Blueberry Care At A Glance
- Plan to acidify soil by adding sulfur/compost blend at least a year prior to planting.
- For the best results, the pH should be maintained at 4.5-5.5.
- Prune new bare root plants back by about ½ after planting.
- Remove first year blossoms.
- Planting more than one variety ensures good cross-pollination.
- Blueberry roots are shallow, avoid cultivation around their base.
Blueberry Planting Instructions
- When To Plant Blueberry Bushes
- Dormant, bare root blueberries may be planted as soon as the ground can be worked in early spring.
- Potted blueberries that arrive with foliage require hardening off, then planted after threat of frost has passed.
- How To Choose An Appropriate Blueberry Planting Site
- Full sun location free from heavy wind.
- Avoid low lying areas where standing water can accumulate.
- Lose, organically rich, well-drained acidic soil is best. Blueberries do not thrive in heavy clay soils.
- How To Amend The Soil For Your Blueberry Bushes
- Blueberries require acidic soil with a pH of 4.5 to 5.5.
- Soil pH should be tested, and soil sulfur should be added to properly lower the pH to this acceptable range for blueberries to thrive.
- Different soil types and moisture levels will dictate how much sulfur to add.
- Altering soil pH is a long process. Soil sulfur should be added 1 year prior to planting. If you have not done this yet, do not panic.
- For this season, at planting time mix ¼ to ½ lb. of Aluminum Sulfate per plant with other proper and necessary soil amendments like peat moss, leaf compost and aged manure. Plan to add appropriate soil sulfur in the early spring of the 2nd year in the ground.
- How To Soak Your Blueberry Bare Roots
- Prior to planting, soak plant roots for 8 hrs. but not longer than 24 hrs. in a bucket of clean water.
- Amend the soil, while roots are soaking.
- See notes above regarding proper soil amendments.
NOTE: DO NOT use potting soil as an amendment. DO NOT add additional fertilizer other than bone meal or super phosphate fertilizer at planting.
- How To Space Your Blueberry Plants
- Space half-high or high bush blueberry plants 4 to 5 ft. apart with rows of 8 to 10 ft. apart.
- Space dwarf blueberry varieties 2 to 3 ft. apart with rows 5 to 6 ft. apart.
NOTE: Blueberries are self-fruitful, but mature plants will bear more and larger fruits if they are planted with a different variety, that blooms at the same time to provide cross-pollination.
- Why Should I Add Mulch Around My Blueberry Bush?
- After planting, mulch around the base of each plant with 4 to 6 inches of leaf compost or mulch to help maintain soil moisture, reduce soil surface temperature, and help suppress weeds.
NOTE: DO NOT cultivate or dig around the base of blueberry plants, they have very shallow and extensive root systems that are easily damaged.
- Why Should I Prune The Blueberry Plant Tips After Planting?
- After plants are in the ground, tip prune all stems or branches back by ½.
- Tip pruning balances the top of the plant to the roots it currently has. Importantly, it also removes first year fruit buds.
- DO NOT skip this step.
- How To Water My Blueberry Bush
- Water new plants thoroughly to remove air pockets.
- Maintain consistent water of at least 1 in. per week, per plant. This equates to about 2.5-3 gal. every 2 to 3 days. Especially when summer temperatures climb. Roots are shallow frequent waterings are beneficial until establishment, which can take up to 1 year.
- Which Vegetables Should NOT Be Planted Near Blueberry Plants.
- We suggest keeping your blueberries in an area that is separated from your other garden plants because the low pH needed for blueberries is not conducive for most other plants.
Blueberry Care - Maintenance After Establishment
- Blueberries mature to bearing age in 3 to 6 years depending on the type. High bush taking the longest.
- Fertilize - Blueberries are moderate to heavy feeders, however, maintaining proper soil pH is the most critical factor affecting soil nutrition for blueberries.
- The proper pH range for blueberry health is 4.5 to 5.5.
- If pH gets too high plants may display adverse symptoms including stalled, stunted growth, leaf discoloration from red to pale green, or even plant death. Some nutrient deficiency symptoms may look similar. Test the pH first before applying any fertilizers.
- The amount of fertilizer applied will increase as the plants mature.
- From years 2 to 3, use a balanced Espoma® 10-10-10 fertilizer at a rate of 1 lb. per 100 sq. ft. of row. Or ¼ to ½ cup per plant applied in early spring.
- Also, apply 2 to 4 inches of aged manure or compost as top-dressing around the base of each plant, keeping it back at least 2 inches from the main stems.
NOTE: Adding soil sulfur once every 3 to 4 years will help maintain proper soil pH. But don't guess, do a test!
- Special Needs - Pulling first flowers off.
- Removing first-year blossoms off new plants is recommended in every situation.
- Stressed or struggling plants may need flowers removed in the second season as well.
- Flowering and fruiting zaps the energy from the plant. Removing blooms reduces stress and diverts energy to the foliage & roots for proper growth.
- By year 3, blueberry plants can be allowed to set fruit.
- Pruning - Proper pruning is critical for fruit production.
- Starting the second year, in late winter to early spring, prune out all weak, broken, or diseased branches.
- As with many other fruiting shrubs, blueberry fruits are formed at the tip of the branches. Tip pruning mature fruit-bearing plants removes fruiting bud-wood. No tips, no fruit!
- The best fruits are produced on 1-year-old wood. After 2 to 3 years, pruning out older canes all the way to the ground will make space and sunlight for new fruiting stems to grow perpetuating their potential for fruits.