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Growing Blueberries – Best Tips for the Home Garden

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Learn how to grow blueberries in your home garden. We'll take you step by step through planting, fertilizer and mulch, care and harvest.

We also touch on growing blueberries in containers, pruning and moving mature plants.

blueberries growing on plant

Growing Blueberries – Quick Guide

Blueberries are fairly easy to grow, if you follow some basic rules.

  1. Blueberries grow in USDA hardiness zones 3 through 10.
  2. Blueberry soil should be rich in organic matter, with soil pH between 4 and 5.5 (acidic soil).
  3. Plant blueberry bushes in full sun for best production. Plants will tolerate late afternoon shade.
  4. Blueberries prefer well drained soil.
  5. While blueberries are self-pollinating, planting a second variety will increase fruit production
  6. Space blueberry plants 4-6’ apart for highbush, 2-4’ for low bush with 6-8’ between rows
  7. Use several inches of organic mulch to prevent weeds.
  8. Apply organic fertilizer in spring when plants are starting to bud.
  9. Prune off damaged or crossing branches in late winter.
  10. Blueberries need around an inch of water per week during the growing season.
  11. Protect plant from wild animals, if needed.
  12. Harvest regularly to prevent spoilage.

How to Grow Blueberries

Let's tackle each of these steps for growing blueberries in more detail.

Where do blueberries grow?

You can grow blueberries in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 3 through 10.

Local microclimate and soil is important, too, as we'll discuss below. Watch your local weather, talk with other gardeners to see what varieties grow well in your area.

For more information, read: Plant Hardiness Zones and Microclimate.

What's the Best Soil for Blueberry Plants?

Healthy soil = healthy plants. Remember, these bushes have the potential to provide many years of delicious berries, so they are worth the extra effort.

Blueberries grow best with an acid soil pH between 4 and 5.5, so do a soil test before you start.

The best soil for blueberry plants is soil rich in acidic, organic material, like you would find on forest floor or edge of the forest.

Add Organic Matter

When you prepare your blueberry planting area, dig a generous amount of organic matter into your blueberry soil. Time and effort up front will make all the difference in plant performance.

Peat moss is commonly recommended, but pine needles, leaves and other tree fallout work just as well. If your soil is alkaline, you’ll either need to do a LOT of soil amending, or grow you blueberries in a container.

The first time I planted blueberries, I used pine sawdust to kill the weeds, then used the sawdust for mulch. It worked OK, but I think the sawdust tied up a lot of nitrogen in the soil as it broke down, which slowed plant growth.

When I extended my blueberry patch, I first smothered the grass in a 10’x24′ plot with black plastic during the growing season. In the fall, I tilled in a generous amount of leaves and black peat by-product from earthworm casting production.

Be Careful with Chemicals

Avoid large amounts of sulfur and chemical fertilizers, which disrupt soil health.

If you do add sulfur in quantity to lower pH, wait at least three months for it to break down before planting. (For instance, add sulfur in fall for planting in spring.)

Where to Plant Blueberry Bushes

As noted above, blueberry plants prefer slightly acidic soil rich in organic matter. They need full sun for best fruit production, but will tolerate some afternoon shade.

Avoid planting blueberries in ground that tends to have standing water or ground that dries out too quickly. Think “edge of forest”, not bog. If standing water is an issue, try raised beds.

preparing blueberry soil in blueberry patch, tilling in pine needles

Which Blueberry Variety is Right for Your Area?

Different blueberry varieties can be grown from Texas to Canada. Check with your local Cooperative Extension office, or ask neighbors who have had success in growing blueberries.

You can also check your favorite local garden center or online nursery for suggested blueberry varieties. Try to plant at least two different varieties so they can cross pollinate.

Basic blueberry types include:

  • Lowbush Blueberry – Vaccinium anugustifoliumCold tolerant, less productive than high bush blueberry varieties, can be used as an edible ground cover or food forest planting
  • Northern Highbush Blueberry – Vaccinium corymbosum – For zones 4-7 (specific highbush blueberry varieties will tolerate colder temps, such as those I’m growing in zone 3). Grows 5-6’ tall.
  • Southern Highbush Blueberry – Vaccinium corymbosum hybrids – For zones 7-10. Plants require little chilling, but are otherwise similar to their northern cousins.
  • Rabbiteye BlueberryVaccinium ashei – Best for southern growers. For zones 7-8. Cold tolerant to around zero F. This blueberry variety can grow up to 20 feet if left unpruned, but best trimmed to manageable picking height.
  • Saskatoon – Amelanchier alnifolia – Not a true blueberry, but extremely cold tolerant. Can be grown in the northern United States and Southern Canada. Does not require acidic soil.

Saskatoons are also known as serviceberry, shadbush and juneberry. Fruit flavor is somewhat bland, seeds are larger than blueberry seeds and have a mild almond flavor.

bowl full of blueberries

Plant Spacing

When growing blueberries, allow 6 to 8 feet between rows.

Space blueberry plants:

  • 4 feet to 6 feet apart for highbush blueberries
  • 24 inches to four feet apart for low bush blueberries
  • 1 to 5 feet for saskatoon plants

Planting Blueberry Bushes

Plant container grown blueberry plants in your garden at the same depth they were growing in the pot. The same rule applies for bare root plants.

To remove a blueberry bush from its container, place your hand around the base of the blueberry plant with your palm facing towards the soil to support the root ball. Gently invert the pot to dump the blueberry bush out.

Check for roots that circled around inside the pot, and gently loosen and spread them out before you set your blueberry bush into the planting hole.

If planting a bareroot blueberry plant, gently spread the roots in the planting hole. Cover the roots of your plant and gently tamp down the soil.

Water the blueberry bush well to settle the soil around the roots, and cover soil with a layer of organic mulch.

When to Plant Blueberry Bushes

Bareroot blueberry plants should be planted in early spring, preferably while they are still dormant, to minimize transplant shock.

Container grown blueberry plants do well planted in spring, too, but can also be planted later in the season. It's best to avoid planting in mid-summer, when high temps in the garden can stress plants. Areas with mild winters may do well planting container grown blueberries in fall.

