Growing blueberries at home can be tricky if you’re not careful in finding the right soil, growing them in the correct conditions, and choosing a variety that’s well suited for growing in your area. There are many different ways in planting blueberries, but certain things must be taken into consideration as blueberries only grow under very specific surroundings. It also requires patience, as it takes two or three years to start harvesting, but the benefits of starting your own blueberry patch are enormous.
Quick Facts About Blueberry Plants
- Scientific name: Vaccinium corymbosum
- Type of plant: perennial shrubs
- Native to: North America
- Light requirement: Seven to eight hours of sun a day; partial to peak sun
- Water requirement: 25–40 mm per week during their growing season
- Preferred humidity: 90 to 95%
- Preferred temperature: 33 to 34°F (freezing temperatures)
- Size upon maturity: 6 to 12 feet tall
- Type of native soil: sandy soil but with high levels of organic matter
- Soil pH level: between 4.5 and 5.5
- Fertilizer: Ammonium sulfate
- Word meaning: edible blue or blackish berry
- Family: Heaths
- Growing season: April to late September
What exactly are blueberries?
Blueberries are small, dark blue-to-purple and pink berries that grow on bushes. They are one of the oldest known foods and are native to North America. Blueberries are full of antioxidants, which help protect your body from disease.
Its berry size are about 1/4 inch in diameter and range in color from deep blue to purple. They have a soft texture and a sweet taste when ripe. Most blueberry cultivars are self-fruitful and do not require another cultivar for cross pollination.
The best way to eat blueberries is fresh out of hand or with a little bit of whipped cream or yogurt. You can also bake them into muffins or scones, or use them as an ingredient in pies or other desserts. Blueberry pie is a classic American dessert made with fresh blueberries and cinnamon sugar. You can also freeze fresh blueberries and use them later in smoothies or pancakes.
Cultivation and History
Blueberry bushes have been cultivated for over 2,000 years. Native Americans discovered blueberries growing wild in the forests of North America and often made them into jams or dried them for winter use. In the 1600s, English settlers brought the blueberry plant from Europe to North America. In 1824, French botanist Pierre Nicholas Boulard introduced cultivated blueberries to France after he discovered them growing wild in his garden in southern France.
Today, blueberries are grown commercially in most temperate regions of the world, including parts of Europe and Asia. The United States is the leading producer of blueberries, followed by Canada and Chile.
Types of Blueberries
Blueberries are one of the most popular fruits in the U.S. and for good reason. Not only do they offer a wealth of health benefits, but they taste great, too.
With so many types of blueberries to choose from, however, choosing the right one can be a bit overwhelming. Here’s a look at some of the most popular varieties available today:
These large berries are sweet and juicy with a mild flavor that makes them perfect for use in desserts or as a snack on their own. They are also known for growing well in colder climates and can be found in most grocery stores across the country during the summer months.
Rabbiteye blueberries are large and juicy with a tangy, sweet flavor. They’re excellent for baking and cooking, as well as for eating fresh out of hand. The plants grow tall and can reach up to 20 feet tall at maturity. Rabbiteye plants produce large berry clusters of tubular flowers that turn into berries in mid-summer.
Blue Crop Blueberries
This variety is grown primarily in Oregon and California and has been a popular choice among berry growers since it was released by Oregon State University in 1972. They have a much different growth habit from other types and berry size is small (only about an inch long), but they pack quite a punch when it comes to flavor — these blueberries are actually sweeter than most other varieties! They’re also very low-maintenance plants that produce fruit early on in their lives (about three years) before becoming dormant for several months of cold winters.
These blueberry bushes produce more and larger berries year after year and have good disease resistance. They are very cold tolerant and do well in northern climates. They grow best in areas with full sun exposure and well-drained soil that is high in organic matter. The bushes produce large clusters during the summer months, which makes them great for eating fresh or freezing for later use.
This type is the most common and is the one you see in grocery stores. Highbush blueberries grow on bushes, not vines, and can be planted in USDA zones 4 through 8 (Southern Gardens). These blueberries grow well in full sun or partial shade and need at least 1 foot of space between each bush. Southern highbush varieties tend to be pickier and harder to grow than rabbiteyes, but there are a few high-quality varieties that do well. They have lower chill requirements and respond to warmer temperatures by starting vegetation and bloom very early in spring,
Lowbush blueberries aren’t as common as highbush, but they are easier to grow because they don’t require as much maintenance as highbush varieties. They also produce more fruit than highbush varieties do. Lowbush blueberries grow best in USDA zones 3 through 8 where there is at least 1 foot of rainfall per year and at least 3 feet of space between each plant for proper air circulation.
