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One of our favorite fruits, Blueberries are easy to grow and will produce abundant crops of delectable and flavorful berries. In addition to nutritious and delicious fruit, these attractive shrubs will add beauty to your yard, garden or patio. Following these guidelines in our Blueberry Growing Guide will help you succeed in growing this tasty berry.
Blueberries like well-drained, acidic soil and ½ day to full sun. On wetter sites, where water drains slowly, Blueberries will like growing in 2-3 ft. wide, 8-12” high, raised beds. Planting your Blueberries near your home makes frequent harvest easy.
Providing a good environment for your plants in the beginning will give you delicious rewards in the future. Planting in acid soil is one of the most important factors in success with Blueberries. If you are planting your Blueberries in the ground, adding abundant amounts of pre-moistened peat moss to your soil will increase acidity and make a nice environment for your plants. For each plant, prepare an about 2ft. in diameter and 1 ft. deep. Work in about a cubic ft. of peat moss (usually about ¼ of a bale). Well-rotted fir or pine sawdust can be used as a substitute for peat moss. Do not use cedar sawdust as it can be toxic to the root system.
If you are growing your plants in containers, use a coarse, well-drained potting soil that is designed for acid-loving plants like Rhododendrons and Azaleas.
Highbush Blueberries can be planted as close as 3 ft. apart to form a hedge and 6 ft. or more apart to be grown as individual specimens. Lowbush and Dwarf Blueberries can be spaced as close as 2 ft. apart.
Remove your plant from the container and lightly loosen and spread out the roots. Remove any excessively long roots and then dig your planting hole large enough to comfortably accommodate the root system. Place the plant in the hole so that the top surface of the potting soil is at the same level or a little above the level of the soil surrounding the planting hole. Firm the soil around your plant and water well.
After planting, it is a good idea to mulch your plant with 3-4 inches of fir, hemlock or pine sawdust. This will conserve moisture, suppress weeds and contribute to soil acidity.
Once planted and watered in well, your new plant should not need supplemental water for some time. If planting during warm, dry weather pay attention to the original potting soil and do not let it dry out. It takes several weeks for the roots to fully establish contact with the new soil. Summer watering should be done deeply and infrequently. A mulched plant should not require watering more often than once a week.
Blueberries like acidic fertilizers, like those used for Rhododendrons and Azaleas. Down to Earth Acid Mix is specially formulated for Blueberries. Blood meal, fishmeal, cottonseed meal and feather meal are also good, organic, acidic fertilizers for your Blueberries. Your plant will not need much if any fertilizer the first year. The year after planting, pull back the mulch in March and spread approx. 1/2 lb. of any of these fertilizers on the soil around the plant. Apply fertilizer annually for best results.
Most of the time blueberry plants are going to produce fruit as many of the varieties on the market are self-fertile. But, if you are interested in maximizing your production and generally larger berries, pollination is key. There are considered to be 5 “types” of blueberries; Northern Highbush, Southern Highbush, Rabbiteye, Half-high, and Lowbush. For best pollination results most often it is ideal to choose a pollenizer within the same blueberry “type” that also shares a similar bloom time. In addition, matching a blueberry to its suited climate will play a role in production. The Rabbiteye varieties are considered not self-fertile and need to cross with another variety within its own “type”. The key below offers some key indicators for which type might work best in your climate while also highlighting bloom times.
|Average size: 5-9’|
Tolerate colder regions (most hardy to -15 to -30 degrees F)
Most need a moderate amount of chill hours
Great choice for PNW
Generally considered self-fertile, cross-pollinates with all other Highbush varieties with matching bloom times
Varieties: Aurora, Baby Blues, Bluecrop, Bluejay, Blueray, Cabernet Splash, Chandler, Darrow, Draper, Duke, Earliblue, Elliot, Hannah’s Choice, Legacy, Liberty, Patriot, Pink Icing, Pink Popcorn, Midnight Cascade, Mini Blues, Razz, Rubel, Sapphire Cascade, Spartan, Sunshine Blue, Superior, Sweetheart, Toro
|Southern Highbush||Average size: 6-8’ (4-6’ in northern regions)|
Hardiness (-10 to 5 degrees F depending on variety)
Can be partially evergreen in Northern climates (though tends to grow a bit smaller)
Great for regions with fewer chill hours
Cross with other Southern Highbush or Northern with similar bloom time
Varieties: Biloxi, Emerald, Jewel, Jubilee, O’Neal
|Rabbiteye||Average size: 6-10’|
4-6’ in Northern regions
Not as cold tolerant and flower bud damage with temps under 0 to 5 degrees F
Great for long hot summers
In PNW fruit ripens late summer early fall
Not self-fertile, need another rabbiteye cultivar
Varieties: Florida Rose, Misty, Nocturne, Ochlockonee, Pink Lemonade
|Half-High||Average size: 3-4’|
These cultivars are very hardy most down to -35 degrees F or lower
Choose these cultivars for colder regions where other blueberry varieties can’t grow
Also great for container growing and not as much pruning as Highbush cultivars
Cross with Highbush cultivars with similar bloom time
Varieties: Chippewa, Northcountry, Northsky, Tophat
|Lowbush||Average size: 1-2’|
Hardiness at least -30 degrees F
Low growing shrubs that spread from underground stems
Pruning is less necessary but if it gets to branch it may be beneficial to cut the plants back to the ground every 2-3 years
Not self-fertile, cross with lowbush or Highbush cultivars with similar bloom times
Varieties: Brunswick, Burgundy