Note for Plants Purchased via Mail

If you purchase blueberries from an online nursery, they may need to be acclimated to your area before planting.

Start with placing the containers in sheltered, shady spot outdoors, such as a porch. Keep them there for 3-4 hours the first day, bringing them inside at night. Add 1-2 hours of outside time each day, planting at the end of a week.

Avoid exposing your young blueberry plants to freezing temperatures when they have fresh baby leaves. If frost threatens after planting, use frost protection.

Locally grown container blueberries that have been sitting outside at a nursery shouldn't need to be acclimated and can be planted directly in the garden.

Best Blueberry Mulch

Blueberries are a shallow rooted shrub and don’t compete well with grass, so they benefit from a good mulching.

Mulch helps keep the moisture level stable, and cust down on the amount of time spent watering.

I would say the best blueberry mulch is pine needles. They help maintain the correct pH, and add nutrients to the soil.

If you can’t get pine needles, bark or wood chips over wet newspaper would be my next choice.

Fertilizing blueberry bushes with worm castings. Pile of pine needle blueberry mulch in background.

The Best Blueberry Fertilizer

Fertilize blueberries with an acid fertilizer like ammonium sulfate or Down to Earth Acid Mix.

Use 2 ounces of ammonium sulfate 18 inches from the plant when you see blossoms. Increase by one ounce each year, up to 4 oz per plant per year.

If you are adding extra mulch at the same time, increase the amount of fertilizer by 1/2. 

How to Fertilize Blueberries the Right Way

Along with acid fertilizer, blueberry plants love earthworm castings. When the blueberries are starting to bud, I fertilize my blueberry bushes with earthworm castings.

To apply castings, I pull back the mulch at the base of the blueberry bush, and spread an inch of two of worm castings. Then I move the mulch back into place around the blueberry plant.

(More info on organic fertilizers here.)

Watering Blueberries

Once you prep the soil, fertilizer and mulch, the main thing to watch during the growing season is watering.

Blueberries need around an inch of water per week, and water is extra important when the berries are growing. Without water, the berries wither instead of ripening.

Blueberry bushes set fruit next year on this year's growth, so you want to make sure to care for your blueberry plants well throughout the season.

Blueberry fencing and bird netting enclosure to keep out deer and birds

Protecting Blueberry Plants from Birds and Other Animals

The first problem I ran into with blueberries is that every wild animal eats them, and not just the berries.

First the deer came to browse and then the rabbits, and the first 6 plants I put in turned into 2 inch stubs.

I fenced the next planting with 3 foot wire, but I still had problems with the deer jumping the fence, so last year I went to a 6 1/2 ft fence.

To keep the birds out, I built a frame work out of T post, chicken wire, tube steel and conduit, then ran wires to support plastic bird netting. This created safe haven for the plants to grow and berries to ripen pest free.

Having the netting elevated instead of just draped over the plants provides better protection and makes the plants easier to access for harvest and care.

When you price fencing materials they may seem expensive, but remember a blueberry planting can last 30 years if you manage it properly, so it will be worth it in the long term.

For more information on my set up, see “Blueberry Netting Tips – Protecting Blueberries from Birds (& Deer)“.

home garden blueberries

When to Pick Blueberries

Pick blueberries when they are a deep blue color. It's okay to pick them slightly underripe and let them ripen at room temperature inside.

Avoid letting overripe blueberries sit on the plant, as they can attract Drosophila fruit flies, especially in wet weather.

Blueberries will keep for several days at room temperature, or about a week in the refrigerator. Freeze or make blueberry jam for longer storage.

blueberry jam and blueberries

Growing Blueberries in Containers, Including Overwintering Instructions

For detailed blueberry container planting information, please see “Growing Blueberries in Containers

Excerpt from the article:

Because containers do not provide adequate insulation from the cold, be sure to protect container-grown blueberries during the winter to prevent root damage.

In mid- to late October, bury containers in the ground at a site where snow is likely to accumulate and where plants will be protected from cold winter winds.

Mulch the soil surface with four to eight inches of straw in mid-November or cover the bushes with burlap. Prevent rabbit damage by placing chicken wire fencing or hardware cloth around the bushes.

During early to mid-spring, remove containers from the ground and place them in full sun. Alternatively, containers can be left buried in the soil as long as the containers have proper drainage holes and the site where the containers are buried is well drained and exposed to full sun.

How to Plant Blueberries in Pots

How to Prune Blueberries

Here’s a good post from Oregon State University Extension on proper pruning techniques for blueberries, “Prune blueberries yearly for more fruit“, which includes the following steps:

“Remove the low growth that would touch the ground when loaded with fruit. Cut out short, soft shoots that develop from the base of the plant late in the season.

Prune off canes and twigs damaged by winter injury, mechanical causes, diseases or insects. Cut out the unproductive canes: those that haven't produced much new growth on one-year-old canes, which have buds and are dull in color.

If you have been pruning every year, it is best to remove the two oldest (most unproductive) canes each winter.

Prune to let light down into the plant center.

If your plants tend to overbear, with numerous small fruits rather than larger ones, thin the fruit buds by clipping back some of the small shoots carrying a heavy load of flower buds. Blueberry flower buds are near the tips of the past season's growth and are large and plump, compared to the small scale-like “leaf” buds.”

small blueberry plant loaded with a mix of ripe and unripe blueberries

How to Transplant Mature Blueberry Plants

Yes, you can transplant mature blueberry bushes.

It’s best done in late winter or early spring. “How to Transplant a Mature Blueberry Bush” is a pretty good guide, although I would try to give the sulfur a longer rest period before planting.

How to Clone Blueberries from Mature Plants

See “How to Graft or Clone Blueberries” for instructions on cloning your own blueberry plants.

Richard Poplawski

This post is by Laurie Neverman’s brother, Richard Poplawski. Since his service in the Marines, Rich has been a mechanic, fabricator and “fix just about anything” guy for over 20 years.

He lives in northwest Wisconsin and maintains a large orchard and perennial plantings, as well as a vegetable garden. He loves spending time with his grandkids, introducing them to gardening or getting in some fishing with “Papa Rich”.

His posts on the site include:

First published in 2012, last updated in 2020.

