and clover. They don't do as well next to potatoes, tomatoes, or black walnut trees. If you follow the other tips you might not need to worry about the neighboring plants but if you are interested you can learn more about blueberry companion planting.

3. Planting

The best time to plant your blueberry bushes is in early to late spring. This is when the plant hasn't put on much growth yet so you wont shock the plant when transplanting it.

Depending on the type of plant you buy the planting process looks slightly different. If you have bare-root plants you will want to soak them before planting. When purchasing your bare root plants it should come with instructions on the best way to do this for that particular variety.

If you are buying a blueberry bush in a pot you can plant it by digging a hole slightly larger than the root ball and place the plant at the same depth as it was in the container.

Space the bushes according to their mature size, typically 4 to 6 feet apart. Water thoroughly after planting, and mulch around the base of the plant to conserve moisture and suppress weeds.

4. Watering and Fertilizing

Proper watering is essential for the health of blueberry plants, especially during the first few years of growth. Keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged. A drip irrigation system or soaker hose is ideal for delivering water directly to the roots and will help get that perfect soil moisture.

To help keep the soil moist you can mulch the area around the roots with wood chips or pine needles. This will help hold in the moisture and keep if from evaporating in the full sun.

For fertilization, blueberries have specific nutrient requirements, including nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Apply a balanced fertilizer formulated for acid-loving plants in spring and early summer. You can typically find a berry specific fertilizer like the Berry Tone from Espoma to make sure it is getting the right amount of nutrients.

5. Pruning and Training

Pruning is a good idea in shaping the growth of blueberry bushes and promoting fruit production. Every year remove any dead wood or diseased branches, as well as any crossing or overcrowded growth. You want to make sure the plants has fresh stems and enough airflow between branches. I like to do this early or late winter when the plants are dormant.

Highbush blueberries benefit from a yearly pruning regimen to maintain vigor and productivity. Lowbush varieties may require less pruning but still benefit from occasional maintenance.

For new young plants, they don’t require much pruning. Once they are in their second year is when you really need to start pruning back your blueberry bushes.

6. Pest and Disease Management

Blueberries are susceptible to a variety of pests and diseases, including blueberry maggots, aphids, and mummy berry. There are different types of insecticidal soaps or horticultural oils to help mitigate these issues.

To try and avoid them in the first place, make sure to keep good airflow around the plants and remove and disease branches as needed. You can also choose disease resistant varieties to help reduce these issues.

7. Harvesting and Storage

Patience is key when it comes to harvesting blueberries. Wait until the berries are fully ripe, as indicated by their deep color and sweet flavor. Gently pluck the berries from the bush, taking care not to damage the delicate fruit. Blueberries can be enjoyed fresh or frozen for later use. Store fresh berries in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, or freeze them for long-term storage.

If you want to learn more about freezing blueberries check out this post that goes into the best way to freeze and store your blueberry harvest.

Closeup on a bunch of blueberries.

Common Problems

Blueberry Plant is Not Producing Any Fruit

There can be a few reasons your plant is not be producing any fruit including not having adequate soil nutrition or growing conditions like sun and water.

Other reason could be that there are not enough pollinators in your area to actually pollinate the plant. Planting other blueberries in the area will help with this. Also planting other pollinator attractors like flowers is a great way to increase production.

Your blueberry bushes may actually be producing fruit but if you have a lot of birds in your area they may be getting to the before you do. This is a common problem I have in my garden. I try to pick them as soon as they are ripe to help combat this. You could also get a netting or cover to help keep the birds away.

Blueberry Plant Leaves Falling Off

If the leaves of your plant are falling off before winter this in normal, but if it is early in the season and this is happening it might be because your plant in under some type of stress. The main reason is a lack on nutrients. Try to add some berry fertilizer to your plants to see in this helps them come back to life.

Common Blueberry Growing Questions

How long does it take for a blueberry plant to bear fruit?

Blueberries are able to bear fruit on a plant within the first year, but it is much more common to happen within the first 2-3 years. If you do get any before this it will typically be sparingly and not those large bunches of blueberries you may be picturing.

The plant growth of each blueberry plant is slightly different depending on the planting area and growing conditions.

Do you need 2 blueberry bushes to produce fruit?

Blueberry bushes can self pollinate, meaning that they will be able to bear fruit with just one plant. Even though they can, it is not as abundance as if you had 2 or 3 plants. Having multiple blueberry bushes planted near each other with definitely increase your production.

I don't have a ton of space in my garden so I only have 1 blueberry plant. I am still able to get a good amount of fruit from it, but maybe not as much as if I had more in the garden.

Should you cut back blueberry bushes?

For smaller, new blueberry plants they don’t require any pruning, but if you have mature blueberry plants you will want to do an annual prune. Your pruning should happen in winter when your plant is dormant. Most blueberry plants require little pruning but some attention is helpful to keep the plants thriving.

When cutting back your blueberry bushes start by removing any dead or diseased limbs. Next cut out old limbs that are competing with any new growth. You can tell which ones are older by the color. New branches will be a bright green while old limbs are a dark brown color.

Only keeping the fresh and strong branches will help encourage growth and fruit production. Having too many old branches will make the plant send energy into keeping those alive vs producing fruit.

Where to buy blueberry bushes?

Most of the time the best place to buy blueberries are at your local nursery or garden center. They should know the best blueberry types to grow in the area. You can also sometimes find them at large hardware stores like Home Depot and Lowes.

Bushel and Berry have great berry bushes you can buy and I often see them around the garden centers in my area. You can go on their website and see where you can find them in your area.

Start Growing!

Caring for blueberry plants requires a combination of knowledge, patience, and attention to detail. By selecting the right variety, providing optimal growing conditions, and implementing proper maintenance techniques, you can enjoy a beautiful harvest year after year. Whether you're a seasoned gardener or new to growing, having blueberries is a rewarding hobby that connects you to the beauty of the natural world. So roll up your sleeves, dig in the dirt, and let the magic of blueberry cultivation begin.

Please share any growing tips or things you have found helpful when growing your blueberries!

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