How to Plant Your Blueberry Plants
When you receive your blueberry bushes please note the different varieties. We recommend that you make a planting map of your blueberry patch for future reference. If you ordered from our website, your blueberry bushes have been packaged bare root and will arrive via UPS with moist roots. Remove your blueberry bushes from the packaging taking care not to damage the roots or plant stems. Place the roots in cool water for 1 to 2 hours in a shaded area. If you need to hold the plants for a few days prior to planting, then pack the roots lightly in moistened peat moss. Make sure the root system is completely covered with the damp peat moss and keep it moist until you have them planted. If you purchased potted blueberry bushes at our nursery, water them as soon as you get them home and place them in a partially shaded area until you are ready to plant.
If you have purchased bareroot plants smaller than 12-18”, it is recommended that they be potted in Spagnum Peat Moss and a Pine-based soil conditioner with a 1:1 ratio to gain growth in the root ball before installing them in the ground. Early Spring and Fall are the only seasons recommended to install a well-rooted plant in the ground.
SITE SELECTION: Blueberries prefer to be planted in a partially shaded area, but can also grow well in full sun. When planting blueberries that will be harvested by hand, the plants should be spaced 6 feet apart in rows, with rows spaced 12 feet apart. A mature highbush blueberry plant’s size, on average, is 6 feet tall by 6 feet across. Blueberries require a PH of 4.5 to 5.5. You should test your soil prior to planting. Your local cooperative extension agency can help you get an accurate soil test, specific to blueberries for a reasonable cost. There are also many different PH testing probes and testing kits available for home gardeners.
IF SOIL YOUR PH IS CORRECT: Dig a hole large enough to hold 2 or 3 gallons of wet peat moss/pine mixture. The in-ground hole should not be much deeper than the existing root system. Blueberry plants have a shallow root system that will grow more wide than deep. Mix the wet peat moss/pine half and half with the existing soil. This will give your plant an ideal soil to grow in and will lesson or eliminate transplant shock. When you are ready to plant, inspect the base of the plant right above the root system and notice the change in the stem between it and the root system; this is where you should make your soil line when planting. (It need not be exact, but close.) It is important to not bury the stem to deep. If you are planting a container grown plant, the soil line in the pot should also be level with the top of the soil line in the ground. You want to cover all the roots with soil, but not bury the stem too deep. After planting your blueberry plant, it is best to mulch around it. Hold the mulch back from the base of the bush an inch or two to allow the base to breathe.
IF YOU ARE NOT SURE IF YOUR SOIL IS CORRECT: Click Here
General Blueberry Plant Care
WATERING: Blueberries like moist, well drained soil. It is very important that you water your blueberry plants regularly, especially the first year. Water throughout the growing season. It is generally not necessary to water blueberry plants after they go dormant in the fall. Blueberry plants should be watered often, but over watering for extended periods of time may be harmful. A good rule of thumb is if the top inch is damp, you’re okay.
MULCHING: Blueberry plants like to be mulched with just about any type of organic matter. Mulch your plants with 2 -4 inches of wood chips, pine bark mulch or needles, peat moss, saw-dust, or decomposed leaves to help retain moisture. Hold the mulch back from the base of the bush from 2-4″. The base of the plant emerging from the soil should never be covered with mulch. It is very important for it to breathe.
FERTILIZING: Blueberry plants will grow better if you fertilize them. They are acid loving plants, so generally any fertilizer recommended for rhododendrons or azaleas will work well. For a home-owner patch, we often recommend feeding with a product such as Miracle-Grow for Acid Loving Plants. If you are an organic gardener we recommend you use Neptune’s Harvest, AG Grand, or Worm Casting Tea on your blueberry plants. Always follow the instructions on the label. For conventional farmers, we typically recommend fertilizing with 19-19-19 in the spring at a quarter inch green tip, followed six weeks later by an application of ammonium sulfate.
PRUNING: Pruning can be necessary to remove dead or broken stems as your plants grow. As your blueberry bushes mature, annual pruning to remove the oldest canes will increase your plants vigor and help them stay productive. Pruning blueberry plants encourages new growth. Each cane reaches it’s optimal fruit production when it is 3 to 5 years old. Starting when the plants are around seven years old, you should start taking out 1 to 3 of the oldest canes per year. Generally, a mature blueberry bush can be pruned back 15% without decreasing the quantity of fruit you harvest, while maintaining the longevity of the plant. Pruning can be done any-time after the fruit harvest and throughout the fall and winter.
GENERAL INFORMATION: Blueberry plants are shallow rooted & should not be tilled. Keep the area around the bushes mulched and mowed for attractive appearance, ease of picking, and weed control. Blueberry plants are attractive plants with beautiful bell shaped flowers in the spring that turn into large clusters of delicious blueberries in June and July. They have bright green foliage in the summer that turns to brilliant shades of orange and red in the fall. They make nice hedges, landscape groups, and backyard gardens. They are highly profitable for commercial growers and take 5 to 7 years after planting to reach full production.
Just click the FREE Blueberry Production Class button at the bottom of this page to join us at our next class. Live too far away? Watch for a video class coming soon!