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156 Comments

    1. I have a three acre field (farmed 60 -80 years ago) that is mostly hay and grass, but have an abundance of wild low blueberry bushes especially thick around the forest edge but shooting in the rest of the field. Not clear how I would clear-prepare the grasses without removing the roots of the Blueberry. Any ideas welcome

      Thanks
      Scott

  1. Nice article ! We have a small planting of blueberrires and love them !!! They are my pride and joy. It is a wonderful feeling to be able to ‘share the bounty’ with family and friends.
    I do have a question… When we did our First planting of blueberry bushes, we nade a novice mistake…The plants were so small that we planted them rather close together…i believe they are 4 feet apart , in rows 6 feet apart. Now, years later , they are difficult to work around. Can the bushes be thinned out by transplanting some ?? I absolutely hate the thought of just removing them, and want to try to save them. I realise they would get set-back for a couple of years…but it would be worth it to me.
    Thank You for any suddestions, Marge Thornton

  2. Great article, thank you! I had great beginner’s luck with my first blueberry bush, but it died. I’ve since purchased 72 slips and I have about 40 plants going. I want to make sure they grow optimally. This sure helps! Thanks for the county extension links. I found and favorited mine.

  3. Great article, I have about 200 wild high bush blueberry bushes. I love that every bush yas a different flavor. I was told to fertilize just before they flower and just after flower drop. Also learned blueberries are a 50/50 plant where the roots are the same size as the tops, to encourage growth the oldest shoots should be pruned to promote new growth. Love my blueberries…

  4. I’ve been growing my own blueberry bushes for years. I just recently started growing them from seeds as opposed to buying them. I like to grow highbush and rabbiteye so I can harvest berries all year, makes for the perfect mixture.

  5. I am real curious how you built your fencing and how it is working. It is hard to tell from the picture how the wires, tube steel and conduit are connected. I’ve been wanting to do something similar, but wondering how to tighten the high tensile strength wires so they do not sag with netting without pulling the T-post out. I put almost an acre of blueberry bushes in over the last two years but the birds eat almost all the berries before even ripening. Deer and rabbits are not my friends either. Any help would be appreciated? and could you post or send more pictures of the fence too maybe. Thanks for the great article and hope.

    1. I looked at how Rich did it using those 6 foot iron stakes, but I used a better method that makes it easier to enclose the site with chicken wire, I used PT 4 x 4’s.

      Using 4 x 4’s you can staple chicken wire directly to the posts & not need to worry about the wire slipping down & off the metal stakes you see in Rich’s photo. However, the key to making 4 x 4 posts work in the most efficient manner possible is to first drive a 2 or 3 foot long metal stake into the ground at the one end of which has a 4 x 4 cup, you see these most commonly used to hold roadside mailboxes in place, they cost about $20 each at Home Depot.

      Drive each post holder into the ground until the 4 x 4 cup just nicely sinks into the surface so that it rests firmly on the ground & won’t twist. You must use a post level to make sure your stake holder is being driven into the ground so that your post will be vertical, to do this place a 2-3 foot long 4 x 4 into the stakeholder cup so onto which you can use rubberbands to keep the post level in place as you pound on top of the short 4×4 to drive the stakeholder into the ground.

      I placed my stake holders 10- 15 feet apart. I used 8 foot long 4 x4’s & simply dropped them into the stakeholders & secured them from accidentally lifting out of the stakeholders using galvanized screws threw the sides of the 4 x 4 stakeholder cups.

      I have six perfectly vertical posts at the top of which I connected PT 2×4’s all around the perimeter. I then spanned across the 15′ width of the area using 15 foot long PT 2×4’s at 3′ intervals so that I could make lightweight screens to span the distance over the tops of the bushes to keep the blueberry vultures out.

      I did this 20 years ago just after I built the house, could thing I was 20 years younger than I am now, I wouldn’t have had the stamina for it.

      1. Thanks for sharing your experience. It’s not clearly visible in the photos, but there’s a frame attached to the posts – no slipping. Hopefully I can get another post up sometime this season that has better photos of the enclosure. Running a little behind right now.

  6. I have great harvests from my blueberry bushes which are grown 100% organically with compost as the only fertilizer and soil amendment. I also do not remove any fallen leaves from the garden or landscape but rather allow them to remain in place to naturally replenish the soil and provide a host of environmental services.
    Why recommend the use of synthetic fertilizers? Ammonium sulfate is not only unnecessary but harmful to the environment and public health. Synthetic fertilizers are particularly damaging to soil health in addition to contaminating ground water and storm water runoff. The toxic run-off or leaching of synthetic fertilizer is particularly grave in the Chesapeake Bay watershed causing dead zones in our national treasure, the largest estuary in the US.

    1. I Have 3 blueberry bushes 4 years old . And the one in the middle is the only one that gets berries on . What can I do to get the other one to bloom,. Thanks.

      1. if they are different types, they may just take a little longer, or there may be something causing lack of fruit set in your area.

        Here are some more things to check.

        From Michigan Gardener:

        Blueberries are self-fruitful and will set fruit without cross-pollination but they do require “busy bees” for pollination and fruit set. Native bees will do the trick in the backyard garden. Regular pruning is necessary for a high yield production. The most fruitful canes are 4 to 6 years old and 1 to 1-1/2 inches in diameter. Bushes should have 15 to 20 percent young canes that are less than 1 inch in diameter, 15 to 20 percent old canes that are 2 inches in diameter and 50 to 70 percent canes that are of intermediate size. Prune the plants when they are dormant (fall to spring). In early spring, you have the advantage of being able to see the canes that were damaged during the winter. There are a number of diseases that can plague our Michigan blueberries and your local extension office can provide you very specific information on each of them.

        Now back to your mystery… How old are your plants? Have they ever set flowers or fruited? If not, maybe they need more time. Blueberries are very susceptible to early fall and late spring frosts. What is your soil pH? You can contact your local extension about having a soil test done. Take a good look at the canes. What needs to be pruned? How is your drainage and do your plants get consistent water?

        1. I enjoyed your comments to this question but I have another: due to rabbit damage over the snowy Wisconsin winter, we have no center stalk/trunks on our 3 young blueberry bushes. They sprouted many low branches/canes but no fruit from only a few flowers. Feedback?