How to Grow Blueberry Bushes: A Complete Guide
Blueberries are easy to grow and will thrive in many different conditions. They can be grown from seed or by purchasing young plants from a nursery or local garden center.
Blueberries need at least six hours of sun each day. They can tolerate partial shade, but full sun is best for producing large, sweet berries.
Blueberry bushes require acidic soil with a soil pH of 4.0 to 5.0. If your soil is too alkaline, you can lower the soil pH by adding elemental sulfur or aluminum sulfate to the planting bed before planting blueberry plants.
Preparing Soil for Planting
As for the plants in general, it is proven that improper soil, and in particular the soil’s pH, are often the problem. If you have not yet, you might want to do a soil test. Blueberry plants have shallow roots, so the soil should be loose and easy to dig. If the soil is compacted or too sandy, loosen the soil with a shovel or spade. To help improve drainage, add organic matter such as compost or peat moss to the planting hole before you plant your blueberry bush.
Blueberries require regular watering during dry spells and may need supplemental irrigation in sandy soils during hot weather. The plants need around 1 inch of water per week during the peak growing season (usually early summer). Harvesting berries also requires water because they’re very thirsty while they’re producing fruit.
Many varieties that range widely in cold hardiness. The growing temperature range is between 50 degrees F (10 C) and 75 degrees F (24 C).
When you prune blueberry bushes, you will want to do it in the early spring before the buds open. This way you will not damage any of the new growth that you have just planted. When pruning your half high blueberries you want to cut back about 1/3 of the new growth at a time so that they do not get too tall and lose their vigor. You should also remove any dead or diseased branches as well as any suckers that may pop up from below ground level if they are not needed for another variety of plant or berry.
When pruning your blueberries, make sure that you do not trim off more than 1/3 of the new growth at one time because doing so could kill your blueberry bush due to shock from loosing too much foliage at once.
Fertilizing your blueberry plants is important if you want them to produce fruit. The type of fertilizer you use depends on your soil ph and type and what kind of nutrients it lacks. For example, if your soil is sandy or rocky, a nitrogen-rich fertilizer (such as ammonium sulfate) will help promote root growth to help support the plant’s large root structure. If your soil is dense clay, use an acidic fertilizer (such as iron sulfate) to help loosen up the soil ph so it will drain better and allow for better root establishment.
The best way to store blueberries is in the refrigerator. Freezing them is another option if you don’t plan on using them right away, but they will lose some flavor when they are thawed out. If frozen, you should use your blueberries within three months of freezing them.
How to Plant Blueberry Bushes
Blueberries are a favorite fruit for many people. They are delicious and come in many different varieties to suit any taste. If you want to grow your own blueberries, there are a few things you will need to know about planting them.
Choose Your Blueberry Varieties
Blueberries are typically ready to harvest at the end of June or during the month of July. There are many different varieties of blueberries that grow well in various climates and soil types. Choose blueberry varieties that are winter hardy to your USDA zone, and make sure you plant enough plants so that they will produce plenty of fruit for you to enjoy over the years. Most local garden centers ship bare root plants at the appropriate time for planting in early spring.
Prepare Your Soil
Blueberry bushes need an acidic soil ph with good drainage and plenty of organic substance added to it. If your soil does not meet these criteria, then add some sphagnum peat moss or pine bark mulch before planting your blueberries so that they have excellent drainage and nutrients from the composted materials mixed into their roots as they grow. You should also try to amend your soil with composted manure or compost made from fallen leaves, grass clippings and vegetable scraps before planting your new bushes so that they have all the nutrients they need to thrive once planted in the ground.
Remove the Plant
Remove the blueberry plant from its container and set it into the hole so that its top is level with the ground surface. Fill in around the roots with acidic soil, then water thoroughly until water flows out of drainage holes at the bottom of each hole (if present).
Plant blueberries in the ground about 12 inches apart from each other, using the hole you dug for each one as a guide for spacing them out evenly across the row.
Blueberries should be watered regularly throughout the emerging season (April through August). Watering once a week is sufficient for most blueberry plants, but you may need to water more often during periods of hot weather or drought conditions to keep the soil moisture.
