Blueberries grow best when they have plenty of sunlight, good soil, and space to grow. Unfortunately, this is a difficult combination to find for many people who live in urban settings. Luckily, there are easy ways to grow blueberries in containers! This article will discuss how you can grow blueberries in pots and the benefits and drawbacks.
But don’t let the drawbacks worry you, container-grown blueberries are absolutely wonderful and produce heavily! With limited space, you can grow quite a harvest of berries to use, store and process.
Pros and Cons to Growing Blueberries in Containers
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Growing blueberries in containers is a great way to grow your own fresh, organic blueberries, no matter where you live! Have you seen the price of organic blueberries at the grocery stores these days? Right? Wow.
Plant 2-3 high bush blueberries on your deck and have access to fresh blueberries all summer long with enough to save and freeze or preserve for the winter months.
It’s easy-peasy but does require a bit of knowledge to ensure your plants thrive.
Want to learn more about growing crops in containers? Check out this post on the best vegetables to grow in pots!
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Advantages of growing blueberries in containers
- We already touched on cost, but it’s worth mentioning again. Of all my crops, blueberries are by far the best investment. You can grow enough blueberries for your entire family with a few bush-style plants planted in containers with enough left over to make jams, pies, or even freeze for winter.
- Blueberries that grow in containers tend to grow up instead of out, allowing for more plants shoulder to shoulder. Therefore, you can get more plants in less space if you go the container route with your blueberry plants.
- Exposure to the elements also makes blueberries grow sweeter and juicier, so having blueberries grown in a container can contribute to a better-tasting berry. In addition, containers can be moved around to the sunnier areas of your patio or yard quite easily.
- Growing in containers means you can grow blueberries in a small space or area with no garden soil to plant bushes. A small urban yard, patio or deck all become possibilities for delicious berries!
Disadvantages of growing blueberries in containers
There are a few challenges when growing blueberries in containers:
- One of the biggest challenges is that your pot will need more frequent watering because the pots will dry out quicker.
- In cold climates, the container-grown blueberry plants pose some challenges. If left out in the elements during a hard frost, the blueberry plant can die even if it is hardy to your zone. If you want to grow blueberries in containers in the North, plant the container with the blueberry bush in the ground before the first hard frost. You can also wrap the plant and container in a double coat of burlap and leave it in a cold garage or shed over winter.
- Consider buying blueberry bushes that are hardy to a zone or two colder than your own. Not sure what climate zone you’re in? US gardeners can find out here, and Canadian gardeners can check out these maps.
- You must plant two separate blueberry plants in two containers for adequate pollination.
How to Grow Blueberries In Containers
The key to growing blueberries in containers is to give them the best starting conditions that you can, then care for them properly to ensure a healthy plant.
Choose a large pot for your blueberries, and amend your potting soil with compost. Plant your blueberry bush in the pot and water well. Keep the soil moist, and fertilize lightly during flowering and fruiting.
Select a Pot that is about 12 inches deep
Blueberry plants grow best in pots that are about 12 inches deep, which gives their roots plenty of room to grow. Make sure the container has several drainage holes on the bottom to prevent the soil from getting waterlogged.
After a few years you may need to replant into a larger container as the bush grows.
Amend your potting soil
Blueberry plants require soil that is rich in organic matter. The best soil to grow blueberries in containers would be a mixture of good potting mix and compost or other organic material.
You will also need to make sure you have acidic soil. Blueberries require a soil pH between 4.3 to 5.5 pH. You can add elemental sulfur, coffee grounds, pine bark, or pine needles to help acidify the soil. Ammonium sulfate is an excellent choice for blueberries, as it lowers the pH and adds nitrogen to the soil for a one-two punch.
It is also important to use potting soil that has good drainage properties to avoid having soggy soil, which may produce mold or rot your blueberries.
Choose a blueberry variety that is suitable for pots
I grow mostly high bush blueberry varieties because they are more compact, grow better in containers than their low bush counterparts, and make for easier harvesting. You can find these at your local gardening center. They may also recommend different varieties based on your region.