          1. If rabbit is not on the menu, try and fence the plants if possible, especially heading into winter. Deer will be happy to eat them, too, if you have any in the area.

            Train the recovering growth to upright stems, building your framework for the bushes in the years ahead. Now’s a good time to fertilize, before it gets too close to fall/winter. New growth put on this year will be next year’s fruiting growth.

            How’s your pH and general soil health? Healthy soil = healthy plants.

            Are there enough pollinators in the area? Bumblebees and other native bees are better for blueberries, as they produce little nectar for honey bees.

            What was the weather like at blossom time? Heavy rains or conditions that are too dry both interfere with fruit set.

  7. great post…. I am so happy that worm casting are good… I have some busy worms…and live with lots of pine trees around so that is a good reminder to….take care.

    1. Hi, I have a blue berry plant in a container. It has produced a lot of fruit buds but they are not growing any bigger. Any information would be appreciated please.

      1. Are the buds being pollinated? Does the plant have enough room, enough fertilizer, proper pH? Is it too hot or too cold? It takes time for fruit to grow, but these are things you can check to help it along.

      2. I met a man on line that has many BB plants in containers.
        He saids the fertilizer & water needs are different in containers & the plant should be repotted into a big pot every year or root pruned every 3-5 years like a bonsai tree.
        You should have at least two plants.

  8. Thank you for this informative article. However, Please, don’t suggest using peat moss. It is not a renewable resource, it’s harvesting destroys old ecosystems. The alternatives you gave – pine needles, forest duff – are fine, but removing this from its habitat still disturbs wildlife quite a bit. How about integrating these? Using a forest edge that is within the community where you live – as a permaculture option. Or creating one! There are ways to start cultivating the conifers that will create the soil conditions over the years. Sure, it will take time. For the meatime, using containers is a great suggestion. You will be giving a gift to future generations, who will see the values of having a variety of habitat types all around, and can then learn from them.

    Naturally, protecting the plants from being eaten away by wildlife is the biggest challenge, the same as here in Germany. In some places, large browsers can still be fenced out of “habitat-recovery zones”. Just a suggestion! All the best!

    1. Humans, not wildlife, are at the top of the food chain and, as such, human needs come before those of wildlife. Unless you live a primitive lifestyle under a tree in the woods, your daily activities and the production of products you use disrupt wildlife more than raking up a few pine needles.

  9. Just wanted to chime in and say that I planted 3 bare root blueberry plants and one potted this year. I mixed into the dirt leaf compost and mulched with pine bark. Fertilized with jacks classic acid special and they were doing good. Last weekend I pulled the much back to expose the dirt and added two pounds of earthworm castings on top of the dirt around the base of the plant, covered back up with mulch and watered. Man let me tell you the blueberry plants just took off! They love the earthworm castings so much I am thinking of buying a few dozen eartworms and putting them under there. I doubt there is a better fertilizer for blueberries.

    1. When you say too hot I’m not sure what you mean. Blueberries like fertile ground. If you mulch with leaves or needles it takes a while for them to break down and soil microbes will change the ph and bring it closer to neutral

    2. I’ve heard cedar is toxic to blueberries — not sure if foliage or bark or chips are the problem. Curious, since originally the commercial blueberry was developed in New Jersey by (Mary?) White, where there are lots of cedars, including cedar swamps. My 2 year old blueberries are spindly and have a red blush on the leaves in mid spring. I will be modifying the irrigation this season — the pine needles and other nutrients don’t really reach the roots if my drip system is under the mulch! I’m in the northern California Sierras, 2600 ft elevation.

      1. I was talking to my brother about this, and he notes that blueberries need a fair amount of nitrogen to thrive, so he highly recommends a foliar feed in early spring when they’ve leafed out, and some balanced granular fertilizer.

        Searching online about cedar mulch, I found at least one site that claimed it was okay to use with established plants, and my experience back at our previous home bears this out. We used it all around our foundation plantings, and they thrived. It’s probably not optimal, but shouldn’t kill your plants.

  10. Thank you so much for this post! Blueberries are on my planting list. I love them and buy so many. I really would like to grow my own. However, the spot I have is a bit shady, is that ok, or do blueberries require full sun?

  11. I planted two blueberry plants last year in half-barrels. There are no pine needles available in my area, so a got some discarded Christmas trees from my neighbors in January. My plants are loving the pine needle mulch.

  12. I was wondering how one would winter over a potted blueberry bush. Our soil isn’t suitable, yet we would love to grow them.

  13. Hi, I’m new to having blueberry bushes. When they started putting on their leaves this spring something started eating the them right away! I’m not finding a lot of information on the internet about what it could be. Do you possibly know a common pest for the blueberry bush? Thanks.

  14. I am curious as to how you are handling Spotted Wing Drosophila infestations? Here in the northeast the earliest blueberries are ok, but the later varieties become infested quickly is there a safe deterrent?

  15. I am from Philippines. Can I grow blueberries here in our country (Tropical area)?Where can I buy the seeds for planting?

  16. Great post about growing blueberries. I cannot wait to give it a go. The weather might be an issue where we are but will try and see if it works. If not will need to wait for better weather.

    Get your kids a tool set and let them go wild and plant in the garden. Loved your post and thanks for the info about the different blueberry plant types. Will check them out at the nursery and see what they have available.

  17. Do you have any suggestions as to how to keep the birds out of the blueberry bushes? We have a real battle every year. We have covered them with white gardening fabric, bird netting (which I hate because the birds get caught in it) and have gone as far as to build a PVC enclosure covered with plastic fencing and they STILL manage to get in. I don’t know what else to do…..

    1. My brother has an enclosure covered with netting to keep out the birds and the deer. We hope to get some better photos and videos up this year, but it’s tough because he lives on the opposite side of the state.

  18. I have been growing a dwarf blueberry bush for 3 years now. Each spring it is LOADED with flowers that turn into berries. Yet I only get 5-10 berries off of it as something is getting them before we are. We even built a close hole wire cage around it last year, once the flowers were done, yet still no berries for me. Any idea as to what is getting the enjoyment of eating the berries? No birds, rabbits or deer can get to it. Bugs? Worms? What and what to do about it?