How to grow blueberries from root cuttings?
Blueberries are one of the easiest fruit plants to grow from root cuttings, and they make a tasty addition to your garden. They need full sun and well-drained soil, but other than that, growing blueberries is easy. Here are the steps in growing blueberry bushes from root cuttings:
- Remove any foliage that may be on the root cutting, then soak the cutting in water overnight before planting.
- Plant the cutting at least 6 inches deep so that it can take root quickly and begin producing berries as soon as possible. The root cuttings should be planted in rows with 2 feet between each row and 10 feet between rows for maximum growth potential. Amend the entire planting site, not the individual planting holes, with compost or compost and peat moss, to improve water-holding capacity.
- Once growth begins after being planted for one year, you can begin feeding them based on two main indicators: when the flower buds first open, then again when berries start to form. Organic matter can be increased by using cover crops before planting or incorporating peat into the soil at planting, as well as annual mulching.
- Remove weeds regularly to ensure soil nutrients are not being consumed by weeds rather than your blueberry bushes.
- Keep the soil moist by watering regularly until plants have taken root and started producing berries; don’t overwater, though or you may drown your plants! Perform a soil test every two years or so to know when to re-acidify your soil.
How to grow blueberries from seeds?
Blueberries are well known for their delicious flavor and health benefits. However, they are not easy to grow from seed. The seeds are very small, and the success rate of germinating blueberry seeds is low. Follow these steps to increase your chances of growing blueberries from seeds:
- Fill a container with moistened soil for planting the blueberry seeds. Use a potting mix designed for acid-loving plants such as azaleas or rhododendrons, or mix sandy soil with peat moss, pine needles, and shredded pine bark.
- Plant two or three seeds in each hole about one inch deep. Planting more than one seed per hole increases the chances that at least one will germinate.
- Cover the seed with soil, water gently and place in a warm area out of direct sunlight until germination occurs (usually within two weeks).
- Thin out any extra plants as soon as they appear so they do not compete with each other for water and nutrients.
- The last step is to wait for your container-grown blueberries to bloom! The first leaves usually appear within two weeks of planting and it takes about two years before they produce fruit.
Tips for Growing Blueberry Plants
Blueberries are easy to grow and need little maintenance. However, there are some secrets that can make your blueberry plants thrive and produce more berries.
- Begin by testing the soil then prepare the soil using your soil test results as a guide.
- Plant your blueberries in a planting site with full sun or partial shade.
- Every two to three years, pull a soil sample to be tested, paying attention to the pH levels.
- Select the right variety for your climate zone.
- Prepare a well-drained soil bed with plenty of organic matter.
- Prune regularly to remove dead canes so that fresh new ones can take their place — this will ensure your plants have plenty of energy to produce fruit!
- To amend soil pH, mulch your mature plants with leaves or grass clippings, woodchips, saw dust, or pine needles to keep them from drying out during hot summer months and provide extra nutrients for your blueberries as well as prevent weeds from growing around them (you don’t want weeds competing with your precious berries!).
- Replace the mulch annually so that fungal spores cannot overwinter in the area.
- Continue to have your soil pH tested every year or two, and amend as needed.
- Fertilize regularly throughout the plant growth and fruit production season.
How to Harvest Blueberries
Blueberry harvesting is a two-fold process. First, the berries must be picked by hand. Then they must be placed in containers for storage and shipment.
Picking: The first step in the blueberry harvest is to pick the berries by hand. This can be done with a rubber-tipped pole or a rake. The berries should be picked when they are deep blue and just beginning to soften on the bush. If you wait too long, they will be bruised and damaged by the time they reach their destination.
Trimming: Before loading your harvest onto a truck or trailer, trim any foliage from around the base of each plant so that no leaves are hanging down and touching other plants or bushes as this could spread disease among your berry patches.
Loading: Place blueberry bush gently into plastic crates or bins without crushing them or damaging their delicate stems or leaves. Place enough plants into each crate so that there are no empty spaces between them (do not overfill).
Pests, Diseases, and Treatment
The blueberries grown are still susceptible to attack by a number of pests. Some are external and visible, while others are internal or hidden. The most common insect pests include:
It is a type of fly and the larvae feed on the plant roots of blueberries. The adult flies lay eggs on the soil surface, which hatch into maggots and then burrow into the root system. The larvae feed on the roots and can damage plants and reduce yields.
