Where Will Blueberries Grow Best in Your Garden?
Are you thinking of growing blueberries in your garden, but aren't sure where to plant them? Blueberries are a garden favorite, but there are definitely areas of your garden that will allow your shrubs to reach their full potential. In this article, gardening expert Liessa Bowen explains where you should be planting blueberries for the best results.
So, you want to plant a blueberry bush, but aren’t sure where to put it? Landscaping with edible plants doesn’t just mean a traditional vegetable garden. There are a number of fruit-bearing trees and shrubs you can add to your yard.
So if you’ve decided to grow some blueberries this season, you’ve come to the right place. These low-maintenance shrubs can grow wildly if left unchecked, so finding the proper place in your garden is a must.
Blueberry shrubs can be grown in most climate zones without issue. But they do need slightly acidic soil, and plenty of sun. Keep on reading to find the best location for blueberry bushes in your garden this season!
The Short Answer
Blueberries love sun, space, acidic soil, and moisture. Blueberries thrive in full sun and will give the best fruit yields in a sunny location. They also thrive in moist, slightly acidic soil (ideally around pH 4.5). Blueberries require a lot of space. That little plant you bought in a pot is going to grow a lot! They also require time. It will take a few years after planting a young blueberry plant before it starts to set fruit.
The Long Answer
You want to try growing blueberries but aren’t sure where to plant them. Blueberries take some preparation, care, and patience, but it will be worth the effort when you harvest your first handful of sweet ripe fruits.
Blueberries aren’t really that difficult to grow, as long as you do the work to get them off to a good start. First, there are many varieties to choose from. Each variety can grow to be a different size. Be sure to do a little research and choose varieties that are suited for your landscape and your climate.
Second, take the time required to prepare your planting site and give your plants the best start possible.
Blueberry plants are woody flowering shrubs. The flowers are small and white and are very attractive to pollinators. These insects are necessary to pollinate the flowers and for the plants to set fruit.
Before you can plant your blueberry plants, you will need to choose which varieties to buy. There are multiple varieties of highbush, lowbush, and rabbiteye blueberry plants available, and they each have unique characteristics and specific regions where they grow best.
Blueberry flowers are self-pollinating. This means that each flower has the ability to set fruit without being cross-pollinated. However, blueberries tend to be the most fruitful if cross-pollinated with flowers of another variety, so consider planting at least two different varieties in your yard.
Having multiple varieties will attract more pollinators. And cross-pollination with different varieties seems to help blueberry plants have an even better crop of berries. Another benefit of planting more than one variety is that your berry-picking season will be extended, as each plant sets fruit at slightly different times.
Blueberries require a lot of space. They frequently are sold either as bare-root plants or in plastic pots, so it can be hard to imagine them growing into bushy 6-foot shrubs.
Depending on the varieties you choose, their full height will vary, but be sure to give them each enough space. When they are ideally situated, they can also start to spread by underground suckers, creating a dense blueberry thicket.
While you could create a dense hedgerow of blueberries by planting them close together, plants should ideally be placed approximately 6 feet apart.
This allows space for air circulation, reduces competition for sunlight and water, and allows the plant to flower and bear fruits on all sides. It also allows for easier access when it’s time to harvest the fruits.
Blueberries do best in slightly acidic soil. A pH of between 4 and 5 is desirable for most varieties, so a target soil acidity level of pH 4.5 is ideal. In order to learn the pH of your soil, you can purchase a kit to perform a soil pH test. You can also speak with your local Cooperative Extension to learn more about soil testing.
Once you know your soil pH, you can add soil amendments to either raise or lower the pH. If soil amendments are necessary, you will need some time for these to work, anywhere from a few months to one or two years. This may seem a long time, but it’s worth the wait to create the healthiest blueberry site you can.
Blueberries have shallow root systems and do best in soils that are well-drained, but still retain moisture. Avoid areas of clay soil that hold water. You can mulch around the plants to help hold in soil moisture. Water your plants weekly to be sure they maintain enough moisture.
Ideally, the soil should also be high in organic matter. You can use compost generated at home, and many people use bagged peat moss, which can be found at garden centers and nurseries. I would recommend avoiding strong store-bought compost bags, such as cow manure, as these can be too harsh for blueberry plants.
Blueberries thrive in full sun. Place your plants in a spot that gets at least 6 hours of direct sunlight each day during the growing season. Blueberries will tolerate a little shade, but full sun is preferred for best growth and fruiting.
When should I plant blueberries?
The best time for planting is either early spring or late fall. Avoid planting in the summer months as newly transplanted plants can suffer from transplant shock. Plant in the morning or evening, and give them plenty of water to get them started in their new space.
The birds are eating my blueberries! What should I do?
Blueberries are a favorite snack of many types of birds. You basically have two options. You can share with the birds. As the plants get larger and produce more berries, there will be more to share. Or you can create a blueberry cage to protect the entire plant from birds. Beware of using plastic netting, as birds can easily become entangled in this material.
Can I grow blueberries in containers?
Yes! You can grow blueberries in a large container. Follow the same considerations as outlined above. Make sure the container has adequate drainage holes. During periods of hot, dry weather, be sure to water your plants periodically, as container plants dry out faster than in-ground plantings. If you are in a colder climate, you may consider wrapping your container in burlap during the winter to help protect from frost damage.
Do I need to worry about the weeds?
Yes, you should worry about the weeds. It’s important to keep removing the weeds from around your bushes because the blueberries can suffer from too much weed competition, leading to a lack of nutrition and worse – a dying blueberry shrub. A good layer of mulch can help with this. Mulching will also help keep the soil moist.
Blueberries are a very rewarding addition to a garden or edible landscape, just remember these considerations for planting:
- Plant at least 2 varieties if you can.
- Plenty of sunlight.
- Plenty of space.
- Moist but not wet.
- Soil pH ideally between 4 and 5.
Also remember that blueberries will take a few years to begin producing fruits, and that you will likely be sharing some with the birds. But for those of us who love blueberries, preparation and patience will be worth the wait!