    1. It’s really hard to say for sure unless you catch something in the act. Are you sure that it sets berries? Just trying to clarify. You see green berries getting bigger, but something eats them before they ripen, or you don’t see many berries at all? Do you fertilize? Good plant nutrition will help with fruit set and berry production.

      1. I see the berries and watch them ripen. When I go to eat, I mean harvest, them the ripest berries are gone! Something is also chewing on some of the leaves but not as much as eating my berries. I am lucky if I get to eat 10 berries out of all it starts out with.

          1. Thanks for the link but it doesn’t really help. We know it isn’t birds as thelant was caged the entire time the berries were disappearing. We are wondering if there is something like bugs/worms in the soil that were eating the berries. Right now my plant is loaded with the beginnings of berries. We are thinking of covering it with cheesecloth this time and see if it works. Thanks for your time and help.

        1. DJ, I have 2 blueberry plants (different varieties) that I’ve been trying to grow for about 4-5 years now (New England coast) and I have the same problem I’ve just about given up at this point… it’s easier to just walk into the woods and pick the wild blueberries! The only clue I’ve noticed is some webbing on the flowers sometimes so I wondered if it could be spider mites. My local garden shop says spider mites don’t affect blueberry plants. The whole thing is an utter mystery to me.

    2. I would say mice or voles as well. They only need an opening the size of a pen to get through. They just squeeze their bodies through. I would guess they could even get through 1/4 inch hardware cloth.

    3. Hello,
      Critters- I’ve got 3 sizeable blubrry bushes 6-7ft tall and 3 newer ones that are waist high. To keep birds, squirrels, etc., out I use a white mosquito netting to cover the whole bush. It’s made cover tents and has a zipper that can open from near the top to the ground. It keeps a lot of critters out.
      On the bottom there’s a place to add water to keep the netting on the ground but someone always manages to step on it causing a leak so I place rocks all around bottom. We use PVC to hold the netting up over the bushes, too. I’ve been buying the netting from Christmas Tree shops, tho there were none at the local store this year.
      -Squirrels & others: I pour red pepper flakes around the perimeter about 8″ away. Plus it works for bird feeders when added to birdfood (the birds don’t eat it)
      Netting’s not perfect but works well.

  19. I’m hoping to grow some blueberries this year. We have lots of fresh and composted cow manure. Is this acidic enuf? Would adding pine needles make it better?

  20. … how much sun must a blueberry plant get, we live in a very hot and humid town in South Africa, and am scared that the heat will kill my plant, please help

    thank you

    Manuela

    1. Manuela, I’m not sure what sort of gardening resources are available in your area, but perhaps you could ask at a gardening center or nursery whether some of the southern blueberries types would survive? I’m not sure about the rules for importing plant material, which would be another concern if they are not locally available for sale. Generally, blueberries do not tolerate extremely hot weather, but there may be some other plant that is just as wonderful that is native to your area. Sometimes it’s best to work with nature, instead of struggling against it.

    2. Hi, I tried multiple times to grow blue berries where I live, Kansas, USA. All attempts failed. I followed all directions, but the problem was the directions say full sun. With highs over a hundred for more than 30 days a year and sometimes we get as high as 113F I came to realize they did not mean Kansas full sun. So I moved them to a spot with morning sun and afternoon shade and they did great. I hope this works for you.

  21. Hi ,I live in Hawaii, planted a bluberry bush and lots of bluberries and their started to fall off. Too much water?, Too much Heat, soil wrong?
    Mahalo, Carrie

    1. My guess would be too much heat, but it’s hard to tell without more information. Soil should be damp, not too wet or too dry, and slightly acidic. If they set fruit and then dropped it, it would seem like basic growing conditions are okay, and then something changed, so heat would be the most obvious answer to me.

    2. Hi Carrie,
      When I lived on the big island, hilo side, I could not even get plumeria to thrive because of too much rain. So I set strips of plastic covering about half of the soil (like a non twisting pinwheel, or think sunburst, trunk in the center)under the dirt and graded the dirt away from my plants. It actually helped by shedding the large amount of rainfall away from the root system. I doubt that it’s too much heat as highs rarely reach 90f in Hawaii and I can grow them in 6b with highs well over 100 and over. Make sure you have plenty of organic material in the soil and that there are natural fertilizers in use. Much of the land was former sugar plantation and the soil is tapped out or darn near dead.

  22. Hi Laurie,
    I am building a greenhouse. We live in SW riverside county of California(Lake Elsinore). It can get over a hundred degrees some weeks in summer. The greenhouse will be shaded most of the day.

    I don’t know yet what the temperature and humidity will be inside it.
    Should I plant for fall through spring only?

    I would love to grow all berries including blueberry.
    Any suggestions on what to grow in the berry world?

  23. Do you have any information on the sunlight needs of blueberry bushes? I have a garden that loses some hours of direct sun late in the season because of some tall Redwoods on our property that we need to have topped, but I’m not sure when that will happen. Thanks!

  24. I think growing blueberries will be cool! They have some nice health benefits. But I live in Massachusetts and we get some snow. Which blueberry species can withstand cold? Thanks 😀

    1. Hi Jennifer. Thanks for letting me know about the other site. I’m glad you took the time to visit here. 🙂 They’re part of a new generation of sites that refer to themselves as Curator Sites. They don’t create content, they simply reshare content from all over the internet. This allows them to focus their energy on massive amounts of social media and building big email lists. They then load their sites heavily with ads and sales pitches, and rake in the money with much less work than content creators. As long as they are polite about it and don’t reprint entire posts, I don’t have an issue with it.

  25. Buys some rubber toy snakes and move them around your blue berries periodically. Birds will not be a problem. You can even tie one of the snakes into a particularly appetizing tree. It works great.

  26. My water has lots of alkaline in it. If I plant in acidity soil but then water with alkaline water will it effect the plant. How do I make my water so it doesn’t have so much alkalinity?

