Though often overshadowed by the glory of their fruits, blueberry bushes are lovely shrubs in their own right.
Their glossy green leaves, pretty white flowers, and autumnal red and purple foliage offer year-round interest in the landscape.
Blueberry bushes are native to North America and encompass various species and hybrids that vary in size, shape, and color.
The most popular variety for home gardens is the northern highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum), hardy in USDA plant hardiness zones four through eight.
If you’re thinking about planting blueberry bushes, you probably have some questions.
FAQs About How to Grow Blueberry Bushes
Here are the answers to some of the most common questions about blueberries and a complete guide to planting and caring for blueberry bushes.
Are blueberries easy to grow?
Yes, blueberries are relatively easy to grow as long as you plant them in the right location and prepare the soil properly. They’re also low-maintenance once established.
How long do blueberry bushes live?
Grown in the right environment and with proper care, blueberry bushes can live between thirty to fifty years, with a decrease in productive berries towards the end of a shrub’s lifespan.
Do blueberries come back every year?
Unlike typical garden crops, blueberries are perennial shrubs—once they mature, they continue to fruit each season.
What month do you plant blueberries?
Plant blueberries in early spring after all frost danger is gone or fall by mid-October.
Spring is the best time if you live in an area with a long growing season; however, fall serves right for those with shorter growing seasons.
Be sure to inspect the plants once you receive them to ensure health; the roots should be moist.
If available, one- to three-year-old plants are the best choice!
Where is the best place to plant blueberry bushes?
Blueberry bushes grow best in sunny locations with rich, well-draining soil, free of weeds.
They’ll struggle in areas surrounded by trees because they won’t get enough sun.
Plant them in a row if you have the space, so they get good air circulation to prevent disease.
Do blueberries grow in the shade?
Though some varieties, such as the rabbiteye blueberry (Vaccinium ashei), can take some shade, for the most part, blueberries need full sun (at least six hours per day) to produce a good crop of berries.
Do you need 2 blueberry bushes to produce fruit?
No, blueberry bushes are self-pollinating, so you only need one to get fruit. However, planting multiple bushes will increase your yield.
How many years does it take to grow a blueberry bush? And How long does it take for blueberry bushes to bear fruit?
Depending on the exact species, a blueberry bush can take five or more years to reach maturity and start producing fruit.
Do blueberries fruit the first year?
It depends. If you’re planting bare-root blueberry bushes, they may not fruit the first year as they need time to establish themselves.
Potted plants and transplants from the nursery are more likely to produce a crop in the first year.
What time of year do blueberries bloom?
Blueberry bushes bloom in late spring with small, pretty, white, or pink bell-shaped flowers.
How many times a year do blueberries produce?
Blueberries produce two crops a year, with the main harvest coming in late spring/early summer and a smaller crop ripening in late summer/early fall.
Some varieties (such as the rabbiteye blueberry) produce fruits throughout the summer.
Can strawberries be planted with blueberries?
Yes, strawberries and blueberries make good companions. They have similar soil requirements, and they both benefit from cross-pollination.
Just be sure to plant them in different garden areas, so they don’t compete for resources.
What can you not plant near blueberries?
Avoid planting blueberries near rhododendrons, azaleas, and members of the Ericaceae family, as they can spread diseases to blueberries.
Besides those flowering shrubs, avoid the black walnut tree. The juglone released by black walnuts can also be harmful to blueberries, so avoid planting them nearby.
Do blueberry bushes make good hedges?
Yes, blueberry bushes make excellent hedges. They can be pruned to any desired height and shape and will offer privacy and beauty all year long.
Can you plant blueberries in raised beds?
Yes, blueberries will grow just as well in raised beds as in the ground.
It’s the easiest way to control the soil pH and composition, especially if your garden is primarily heavy clay soil.
Be sure to set the beds at least one foot high and eight feet wide so the roots have enough room to spread.
The soil should be well-draining and organic matter-rich. Blueberries demand acidic soil, with a pH level of five. Therefore, peat moss makes an ideal growing medium for your raised bed.
How tall do blueberries grow?
That depends on the species. Some blueberry bushes grow to about five to six feet tall, but some varieties can reach ten feet tall.
The Southern Highbush can reach an impressive twelve-foot height while the rabbit-eye might get a whopping fifteen!
