How to Grow Blueberries: The Complete Guide


Blueberries are one of the easiest fruits to grow.

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Planting, Growing, Pruning, and Harvesting Blueberries

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Plump and juicy blueberries are more than just delicious. They’re high in nutrients, antioxidants, fiber, and vitamins. Fortunately, with very little effort, blueberries are easy to grow—if you have the right soil conditions. See our Blueberry Growing Guide to learn how to plant, care for, prune, and harvest your blueberry bushes.

Did you know that the modern blueberry is a 20th-century invention? Before the 1900s, the only way to enjoy these North American natives was to find them in the wild. Then, scientists started to unlock the secrets of cultivating blueberries—and we’re glad they did! 

  • A relative of rhododendron and azalea, blueberry bushes are a great fruiting plant; they’re also an attractive addition to your overall landscape, offering scarlet fall foliage and creamy-white, bell-shaped spring flowers.
  • Plus, blueberries are one of nature’s superfoods, crammed with essential nutrients, minerals and health-boosting polyphenols.

Types of Blueberries

There are four types of blueberries: highbush, lowbushhybrid half-high, and rabbiteye.

The most commonly planted blueberry is the highbush. Most blueberry breeding has focused on this species, so there are many varieties that range widely in cold hardiness and fruit season, size, and flavor. (Read more about blueberry varieties below.)

Blueberry bush


When to Plant Blueberry Bushes

  • Blueberries can be planted in spring or also in late fall in all but the coldest regions. In Zones 5 and below, it’s best to wait until early to mid-spring to plant. 
  • If available, 1- to 3-year-old plants are a good choice. These can be bought in containers or bare-root. In either case, buy from a reputable nursery or website. 

Choosing and Preparing a Planting Site

  • Select a sunny, sheltered spot. While blueberries tolerate shade, better crops are obtained in the sun. At the same time, they should not be exposed to harsh, drying winds.
  • Don’t plant blueberries too close to trees, as the trees will block out sunlight and suck up any moisture in the soil.
  • If planting multiple bushes, it’s best to plant them in a group rather than scattered throughout your garden. This will bolster berry production and quality.
  • The blueberry is a shallow-rooted plant. Therefore, it requires soil that holds moisture but also drains well and doesn’t stay wet. Don’t plant blueberries in sites with heavy, clayey soils that stay wet.
  • Blueberries thrive in soil that is acidic. The soil pH should ideally be between 4.0 and 5.0; soil that isn’t acidic enough will stunt growth. Soil can be acidified by mixing a small amount of granulated sulfur into the soil several months before planting. Peat moss and pine bark or needles are also good additions that will help acidify your soil.
  • Mix organic matter into the soil before you set your blueberry bushes. (See more about preparing soil for planting.)

Spacing for Blueberries

How to Plant Blueberry Bushes

  • Tip: Be careful not to plant them too deeply. The rootball should be just below the surface (one-quarter to one-half inch).
  • Dig holes about 20 inches deep and 18 inches wide (or about twice as wide and twice as deep as the plant’s roots).
  • Space bushes 4–5 feet apart in a row, with at least 8 feet between rows. Prepare a planting mixture of 2 parts loam and one part oak leaf mold, peat moss, aged sawdust, or compost, and place a layer of this mixture in the bottom of the hole.
  • Set the bush in the hole with the rootball just below the surface with its roots spread out. Pack the hole tightly with the soil.
  • Apply fertilizer one month after planting, not at the time of planting. Apply ½ ounce of a 10-10-10 fertilizer in a band around the plant 6 to 12 inches from the crown.

Can You Grow Blueberries in a Container?

Yes! In fact, blueberries grown in containers are easier to protect from birds and other critters, more disease-resistant, easy to harvest, and easy to move if needed. Plus, if you live in an area without acidic soil, growing blueberries in containers allows you to tailor the soil pH specifically for them.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Use a large container with drainage holes.
  • Use a potting mix designed for acid-loving plants such as azaleas or rhododendrons, or mix sandy soil with peat moss and compost.
  • Plant the bush in the container and water the bush well.
  • Add mulch on top of the soil to keep in moisture.
  • Place the pot in a sunny spot.
  • Keep soil moist.
  • In northern regions, overwinter the blueberry container in a protected area, cover it with straw, or wrap it in burlap.