    1. If your water is very alkaline, yes, it may negatively affect the plant. You’d have to use some sort of filter to remove some of the minerals that make it alkaline. Is collecting rain water an option? Rain water usually slightly acidic, and would be healthier for the plant.

    2. You might try googling exact directions but I was directed to add a very small amount of vinegar to the water. Maybe some ph sticks and you could work up your own correct ph recipe to neutralize the alkalizing minerals.

  27. I am new to blueberries, I normally stick to my veggies but last fall my husband bought me a blueberry bush (not sure on the type) and I was wondering if they are a type of plant that need another bush to pollinate with to bear fruit? sorry if that’s a dumb question. im also wondering the same about the grape vine he just got me this week for our anniversary

    1. Blueberries may or may not be self-pollinating, depending on the variety. For best fruit set, two or more plants are recommended. Most grapes are self-pollinating, but fruiting may again be better with two or more varieties.

  28. Hi Laurie:

    I am a farmer in Nairobi Kenya. I have been trying to get planting material for blueberries, raspberries and cranberries to no avail. How can you help?

    1. I’m not familiar with the import laws on plant material to Kenya, which would likely restrict what plant material you can bring in. I suspect that your climate may be too warm for the plants to grow, since they are typically found in more temperate locations. Have you tried checking with sales websites? I don’t personally sell or ship plants.

  29. Hi Laurie,
    When I was a kid, my mother would take me for a walk along railroad tracks not too far our home to pick blueberries. It was evident that the area near the tracks had been burned. Steam locomotives were long gone, as were the sparks from their boilers. It turned out that the railroad burned the rail beds to keep weed growth down. Unfortunately today, burning has been replaced with 2,4,5-T 2,4-D which kills the blueberries with the weeds.
    It’s well noted that the “wild” blueberry fields that cover parts of Maine are torched to prune the bushes. There might be something to adding char into the soil … it makes condominiums for micro-organisms which improve the soil.
    In more recent years, I’ve been seen spreading coffee grounds and corn screenings in areas where I want earthworms to set up house keeping. Not only do you get castings, but the living rototillers open the soil deeper than any mechanical device can go. While it’s said that blueberries are shallow rooted, the roots will grow deeper in better soil.
    Most homesteaders can harvest abundant crops with a “plywood patch,” more specifically a four-foot by eight-foot growing area. Six blueberry plants, one at each corner with two in between, will provide lots of fruit. This smaller size can be fenced in with seven foot tall deer fence, so you get almost all of the blueberries.
    Off to eat some previously frozen blueberries, turn my fingers blue and scare the neighbor’s kids.

  30. Just planted container blueberries and am thinking of using a fine cedar sawdust to change the ph of my soil. Is cedar sawdust ok, or is it too acidic? I’ve been told that cedar sawdust may actually be poisonous to plants. What do you think?

    1. Too much of any sawdust at once can bind up the nitrogen in the soil, stressing the plants. A surface dressing, or adding a little along with some aged manure or other nitrogen source would probably be okay.

  31. Should I start growing blueberries in pots in the early spring? I want to start a blueberry garden but don’t know when. Greatly Appreciated if someone could help!

  32. Hey Laurie, i will start to make a nursery, i have a question about the soil, I have soil with ph 6-7 , so i will make raised bad with mix of : Sphagnum moss & peat moss, pine needles, pine wood chips, pine sawdust.
    But which version of Sphagnum moss i have to use ?
    White Sphagnum Moss with PH 2,5-3,5
    or
    Brown Sphagnum moss with PH 3,5-4,5
    I planning to mixture Sphagnum moss with the rest in consistence : 50/50 %
    i think Pine moss and other pine think will have around 5,5 – 7 PH
    so mixture with with White moss how will change the <>
    and … have i add some Ammonium Sulfate in that mixture around 1 pound ? or Sulfur 🙂
    Thanks 😉

    1. I think either moss would do, and that your mixture should have some dirt or compost in addition to all the pine parts. What you’ve listed contains much carbon and very little nitrogen, and blueberries do require some nitrogen.

      As for adding sulfur, with that mix I’m not sure it’s needed. How about mixing and testing the pH to see where you’re at before adding sulfur?

      1. yep i will add soil from the pine wood, there have a lot of sand and dirt, but i’m not sure about the Sphagnum moss which one is better for blueberry 🙂 brown or white or both of them, mb will work well.
        i got information to put some Ammonium Sulfate around of the bush , is it ok ?
        and for sulfur i have to make test about the PH before using, but will be better to use it in new nursery 1 season before planting.

  33. Good site, I haven’t read it all yet, but I knew I had to print it when I saw the picture of your berries… I figured I better listen to what you have to say

    I have had good production of blueberries in the past in WA, but haven’t tried yet in MT… I will next year, and bought 21 plants at a deep year end discount which are now going in the garage until spring because I will have to add sulfur… I didn’t know about that breakdown, thanks for that

    The following IS NOT spam… Just a great product, and while I’m getting help here, I figured I would pass along my experience… I AM NOT affiliated with the company at all, I am just a very happy customer, and you will be too…

    One product I would like to promote is the fertilizer Sea Magic… It can be purchased online for about $8, and the packet makes 66 gallons of fertilizer… (One gallon concentrate)… I have used it on everything I plant, and had 6 foot tall, 4 foot wide cherry tomato plants in WA… As far as blueberries, the production was excellent, and I even witnessed a dying plant brought back to life overnight, and it grew 6 inches… (No greenhouse, but plants with Sea Magic grow much higher in them)

    I know how that makes me sound like I’m from the looney bin, but it’s called Sea “Magic” for a reason… I had stevia plants grow over a foot in 2 days… Try it for the $8… I don’t see how you could lose… I didn’t mix anything with it, and I never use chemical fertilizers, period…

    I set up two raised beds with soil from the sand and gravel joint, tomato plants from the same nursery, and used the same water on both beds… One with Sea Magic, one without (To test the claims of the company and the massive reviews you can find on the Burpee website)

    The one without the Sea Magic did about 1/4 the production, about 1/10th the size… I remember getting Sea Magic from Park Seed, Burpee and Amazon, but Burpee has the extensive reviews…