Long story short… Check the shrub you purchase label and make sure you follow their more precise guidance.
How much space do blueberries need?
Blueberry bushes should be planted about four to six feet apart to allow enough room to spread and grow without competing for resources. The smaller variants require a smaller amount, four feet. Conversely, highbush variants need more space to stretch.
How many blueberry bushes should I plant?
The number of blueberry bushes you plant will depend on the amount of space you have and how many berries you want to produce.
If you’re limited on space, you can get by, by planting just a few bushes. But if you want a large crop of berries, you’ll need to install more bushes.
Grow the berries in a patch (rather than scattering them throughout the garden) if planting multiple bushes to help bolster fruit production and quality.
How do I prepare my soil for blueberries?
To prepare your soil for blueberries, start by testing the pH to ensure it’s in the range of 4.5-5.5. Blueberries prefer acidic soil.
If your soil is too alkaline, you can lower the pH by adding sulfur or peat moss. If it’s too acidic, you can raise it by adding limestone.
Amend the soil with organic matter such as compost or well-rotted manure to improve drainage and fertility.
Planting and Care for Blueberry Bushes
- Dig holes twice the width and height of the plants’ roots—approximately 18 inches wide and 20 inches deep.
Ideally, the root ball should rest below the surface (1/4 to ½ inch).
- Space the bushes four to six feet apart in rows eight to ten feet apart.
- Mix one part peat moss, oak leaf mold, compost, or aged sawdust with two parts loam, and set the mixture layer in the bottom of the planting hole.
- Place the plant(s) in the hole(s) with the roots spread out and the root ball(s) just below the surface.
- Cover the hole firmly with soil.
- Feed the bushes with 0.5 ounces (14g) of a 10-10-10 fertilizer a month after planting—not during planting—making sure that the fertilizer sits six to twelve inches from the plants’ crown.
Care for Blueberry Bushes
So now you might be asking. How do I take care of my blueberry bush? Here are some easy tips.
- To encourage deep roots, stirring deeply and evenly at least once a week (or more during dry spells).
- Mulching helps retain moisture and control weeds while keeping the plant clean and free of rot.
- Use organic mulch such as bark or pine needles. Apply it in a layer two to three inches thick around the base of the plant.
- Fertilize the bushes twice a year, once in the spring and summer.
- Use an acidic fertilizer such as ammonium sulfate or iron sulfate. Apply as per the package instructions.
- You can also use organic fertilizers like compost, fish emulsion, or homemade eggshell fertilizer.
- Prune your blueberry bushes late in the winter or early spring.
- Start by removing any diseased, damaged, or dead wood. Then, cut back any crossing or rubbery branches.
- Finally, trim back the tips of the remaining branches to encourage new growth.
- Blueberries are ready for harvest in mid to late summer.
- Gently squeeze a berry between your thumb and forefinger to test if they’re ready. Easy pop-off means it’s ripe.
- Berries will keep for up to a week in the fridge.
You Can Grow Blueberry Bushes in Containers, If You Select the Smaller Variants
It’s so easy and practical to grow berries in containers that you may be tempted to give it a try even when you’ve got plenty of space in your yard.
The most important key to success is picking the correct container and potting mix, and providing regular care.
- Use a large pot (eighteen to twenty-four inches wide and deep) with suitable drainage holes in the bottom.
- Mix compost, peat moss, and sandy soil, or use a potting soil designed for acid-loving plants like rhododendrons and azaleas.
- Plant the berry, then water the transplant adequately.
- Move the pot to a sunny spot and mulch to help lock in moisture.
- Provide one to two inches of water a week, so the soil stays consistently moist and not soggy.
- Overwinter in Northern regions by wrapping the container in burlap or covering it with straw.
Some of the smaller hybrid varieties to consider if you try container gardening include the Pink Lemonade, Top Hat, and Pink Champagne.
The Takeaway: Blueberry Bushes Are Fussy About Soil pH; But Once You Satisfy Them, They’ll Bear Sweet Fruit
Blueberries are a delicious and nutritious fruit that can be enjoyed fresh or in various recipes. They’re relatively easy to grow and make a great addition to any home garden.
They can be tricky to start with–at least until you learn how to maintain the acidic pH balance. With proper care, blueberry bushes will produce bountiful crops for many years to come.