- One of the most popular types of blueberries for container gardening is Adams.
- Bluecrop grows well in containers and is resistant to root rot.
- Prunus Tzar from Russia is a good self-pollinating variety of bush-type blueberry plants for container gardening as well.
While it is possible to grow blueberries from seed, it’s not usually recommended, especially for new gardeners. Germination of blueberry seeds is poor, and even once they do sprout, it can take as longer than three years before the plant bears fruit. The best way to start growing blueberries is to buy started plants at the garden center. They will often have plants that are already one or two years old, which cuts down the time it takes for the plant to bear fruit.
Are you a beginner gardener? You might also be interested in this post on the easiest vegetables for beginners to grow!
Plant your Blueberry Bush
Ok, you’ve got your container and soil ready, and you’ve picked up your blueberry start from the garden center. Now it’s time to plant!
- The best time to plant blueberries in containers is early spring.
- Plant your blueberry bush in the pot so that the plant’s crown is level with the soil line or just above it. Fill around roots carefully.
- Plant only one plant per 12-24 inch wide container.
- Water well.
Provide full sun
Container-grown blueberries grow best in full sunlight. However, they will grow well with some shade and partial sun, but it may take longer to produce fruit.
Blueberry plants are also susceptible to heat, so make sure they grow in a cooler location.
I like to keep my blueberry plants close to my pine trees where they receive a good deal of morning and early afternoon sun, but get a bit of shade for the harshest sunlight during the late afternoon.
Blueberries require enough water to keep the soil moist at all times.
The best way to water potted plants is with a soaker hose or drip irrigation system. Drip systems are ideal for container gardens as they allow you to water in smaller increments throughout the day, rather than in one large amount at once.
Note: Keep an eye out for your blueberry containers during extreme heat. They may need to be watered more than once a day during heat waves. Check them in the morning and early evening.
Blueberry plants grow best with a high level of organic matter, so any well-balanced compost or aged manure is ideal as it will provide the right nutrients for your blueberry plants. You can also use diluted fish emulsion or organic fertilizer to give them an extra boost during the growing season.
Prune Blueberry Plants for Heavy Yields
- Hold off on pruning for the first year or two, and let the bush establish itself before taking the shears to it.
- Cut off old canes that grow from the base with sharp pruning shears or a saw. This will create new branch growth, generally yielding more fruit in following seasons.
- It’s a good idea to remove branches crossing each other to allow sun through for better fruit production and less injury during winter.
- And finally, prune back any suckers growing below the graft union on your blueberry plant–these are shoots coming up from rootstock planted at the same time as your berry bush planting; they grow thickly around the trunk of your tree and don’t produce much fruit.
Treat Pests and Diseases
Prevention is the best way to keep your berry bushes healthy. With a bit of easy care, you won’t have to worry about treating diseases of your blueberry plants, because they won’t get them. Luckily growing blueberries in containers makes a lot of this maintenance easier.
Common Blueberries Diseases
- Mummy Berry: Mummy berry is caused by a fungal infection in the fruit. Infected berries do not ripen – instead, they turn pink and shrivel like mummies. Prevent mummy berry by keeping the soil surface clean and free of fallen berries. Top the soil with peat moss once a season, and discard any berries you find that are infected.
- Stem Blight: Stem blight presents as brown wilted leaves along the affected stem. Prune the affected limb at least 12 inches below the discoloration.
- Blueberry Maggot Fly: These pests have clear wings with black zebra-like markings. Unfortunately, there are no outward signs of infestation. These flies infect one berry at a time. The berry will appear normal on the outside but yellow and mushy on the inside. Maintenance is key – clean up fallen fruit immediately, and if you’ve noticed infested fruit, do not compost fallen berries. In case of severe infection, consult your local planning office for advice on pesticides and to report the infestation. The Blueberry Maggot fly can be devastating to commercial growers, and authorities monitor and track infestations. Please follow their recommendations – not doing so can put other growers and commercial blueberry harvests at risk.
