How Big Do Blueberry Bushes Actually Get?
Looking to find out how big blueberry bushes get before you add them to your garden this season? While they can range in size depending on the plant, there are some size consistencies you can rely on. In this article, gardening expert Liessa Bowen looks at how big blueberry shrubs can get to help you properly plan for the space you'll need.
Blueberries are an easy fruiting shrub to grow in a home garden, edible landscape, and even in a large container. If you have never tried growing a fruit-bearing tree or shrub before, blueberries are a great place to start. With some advance preparation and a little regular maintenance, you can have blueberry success and enjoy sweet fruits every summer.
Before you start planting, it’s important to understand just how big blueberry bushes can get. Their size can vary based on a number of factors. Where you plan to place them will also matter. To make matters even more confusing, there are different varieties that also grow to different sizes.
Whether you are landscaping with blueberry shrubs, or are creating an edible hedge, blueberry bushes are extremely versatile and their size can match their versatility. Read on to find out how big blueberry shrubs will get, and how to pick the right variety for your garden space!
The Short Answer
Blueberries come in different varieties, and each will typically reach a different size. As a general rule, you can expect the following:
- Lowbush Varieties: 6 inches up to 2 feet tall
- Highbush Varieties: 5 to 9 feet tall
- Hybrid Half-High Varieties: 3 to 6 feet tall
- Rabbiteye Varieties: 6 and 12 feet tall
Keep in mind that pruning matters, and some larger varieties can be pruned to be smaller, you’ll just need to be more aggressive with your pruning schedule.
There are many factors which will help determine how tall your blueberry bushes will be. The biggest determining factor will be which variety of blueberry bush you have. Each variety grows to a different height.
Other factors that influence plant height and width will be environmental conditions, overall plant health, and how you maintain the plant. We will look at some of these factors below and see how they affect plant growth and, ultimately, plant height. If pruned regularly, plants tend to be approximately as wide as they are tall.
Different Varieties & Their Sizes
Blueberries are native to eastern and central North America. Over the years, many varieties have been selectively bred and cultivated to perform well in the home garden as well as for commercial production.
There are many different cultivars, but I will focus here on the four main types of blueberries that you are most likely to encounter. Each type has a characteristic height range, and there will be several cultivars within each type.
Highbush Blueberries are typically the most common commercially available blueberry plants. They are divided into two groups. Northern Highbush, which grows best in the northern United States and into Canada, and can grow to between 6 and 12 feet tall.
Southern Highbush, which grows best in the central and southern United States, can grow to between 2 to 4 feet tall.
Lowbush Blueberries are much smaller plants. They can be quite diminutive at just 6 inches tall, but can grow to between 1.5 and 2 feet tall.
If you have ever encountered blueberries growing in the wild, these are most likely a native Lowbush Blueberry. These plants tend to do best in cooler climates.
Rabbiteye Blueberries can grow to be quite large. If left to grow freely, they can reach 6 to 10 feet in height. These blueberries are native to the southeastern United States and are, therefore, best suited to warmer climates.
The name “Rabbiteye” refers to the berries turning pink, like the eyes of a white albino rabbit, before they fully ripen and turn blue.
The Half-High Blueberry is a hybrid cross between Highbush and Lowbush Blueberries. As you might guess, they are a medium-sized plant, growing between 3 and 4 feet tall. They tend to be tolerant of colder climate conditions and are hardy even through harsh northern winters.
Blueberries love full sun. A plant grown in a sunny spot, with no competition from surrounding trees, will grow to its full height. Blueberries grown in shade will generally have fewer flowers, fewer fruits, and simply won’t thrive.
Blueberries will tolerate partial shade, but plants grown in full sun will be larger, fuller, and healthier. Similarly, don’t try to grow them in crowded conditions. Blueberries do well when planted in the same vicinity as other blueberries, but they don’t want to directly compete for space, light, water, or nutrients.
Nutrients affect the overall condition of a plant, which in turn affects the size of the plant. Blueberries benefit from some occasional gentle fertilization, but they do not like heavy feeding. A plant with either too few nutrients, or too much fertilization, will suffer.
Too few nutrients in the soil will cause a general failure to thrive. Overfertilization can burn the roots, which then causes the shoots and leaves to turn brown and die back. For your plant to reach full size and full production, you will need to focus on a light fertilizer application.
Blueberries need the right soil conditions. Fertilizer is important, but general soil conditions are critical. Blueberries have a shallow root system. They need soil that is well-drained because they don’t like to stay wet. But they need a soil that retains some moisture because they also don’t like to be dry for extended periods.
Blueberries are also particular about soil acidity. They like acidic soils, with a pH between 4 and 5. In addition to low pH levels, soil should be loose and loamy and high in organic matter. It will be worth the time to prepare your soil well in advance of planting. Blueberries in ideal conditions will grow quickly and produce bigger and more abundant fruits.
Environmental conditions aside, you can directly control the shape and size of your bushes by pruning. Not only does pruning keep your blueberry looking nice and tidy, you can also use it to increase berry production.
In general, trim off flower buds for the first two years to encourage the plant to establish strong roots and stems. After the first two years, prune during each dormant season. Pruning should remove all but the healthiest strongest stems.
This will temporarily reduce the overall size of your plant, but also generates a stronger fruiting response as fruits are concentrated on the healthiest branches.
Blueberries are wonderful fruiting shrubs for the home gardener. They do require some work for proper establishment and maintenance, but your efforts will be worth the effort when you are harvesting your own homegrown blueberries.
Now that you understand a little more about the different varieties, you’ll know how much room to plant for each type. Be sure to give each variety enough space to let them grow to their full potential.