Tasty blue fruits and vibrant fall foliage make blueberry plants landscape all-stars. Call on this plant to create a multitasking hedge. Add several blueberries to a shrub border as a colorful, fruitful planting partner. Plant breeders have selected many new varieties that thrive in containers, producing patio-side fruit that is just as sweet and delectable as the fruit grown on 8-foot-tall shrubs.
Blueberry Care Must-Knows
Blueberries demand the right climate and soil but take only minimum care if you provide a site suitable to their somewhat exacting conditions. Growing blueberries requires a fair amount of cool weather in the winter; they won't grow well at all in mild winter climates. They also require full sun, so avoid setting them on the east or north side of a building where bright sunlight is limited or below trees that will provide shade for several hours a day.
Blueberries prefer well-drained, sandy, acidic soil and grow best in soil with a pH reading of 4.0 to 5.5. (Contact your local extension service to learn more about the general pH reading of soils in your area.) Make soil more acidic and therefore hospitable to blueberries by incorporating sphagnum peat moss into the mix. Sulfur also can lower the pH, but add it one year before planting blueberries as this chemical element reacts slowly with soil. If your landscape is plagued by poor soil, consider planting blueberries in large containers where you control the soil make-up. Vaccinium 'Top Hat,' Vaccinium 'Sunshine Blue,' Peach Sorbet Vaccinium corymbosum 'ZF06-043', Blueberry Glaze Vaccinium x 'ZF08-095', and Jelly Bean Vaccinium corymbosum 'ZF06-179' are small blueberry varieties that are easy to grow outside of the garden.
Blueberry Planting Tips
For best pollination and fruit set, plant two or three different blueberry cultivars. Blueberries are grouped by plant size. Highbush blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum 'Jubilee', for example) are 6 to 12 feet tall at maturity, while half-high blueberries (such as Vaccinium 'Chippewa') usually grow 2 to 4 feet tall. Low-bush blueberries (e.g., Vaccinium angustifolium 'Burgundy') are just 1 foot tall and generally have smaller berries than the other two varieties.
Plant container-grown blueberry plants in spring or early summer. Be sure to water them deeply once a week during the first growing season. Early spring is the best time to plant the dormant, bare-root blueberry plants from mail-order sources. Soak the roots of bare-root plants in water for about an hour before planting.
Blueberries are ready to pick two to four months after flowering, from July to September. Hold a container in one hand and use your other hand to gently loosen berries from the cluster so they drop into the container. Ripening berries turn from green to pinkish-red to blue, but not all blue ones are fully ripe.
Blueberries are extremely perishable. Store them unwashed in the refrigerator for up to one week. Enjoy them fresh out of hand, on cereals and in fruit salads, or cooked in baked goods, jams, and preserves. Rinse and dry berries and freeze them in single layers for long-term storage.