Varieties for Containers

  • ‘Top Hat’: Bred by the Michigan State University for small spaces and containers.
  • ‘Pink Lemonade’: Pink blueberries contain genetics from rabbiteye blueberries (a standard in the hot South). These pink berries can be planted in nearly every climate.
  • ‘Pink Champagne’: Another pink variety that is full of antioxidants and sweeter than other blueberries.
'Pink Lemonade' blueberries
‘Pink Lemonade’ blueberries


How to Care for Blueberry Bushes

  • Mulch is essential for keeping shallow blueberry root systems moist. After planting, apply a 2—to 4-inch layer of woodchips, sawdust, or pine needles around the bush, but leave a gap around the trunk to allow for proper airflow.
  • Blueberries need 1 to 2 inches of water per week.
  • Warning: Blueberries are a favorite snack of hungry birds, so it’s recommended that you protect blueberry bushes ahead of time by draping bird netting over your plants.
  • One year after planting, apply 1 ounce of 10-10-10 fertilizer per bush in the spring when they bloom, and increase the rate by 1 ounce each year thereafter to a maximum of 8 ounces for mature bushes. 
  • Do not allow the bush to produce fruit for the first year or two after planting. This will allow the plant to use its energy to become well-established in its new home instead.
  • Pinch back any blossoms developing on newly set plants to allow the energy to go to growth.

How to Prune Blueberry Bushes

  • For the first four years or so after planting, blueberry bushes do not need to be pruned. From then on, pruning is needed to stimulate the growth of the new shoots that will bear fruit the following season.
  • Prune plants in late winter or early spring before new growth begins. 
  • Cut out dead, broken, short, weak, and spindly shoots.
  • On highbush varieties, begin with large cuts, removing wood that is more than six years old, drooping to the ground, or crowding the center of the bush. Also, remove low-growing branches whose fruit will touch the ground, as well as spindly twigs.
  • Prune lowbush blueberries by cutting all stems to ground level. Pruned plants will not bear the season following pruning, so prune a different half of a blueberry patch every two years (or a different third of a patch every three years).

Video: How to Grow and Prune Blueberry Bushes


How to Harvest Blueberries

  • Blueberries are typically ready for picking between June and August.
  • Don’t rush to pick the berries as soon as they turn blue. Wait a couple days. When they are ready, they should fall off right into your hand.
  • If you plant 2-year-old blueberry bushes, they should start to bear within a year or two. (Pick off any flowers that form the first year or two after planting to allow the bush to become established.) Be aware that full production is only reached after about 6 years (depending on variety).

How to Store Blueberries

  • Blueberries are one of the easiest fruits to freeze. Learn how to freeze blueberries so you can have them all winter long.


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Wit and Wisdom

  • In Ireland, baskets of blueberries are still offered to a sweetheart to commemorate of the original fertility festival of Lammas Day, celebrated on August 1.
  • Blueberries are one of the few naturally blue foods on earth.
  • For centuries, Native Americans gathered “star berries” (the blossom end of each berry forms the shape of a perfect five-pointed star) from forests and fields and ate them fresh or dried them for later use.
    • Dried blueberries were added to stews, soups, and meats.  
    • Dried berries were also crushed into a powder and rubbed into meat for flavor.
    • Blueberry juice was used to cure coughs.
    • Blueberry juice was also used as a purple dye for cloth and baskets.
    • A tea made from the leaves of the blueberry plant was believed to be good for the blood.
  • Tired of blueberries? Try growing another berry in your garden, such as strawberries, raspberries, or blackberries!


About The Author

Catherine Boeckmann

Catherine Boeckmann loves nature, stargazing, and gardening so it’s not surprising that she and The Old Farmer’s Almanac found each other. She leads digital content for the Almanac website, and is also a certified master gardener in the state of Indiana. Read More from Catherine Boeckmann

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