Jump To Section
4 Things You Need to Grow Blueberries in Containers
Planting blueberries in containers is a great solution if you don't have a lot of outdoor space.
- Potting soil: Blueberries thrive in acidic soil. Look for a potting mix with a soil pH of 4.5 to 5.5, such as a potting mix for azaleas and rhododendrons. If your soil is not acidic enough to grow blueberries, you can adjust the pH by using ammonium sulfate or by adding organic matter like compost, pine needles, pine bark, oak leaves, or peat moss into the soil mix.
- Containers: Blueberries have roots that spread about three to four feet wide. You can start blueberry plants in five-gallon containers, but after a year or two, you may want to move your blueberry plants to 20-inch pots. Make sure the containers have drainage holes. Position the containers in an area that receives full sun.
- Organic fertilizer: Side-dress around the transplanted blueberry bushes with a small amount of organic fertilizer, like cottonseed meal or azalea fertilizer, once a month during the fall and winter. Fertilize sparingly; blueberries are sensitive to over-fertilizing.
- Multiple blueberry plants: Most blueberries are self-pollinating, but cross-pollination leads to larger fruit yields. If you only want to plant one blueberry bush, make sure it's a self-pollinating variety. If planting multiple blueberry bushes, be sure to plant them enough together to foster good pollination—ideally four to five feet apart.
4 Types of Blueberries to Grow in Containers
There are four different varieties of blueberries: northern and southern highbush varieties, lowbush varieties, and rabbiteye. Depending on the region, the North American growing season for blueberry plants runs from April to late September. Find out which blueberry varieties work best for your region at a garden center or nursery.
- Northern highbush blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum) are a common blueberry variety in the Northeast that can grow to be six feet tall. If you live in a cold climate (USDA hardiness zones three through seven), you might consider the Patriot blueberry, a type of northern highbush blueberry that does well in containers.
- Southern highbush blueberries (Vaccinium darrowii) are native to the southeastern United States. Sunshine Blue is a compact variety of southern highbush well suited to container growing in USDA hardiness zones five through 10.
- Lowbush blueberries (Vaccinium angustifolium) are a creeping variety that makes a good groundcover and grows best in colder climates. Top Hat is a dwarf variety that's popular in USDA hardiness zones three through seven and perfect for growing in pots.
- Rabbiteye blueberries (Vaccinium virgatum or Vaccinium ashei) are the most common blueberry variety in the southeastern region of the United States and grow best in warm, humid climates (USDA hardiness zones five through 10). These blueberry plants require cross-pollination, so plant them near at least two different varieties of blueberry.
How to Grow and Care for Blueberries
Blueberry bushes require time to establish their root systems. They typically take three to four years to begin producing fruit, and around six years to reach full production. When it comes to caring for blueberries, patience and routine maintenance are key.
- Water frequently. Blueberry bushes need one to two inches of water per week during growing seasons, and up to four inches per week once the fruit begins to ripen. Since containers dry out quickly, you may need to water more frequently. Check the soil daily, and keep it moist.
- Add mulch. Mulching with wood chips, such as pine bark, helps maintain critical moisture. Leave a small ring of space around the base of the plants to allow for air circulation.
- Remove initial flowers. During the first year or two, pinch off flower buds to prevent fruiting until the plant is mature. This will concentrate the plant’s nutrients in its developing roots.
- Prune dead branches. Blueberry bushes do not require pruning for the first few years as the fruit gets established since blueberries grow best on branches that are two to four years old. When you do prune, cut back dead or weak branches in early spring before new growth starts. Avoid pruning all your blueberry bushes at once, as pruned bushes will not bear fruit that season.
- Protect your plants from pests. Blueberry bushes are naturally resistant to most of the usual garden pests—but bird netting will help protect the fruit from birds.
Grow your own food with Ron Finley, the self-described "Gangster Gardener." Get the MasterClass Annual Membership and learn how to cultivate fresh herbs and vegetables, keep your house plants alive, and use compost to make your community - and the world - a better place.