  34. Hi Laurie… You’re welcome.. Try it out… Just my opinion, but I would put the concentrate in a gallon glass jar, not a plastic milk jug because (Unless you have a massive farm), you will probably have plenty left over by winter… (I have at least 7/10ths of the concentrate left)

    Also, I wouldn’t keep the leftover for next year, it will smell bad by the end of the year

    I used it as recommended in MT this year, and have more parsley, oregano, thyme, spearmint, basil and chives than I can properly store in a freezer… The tomatoes I chose were Organic, and did produce hundreds, but ripened way too fast, as they were Early Girls and San Marzano’s…

    I don’t know the rule about blueberries yet, but will bookmark and update when I can… Bottom line, you never know until you try it… I just love that I don’t need any chemicals, period

    1. I have acres of “stuff” growing around here, so I should be able to put a full batch to good use. We put in 70+ trees and shrubs this year in addition to the dozens that were already planted, plus the annual gardens (9 beds). Sometimes I think I should cut back a little, but them I start cooking for two teenage boys. I do hope to be able to integrate more perennial crops over time so that I can cut back on the annuals a little – or maybe we’ll plant even more and sell the excess. One day at a time and I’ll see how it all goes.

  35. Oh yeah, you will need more probably… Make sure you measure the height of plants before and after with pics, so you can prove it to yourself and friends that you weren’t dreaming!!!

  36. This is a helpful, and very thorough article. However adding sulfur in the fall to lower the soil pH is not going to be very effective because it is a biological reaction, and needs to be applied when it is warmer or will soon be warming up for the bacteria in the soil to convert it to sulfuric acid. If you need to drastically adjust the pH, you’ll want to add sulfur a year before planting, if not two (so you can apply it one year, retest the soil to see how much you still need to adjust, and then add more the next year). You could also add it in the spring, it would work throughout the summer, and then plant your bushes in the late fall. You can add it around existing bushes without hurting them, but in small quantities. It’s just more difficult because it works best when incorporated into the soil. If you’re only planting a couple, it might be best to start them in containers and transplant them after a year or two of preparing the soil.

  37. I have a chipmunk problem. They are burrowing close to my blueberry bushes and the ground surrounding the bushes is spongy due to the tunnels. They are eating the blueberries and I suspect they may be eating the roots as well because they don’t seem to be doing well. I have been having this problem for years and have tried traps and smoke bombs with little success. If you have any tips on how to get rid of them, it would be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you,
    John

    1. Cats or snakes? Our cats are good mousers, and run a regular ruite around the gardens, keeping down the rodent population. Mid-sized snakes are good, too, because they can follow the rodents right down their holes. In our area, we get fox snakes, which are not poisonous. Not sure what might be native to your area, so that might be tougher to work out. If you have habitat (rocks, cover), odds are that snakes will move in. last summer we had a family of ground squirrels move in underneath one of our concrete patios. The cats got two babies, and one morning I saw a snake exit the area near the hole to go hide in my nearby flower bed. Didn’t spot another ground squirrel from that hole.

      Blueberries like a lot of nitrogen when they are setting new grown (which produces fruit the following year), so stuffing fairly fresh poop down the holes may do double duty in prompting the chipmunks to relocate and feeding the berries. Some sort of predator – dog or cat – would probably work best. Just don’t put poop that is too fresh too close to the plants, as it may burn them.

      Chipmunks are notoriously hard to get rid of, but these are the strategies I would use, and they have kept our ground squirrels in check.

  38. Great article and answers. Thank you.

    We have a long front to our property (225 ft) and currently have horrible thorny hedges, which we would like to replace with blueberry bushes. We live in Westchester County, NY (Zone 6). We would ultimately like 4-6′ tall bushes to provide a good (but certainly not complete) screening, and are ok waiting 2-3 years for the bushes to achieve this. From the research I’ve done, it seems that we would need about 90 2- or 3-year old northern highbushes.

    Two questions:
    1. Do you think we will be able to achieve “good” screening in a couple of years?

    2. Because this is along our front, we cannot build fences to keep out the animals (deer aren’t a problem, but we have rabbits, squirrels, and racoons). We can place nets directly on a portion of the bushes to protect the fruit. Do you think 2- or 3-year old bushes will thrive “in the open”?

    Thanks again.

    1. It depends. If your bushes grow well, you should be able to use them as a living screen. Many critters like to snack on bushes, so it can be challenging to get them growing without protection. They also need the right soil, and the right amount of moisture at the right time. I’d talk to a local nursery or cooperative extension office to see which varieties they would suggest as most likely to thrive in your area.

  39. I agree with most of what you say, mainly because I found it to be true in my experience & most articles also agree. The spacing may be fine for small orchards, but I plant my 6 variety 9′-15′ feet apart.
    First, 5 variety have sucker, I transplant some & let some grow, one day the row will be filled in.
    Second, I mulch with cardboard boxes & the space is weed free.
    Here in South Carolina we can get ripe blue berries from the last of May until first of August with the right spread of variety.

    1. Do you by chance have rabbiteye types? Those look like they can easily grow much larger. Also, with a longer growing season than we have here in Wisconsin, I’d suspect that whatever you grow, if it’s happy it could grow quite large.

  40. Yes, the first blueberries I got were 20 sucker of one variety of rabbiteye.
    Then I got 6 sucker from a man who had 20 year old low bush southern blue berries.
    All these were free, because fruit growing persons seem to want you to join their club.
    I bought a 1 gallon plant from Walmart which is earlier, pick in May here, but dose not sucker, so I will root cutting.
    I got 50 sucker of 3 varieties last Spring & lost 1/3 or 16 plant because of poor root systems(&2.00 ea.).
    I should have got them in the Fall-Winter, more rain so they may have made it.
    The gentleman has 5 more varieties, so I going to get them this Fall.
    The hope is to have ripe berries from last of May to first week in August.
    Yes, we have 5.0-5.5 sandy loam soil here & blueberries love it, we have a wild low bush blue berry too.
    None of my bushes are taller the 5′ 6″, so easy to pick.
    I need to get apple next, there is a Southern nursery with 400 varieties for the lower state & I can have fresh apple last of June till first of November & figs almost as long.
    Wish I could send you some of my heat in you chilly Spring.
    We had 18 degrees & snow on the 7 of Jan. & 80 degrees on the 12 of Jan.