Treatment: Insecticides can be used to prevent damage from blueberry maggot, but these must be applied early in the season when there are still many leaves on the bushes.
Botrytis blight (gray mold) is caused by Botrytis cinerea, a fungus that thrives in humid conditions. The infection starts as small brown spots on the leaves and stems which then spread rapidly throughout the plant. Infected berries turn gray and develop soft spots or decay, making them unmarketable.
Treatment: Avoid excessive moisture at harvest time by picking berries early in the day before dew forms on them; avoid overhead irrigation if possible; remove diseased foliage as soon as it becomes visible (don’t wait until harvest time).
Blueberry leaf spot is caused by the fungus Septoria dianthi. This fungal disease typically appears in June or July when temperatures are between 55°F (13°C) and 68°F (20°C). The disease begins as small yellow spots on the leaves and then develops into large brown spots with yellow borders. Crushed leaves may have a musty odor.
Treatment: There are no chemical controls for leaf spot, so you’ll need to remove infected leaves and flower buds from the plant. The best way to prevent leaf spot is through sanitation — making sure you remove fallen blueberry leaves from around your blueberry bushes every year.
This disease affects several types of brambles including blackberries and raspberries as well as blueberries. It infects young leaves causing them to fall off prematurely which results in wilting leaves that look like mummified berries because they turn brownish-green in color before dropping off from the bush.
Treatment: The best way to avoid mummy berry is by selecting resistant varieties of blueberries and avoiding overhead watering, which encourages fungal growth.
Best Uses of Blueberry Plants
From beauty products to cleaning solutions, here are some unique ways to use the fruit from you blueberry plant.
One of the best ways to use blueberries is as a snack or dessert. You can eat them by themselves, add them to your yogurt or cereal, or enjoy them with some low-fat vanilla ice cream. Blueberries also make a great addition to trail mix or granola bars because they add flavor without adding too many calories or carbohydrates to your snacks. If you want to add more antioxidants into your diet, try eating blueberry pancakes for breakfast instead of plain pancakes or waffles!
Adding blueberries to your baked goods makes them look more appealing and gives them a festive touch. You can use fresh or dried blueberries for this purpose. For example, place some dried blueberries on top of muffins or scones before baking them so that they stick to the top during baking time. Or add some fresh blueberries to your morning cereal for an extra burst of flavor!
Decorative candles can be made from blueberry wax and scented with essential oils. You can also make decorative candles from other fruit waxes, such as grape or orange. The best part about these candles is that you can use them as decorations, or you can light them up and enjoy their scent.
Blueberries are great at removing dead skin cells from your face, leaving behind a smooth and soft complexion! Simply mash up some fresh blueberries into a paste before applying it to your face as an exfoliant twice per week. Rinse off after 10 minutes with warm water followed by cold water for best results!
How many blueberries should I eat per day?
You can eat as many blueberries as you want, but eating more than one-and-a-half cups of blueberries per day may give you diarrhea. This is due to the large amount of natural pectin in blueberries (pectin is found in the skins and seeds).
Can I take supplements for blueberry nutrition?
There are no proven supplements for supplying the body with blueberry nutrition. However, there are some supplements that contain extracts from blueberries: anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins. These extracts may help reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Is it safe to eat blueberries if you have diabetes?
Yes, blueberries are safe for people with diabetes. They have less than half the amount of sugar found in strawberries and raspberries (1/3 cup of blueberries contains about 4 grams of sugar).
Can I use frozen blueberries instead of fresh ones?
If you want to use frozen blueberries instead of fresh ones, just make sure they aren’t cooked before freezing them (this will reduce their nutritional content). If they’re already cooked when they’re frozen then they’ll lose most of their nutritional value and may not be as healthy as fresh ones would be.
Can dogs eat blueberries?
Like many fruits and vegetables, blueberries have some nutritional value for dogs — but they also contain oxalates that can lead to kidney failure in dogs who consume them in large amounts over time. If you want your dog to enjoy the nutritional benefits of blueberries without risking health issues down the road, it’s best to avoid feeding them on a regular basis.
Blueberries are an incredibly popular berry, and it’s no wonder. They’re delicious, full of antioxidants and other nutrients, and easy to cultivate in a garden setting. It’s easy to invest in the supplies you need and get started. The best thing to do is have fun, experiment a little, and enjoy the fruits (or berries) of your labor!