- Cherry Fruitworm: Cherry and cranberry fruitworm both eat blueberries in their larval stage. Clusters of fruit covered in silk webbing are a sign that the moths have been in your bushes. Spraying with Bt shortly after fruiting starts will help. As with any insecticides, only spray if there are signs of infection, to avoid contaminating other insect species.
- Mammals and Birds: Blueberries are universally loved in the animal kingdom. Deer and rabbits may chew off the flower buds before they even bloom, and birds, raccoons, bears and husbands can go after ripe fruit before you get a chance to harvest it. Harvest your fruit as soon as it reaches peak ripeness to prevent unwanted paws from pilfering your crop. Promises of blueberry jam can help deter husbands.
Harvest at Peak Ripeness
A deep, rich blue color is a sure sign that your blueberries are ripe. Resist the urge to harvest your berries at the first sign of blue, though. They will reach peak sweetness if allowed to stay on the vine for an extra day or so after turning blue. Pick the berries by hand, or use a blueberry rake to harvest lots of berries quickly.
Looking for more advice on gardening tools? Check out this post on the top 10 essential gardening tools!
Preserve blueberries for year round enjoyment
There are so many fun things to do with blueberries. They are fantastic fresh, of course, but they can easily be frozen or made into preserves.
I love having fresh blueberries in the fridge for a topping on salads, cereals or cheesecakes. Blueberry pies can be made and frozen, perfect for short-notice guests. Blueberry jam has a special spot in my heart, as well.
If you’re like me during harvest season, you’ve got so much produce coming in from the garden that you can’t possibly bake, can, eat, or give away enough to get through it all. Blueberries freeze wonderfully though, so you can save your whole crop, even if you’re short on time.
To freeze blueberries:
- Spill out your berries onto cookie sheets
- Place the sheets in the freezer until the berries are fully frozen
- Transfer berries into freezer or vacuum seal bags and put back in the freezer.
Freezing the berries on a sheet first prevents the berries from freezing into a solid lump that is impossible to break apart. When they’re frozen this way, it’s easy to open up the bag and grab a few frozen berries for a shake or dish, without having to defrost the whole bag or break out the hacksaw.
How long do blueberries in pots take to grow?
Blueberry bushes grown in pots will require two to three growing years before you can harvest them with any frequency, but the berry yield is usually double that of those grown in the ground. You may not see blueberries your first year, but you should get a good harvest by your second year.
Blueberries grow best in cold conditions and might need a few years to grow into plants that produce fruit. However, the wait time drops considerably if you start them from seedlings or cuttings taken from another plant at least two years old.
How many blueberries can I get from one plant?
From one high bush blueberry plant, you can get 10-20 pounds of berries per year! Well worth the effort and wait if you ask me. Yields fluctuate from cultivar to cultivar, but generally, any high bush blueberry plant will have heavy yields when grown in a container.
It seems like it’s well worth the effort. And if you love berries, you may want to plant some strawberries in containers for high yields too!
Growing Your own Organic berries In Pots
Growing blueberries is a great way to enjoy the taste of summer all year long. This post looked at how you can grow your own blueberries in containers for high yields with minimal effort and time.
If you’re ready to get started on growing your own container garden, you may want to check out these posts:
- How to Grow Pumpkins in Pots
- Perfect Container Grown Carrots
- How to Grow Onions in Containers: Expert Tips and Techniques
- How To Grow Green Onions In Containers!
- How to Grow Garlic In Pots!
- How To Care For and Fertilize Pepper Plants For Big Harvests
- 9 Best Flowering Bushes for the Front of Your House
- Tea Time Anytime: A Guide to Growing An Impressive Tea Garden
- How to Prune Azaleas to Keep Them Blooming!
Editorial Note: This post was originally published on August 14, 2021, and was updated on March 5, 2022.