How to grow blueberries

Blueberries are a popular fruit to grow, either in containers or, if the soil is appropriate, in the garden. Not only do these useful bushes produce a high yield of healthy and delicious 'super fruits' they also enhance the garden with their glorious autumn colours. Blueberries are excellent for a kitchen or wildlife garden. They will do well in a section of the garden planted with other acid-loving plants or can be great for a patio or container garden where space is at a premium.

Blueberries could be a great addition to a forest garden as they can be an under-storey layer for beneath pines or other trees where many other shrubs would not like to grow.

Blueberry bush soil

The main problem when it comes to growing blueberries is that they are an ericaceous plant, which love soils that are around 5.5 pH or lower. If your soil is only slightly above that then it can be amended by addition of ericaceous compost and fertilisers designed for lime-hating plants, but if your soil has a pH of 8 or above then it is not going to be possible for you to grow blueberries in your garden and you will have to grow your blueberries in containers.

Blueberries are fussy when it comes to soil acidity but do not mind partial shade, though they will produce a higher yield and better autumn colour if they are in full sun. The soil should be most and well drained. It is best to choose a sheltered spot.

When you plant a blueberry plant in your garden, you should plant in soil amended with plenty of bulky and acidic organic matter like pine needles or conifer clippings. Avoid using farmyard manure as this will damage the delicate roots of the plant. A mulch like pine needles could be useful to protect the delicate roots that are shallow and close to the surface of the soil.

If you have decided not to alter the pH of your soil then you will be growing in a container, which is a popular option. When planting, place some crocks in the bottom of the pot to help retain moisture. Remember that you will have to use a special ericaceous compost for blueberries. You can buy this at most garden centers. Choose a container for blueberries that is at least 30cm in diameter and pot up to a container of 45-50cm when it outgrows that one.

Fruits start to ripen from late summer and turn from green to deep blue. Individual berries can be picked as and when they ripen as not all the fruit will mature at the same time.

When and how to prune blueberry bushes?

You will not usually have to prune your blueberry plant for the first year or two, apart from removing crossing or misplaced branches. After that it is a good idea to prune to remove a proportion of old wood as it keeps the plant productive. It's possible to prune at any point in the dormant season (November to March), but it's best to prune in late February or early March when you can more easily tell which buds are leaf buds or fruit buds (fatter buds produce fruit and flowers and smaller flat buds produce leaves).

When pruning it's good to remove dead or diseased stems and also to cut off the twiggy growth from the previous season. Trim back to a strong upward-facing branch.

Blueberry bush spacing

Be sure to plant blueberry bushes at least 1m (3ft) apart, or further if recommended for the particular cultivars you're using. If possible, intersperse different cultivars as this results in a higher yield.

Quick Facts

Latin Name
1-12 ft depending on varietal
Growing Conditions
Low pH soil, partial to full shade
White flowers with blue berrie