  41. our blueberry plants are still small. they are 2 years old and we are just this year mulching really good around them…
    there are lots of what my grandmother calls “suckers” around our plants. are these what you are calling canes in the article? do we need to remove some or all of them? thank you.

    1. You’re talking about new growth coming directly from the ground, right? These are how your bushes will spread, so no need to remove, unless they are crowded or crossing.

  42. I am new to blueberries and I am having trouble with them. Last year the leaves were yellowish and the plants are not growing much. I killed one plant by using fertilizer .
    What am I doing wrong?
    I also have 2 plants that are supposed to be pink berries and they are harder than rocks. Am I doing something wrong with them as well?

    1. Without seeing your plants, soil and conditions, it’s pretty much impossible to pin point the problem long distance. As for the pink berries, I haven’t grown them, but that doesn’t sounds right. Are you sure they were fully ripe when you picked them?

      Some things to check with your blueberry plants:

      Soil pH – get a soil tester or soil test kit. If your soil is alkaline, blueberries will struggle.

      Moisture levels – Blueberries need adequate moisture, but can’t tolerate standing water. Soil should be neither too wet or too dry.

      Adequate fertilizer, but not too much – look for a slow release blueberry fertilizer like the one listed in the post, and/or pull back mulch and gently top dress with compost or composted manure each spring. Too much nitrogen (fresh manure or a high nitrogen fertilizer) will burn plants. Blueberries do need plenty of nutrients to thrive, so foliar feeding in spring and early summer with something like fish emulsion or compost tea is helpful.

  43. Can u suggest something I am an apple farmer in india I am thinking to plant blueberries in some portion of my farm are blueberries more profitable than apple should I switch to blueberries or stay with apple plants

    1. You’d have to do a local market analysis of fruit pricing in your area, comparing not just what you can sell the fruit for, but the labor that will go into caring for the plantings and picking, as well as any other inputs. Blueberries will be ready to harvest before apples, but only do well in the correct soil conditions. They are also more labor intensive for picking (because the berries are smaller than apples, and will need picking over time instead of all at one time).

  44. Purchased 12 blueberry rooted plants from a farm in NJ last early summer. Planted them immediately into large pots and directly into my garden. Within a week to 10 days after planting them the leaves on most of the developed spots which looked similar to a leaf fungus. A representative of the NJ blueberry farm told me the spots were caused by the sun’s rays being magnified by water droplets on the leaves and that was of no concern. Yea no concern! Within two weeks later all the leaves on most of the bushes became spotted and eventually turned brown and fell off. This went on until the entire bush was leafless and showed no evidence of new growth. About three of the plants which were isolated from the infected plants showed some evidence of positive now growth.

    So out of 12 plants from the NJ farm sort of three survived. However two plants purchased from a local nursery near Baltimore never developed any leaf spots and appear to doing well.

    I tried to identify the cause and prevention of the leaf spots on the internet. It appears to be some type of leaf fungus which is common to most fruit plants and trees. The treatment is an anti-fungicide.

    Has anyone on this site had a similar experience? If so what did you do to successfully control or eliminate the problem?

    Is there any truth to the story from the NJ farm that the spots were caused by water spots magnifying the sun’s rays i.e. the leaf got sunburned?

    1. I call BS on the sunburn theory. If that was the case, they all would have been burned.

      Another option you might try as an alternative to fungicides is foliar feeding aerated compost tea or Effective Micro-organisms to populate the leaf surfaces with good microbes so the fungus has less room to grow. You could also try working some Endomycorrhizal fungi spores into the soil around your plants as another way to bump up their defenses.

  45. My farm is surrounded by fagus and hornbeam forest. Instead of peat moss, can I use forest floor for organic matter enrichment. The soil analysis says that there is 3-4% organic matter at the top soil. Do I still need soil enrichment. If yes, what kind of analyses I should have made. Ph , C/N. What else? What should C/N must be?

    1. As long as your pH is right and you have good levels of organic matter, your blueberries should be okay. It wouldn’t hurt to do an NPK check, and add some worm castings or compost, too.

  46. im starting a new project in zimbabwe for blue berries. help with guisw lines. the climate soil and water available

  47. My daughter will be planting a number of taller bushes this spring in a raised bed (yet to be built). Existing soils seems to be too damp this winter, hence the reason for the raised bed. How deep should the raised bed be? Thanks

  48. Should I pluck the flowering bud of the Blueberry Plant in the first year or when I plant the bush or do not pluck?

  49. Excellent article I am starting blueberry farming soon zimbabwe and found this article really helpful

    1. Crabapple-I was wondering which nursery you were referencing in a previous comment, the one with the enormous apple tree variety? I’m in Georgia, and would probably fare well with the varieties they carry.

      Thanks in advance!
      Randi

  50. Not sure where to put this, it is not mine, someone gave it to me.
    Easy Blueberry Dumplings Recipe

    Sauce

    4 cups blueberries (or other berry) fresh or frozen
    2 tsp corn starch (for frozen berries)
    ½ cup water
    3 tbsp maple syrup
    1 tsp lemon juice
    Dumplings

    2 cups flour or gluten-free flour blend (I used 2/3 cup brown rice flour, 2/3 cup sorghum flour, 2/3 cup arrowroot flour, and 1 tsp ground chia seed)
    4 tsp baking powder
    ¼ tsp salt
    ¼ cup butter
    1 Tbsp maple syrup
    ¾ cup milk (minus a tbsp.)

  51. If you want some great growing advice as well as top notch blueberry and/or raspberry plants. check Nourse Farms in Massachusetts. They have a terrific “growing guide” that’s available online – noursefarms.com I’ve ordered raspberry plants from there and can attest to their quality and large size/ root mass.

  52. Here in S.C. I do not have a bird problem, my blue berries are covered with blooms, I will be picking in late May.

  53. My Blue berries are doing great, I will be transplanting sucker this weekend.
    Some are large enough to fruit, but Will nut if I move them.
    I has to be done to then the row & give them room to grow.
    Thank you for this site< I have learned a lot from the articles & comments.

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