Fresh blueberries from your own backyard? Yes, please!
Blueberry bushes are pretty easy to grow here in our warm Texas climate, and starting with blueberries in the home garden is the best way to learn more about growing your own perennial fruit bushes and trees.
Blueberries are more than just a delicious fruit. They can also enhance the beauty of your garden even when grown in containers or pots. Whether you have limited space or want to add a pop of color to your patio, growing blueberries in containers is a perfect solution.
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WHERE TO GROW BLUEBERRIES
For best results, grow blueberries in a large container or raised bed garden. If you want to grow in the ground, you’ll need to amend the soil we have here in Texas.
Pick a spot with full sun (at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight per day) so that your plant will have the energy it needs to bear lots of delicious fruit. During the hottest months, it’s best for these plants to have some afternoon shade or partial shade to get a little break from the heat.
Growing Blueberries in Containers
Blueberries are easy to grow in containers, and they don’t require a lot of maintenance. With the right care and attention, you can grow a healthy, productive blueberry bush that will provide you with fresh fruit for years to come.
Blueberry bushes grow well in large pots or containers thanks to their shallow roots. Look for something at least 18 inches deep so that the roots have plenty of space to dig down deep and to provide good drainage. Make sure whatever container you choose has drainage holes at the bottom to prevent your plant from sitting in water and rotting.
If you need to grow two plants for pollination (more on that in a bit), give each one its own growing space or space them at least 4 feet apart.
Fill your pot or container with an acidic soil blend. Garden soil or regular potting mix is not the correct pH for berries, especially when growing them in pots or containers. Like giving your plant enough sunlight, getting the pH level right is critical to the plant actually forming healthy fruit.
My soil recipe for growing blueberries is 40% compost, 40% peat moss, and 20% coarse sand. You can also shop around for a soil blend with a low pH level tailored for growing blueberries such as Coast of Maine Acidic Potting Mix.
Growing Blueberries in Raised Beds
It’s typically best to give blueberries their own space in a raised bed because they have a shallow root system. Basically, you want to avoid planting anything else inside their root zone.
Another reason to give blueberries their own container or raised bed is because their ideal soil conditions differ from the typical plants you might grow in your kitchen garden. The peat moss in the soil recipe above lowers the soil pH, just the way blueberries like it.
If you want to grow other plants around your blueberry bush, fellow acid-loving plants make good companions. I would keep it simple with herbs like basil and thyme, which can handle acidic soil.
WHEN TO PLANT BLUEBERRIES
The best time to add new plants to your garden is in the early spring or late fall. This gives plants time to settle in before extreme temps (hot or cold) arrive to stress them out.
DIFFERENT VARIETIES OF BLUEBERRIES TO GROW
There are quite a few blueberry varieties to consider, from dwarf varieties that work great in smaller pots to lowbush or highbush blueberry varieties that work well in larger containers or raised garden beds. Dwarf varieties are typically those that only grow about a third of the size of the normal plant. The fruit produced by dwarf varieties will be the same size. Lowbush blueberries have much more compact growth than highbush blueberries, as the names suggest.
PRO TIP: The best way to source healthy plants is to head to your local nursery or shop from a reputable online source like Stark Bros. Their plants arrive wrapped very carefully in a box—I’ve always been impressed with the plants on delivery!
My top blueberry varieties include:
- Sunshine Blue Blueberry Plant – This self-pollinating variety grows well in containers (it only gets about 3 feet tall) and is heat tolerant.
- Pink Lemonade Blueberry Plant – As you probably guessed from the name, the fruits are bright pink, and this plant is cold hardy. Their 1-gallon plants are finally back in stock!
- Blueray Blueberry Plant – This variety produces extra-large berries that are light-blue and super sweet. Bluerays are self-pollinating but are great to help pollinate other varieties.
Note whether the variety of blueberry bush you’re getting is self-pollinating or not. Even self-pollinating varieties benefit from having a friend. I recommend buying two different varieties of blueberry plants to encourage a larger fruit yield than you’d get from individual plants or just one variety. All you have to do is place them near each other outdoors, and the wind and insects will do the rest!
HOW TO CARE FOR GROWING BLUEBERRY BUSHES
Creating the right conditions for your blueberries is important to ensuring you end up with bowls of sweet little fruit for your efforts (just not in your first year, sorry to tell you). This mostly means watering regularly, fertilizing, and meeting chill hours.
Blueberries like a lot of water. Along with not enough sunlight or the wrong soil pH, under-watering is another cause of low fruit production. You’ll water your plant frequently, but make sure that the soil in your container or raised bed lets excess water drain out so that the roots aren’t sitting in too much water.
We usually recommend giving plants in the vegetable garden a deep soak and then allowing the top couple inches of soil to dry out between waterings. But for blueberries, you’ll actually do more small and frequent waterings—perhaps every few days or every day in warmer weather. You want the top few inches of soil to stay moist.
I don’t usually mulch my vegetable garden, but I do recommend adding pine needles around your blueberry bushes to help retain soil moisture since you can’t grow cover crops around the base.
Blueberries don’t require much fertilizer beyond the organic matter in their soil blend. I recommend fertilizing once in the spring and again in the fall. MicroLife Acidifier fertilizer is a good option for berries. You’ll just sprinkle the little pellets around the root ball, scratch gently into the soil, and water them in.
Since blueberries are perennials, they actually benefit from having a certain number of chill hours each year. In other words, the plants need to spend time in temps between 32 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit. And when I say “need”, I mean they won’t bloom and produce fruit come spring and summer without having their chill hours met.
The number of chill hours required varies depending on the blueberry variety. Some blueberry varieties need over 1,500 chill hours, while others only require around 150. It’s important to check the specific requirements for the blueberry variety you are growing to ensure that it will thrive and produce fruit in your growing area.
Make sure to check the varieties you plan on growing for more info on how to meet its needs. Stark Bros does this for you by grouping plants by zone on their website, and most local nurseries (not big box stores) should provide varieties that are suitable for your local climate.
BLUEBERRY HARVEST TIME
Okay, here’s some bad news: Young plants won’t produce fruit for their first 2 to 3 years. That’s even if you’ve done everything else right. But hey, after that, you should get several pounds of fruit each year, depending on your variety.
Good things are worth the wait, right?
Consider covering your plant with bird netting to protect fruits while they’re developing if you have lots of hungry visitors to your yard.
Blueberries are typically ready for harvest by May in Texas or late July or August for our northern friends. You’ll know blueberries are ready when they’ve gone from a light pink or white to green to light blue and then dark blue. Wait until they’re that nice, deep blue before you harvest them for best flavor (unless, of course, you’re growing pink blueberries!). In the picture above, you can see the different shades of blue between fully ripe and partially ripe blueberries.
Berries should come right off the stem when you brush your hand underneath them if they’re fully ripe.
Once you’ve harvested all your delicious berries, prune any weak or older branches to promote new growth in the spring. New growth is what will eventually produce a large harvest for you the following year, not older growth.
LETTUCE HELP YOU
I hope these tips help you find success in the long term growing blueberries. They might be a little picky, but each and every harvest will ultimately be so worth it!
If you still need to get your garden space set up, we’d love to help you. We can even design a special raised bed just for your favorite berry bushes. We service locally in Austin, TX, or virtually all over the world.