Growing Blueberries In Containers
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to walk out onto your porch or deck and gather handfuls of blueberries to snack on or to make a fresh blueberry pie? Well, my friends, you are in luck! Blueberries can be picky growers, however, all that can be solved by growing them in containers. That’s right, container blueberries are the secret to bountiful blueberry harvests, no matter what type of land or space you have available. A balcony, patio, or deck is all the space you need to grow a beautiful blueberry harvest.
How to Grow Blueberries in Containers
First things first, choose an appropriate container. A large planter with drainage holes in the bottom is best, something at least 12”-18” deep. A too-small container will stunt the blueberries’ growth. Not good! You want to give your blueberry bush plenty of room for root growth. You could even create your own self-watering planter if you want to take the guesswork out of watering.
Next, acidify your soil. The reason blueberries are called picky growers is because they need very acidic soil. This can be done via commercial products that you mix into the soil. Or, you can buy soil that is already amended and can be added right into your container, as is. Check the acidity with a pH test kit, available at most garden stores, or send a soil sample to your local cooperative extension for a free (usually) soil test.
Finally, plant your blueberry bushes in your container and place it in a location where it will get full sun or at the minimum, very partial shade. Don’t forget, blueberry bushes take time to develop. Depending on where you purchased your plant, it could be years, so be prepared to make the commitment and it will be worth it. We purchased our plants from a local blueberry farm, and they specifically sell plants that are three years old. This ensures a harvest in the first year for those of us who are buying. So, this would be a good question to ask when purchasing your blueberry plants.
(Want to try growing your own plants from store-bought blueberries? Check out MI Gardener’s video here: How to Start Blueberry Plants from Store Bought Berries)
Blueberry Bush Fertilizing Practices
The first year of your blueberry bush is the most important since you are getting it established. During this year, add organic fertilizer to your bush per the package instructions of your fertilizer. This is usually about every 2-3 months.
After the first year, don’t stop adding fertilizer! This is very important. As you water your plants, the fertilizer will drain out the bottom of the container. It will need to be replenished. Continue adding fertilizer in small amounts every month during the growing season.
Care for Your Blueberries
Blueberries need lots of water. But, they don’t like soggy soil, which is why it’s important that they are in good draining containers. Water frequently. Also, check the pH regularly to make sure the soil is still acidic enough.
The bushes will need to be pruned every year. Go gentle, just cut off the oldest branches. This will stimulate better growth from the ones remaining.
Winter Care: If you live in a cold climate, protect your bushes from the wind by placing against the side of a building. Mulch them well to retain moisture. They won’t need much watering but they shouldn’t be allowed to dry out. Other than that, they can be left alone. They will go dormant. Many blueberry bush leaves turn a beautiful shade of red before going bare.
Types of Blueberries to Grow
There are four types of blueberries: highbush, lowbush, rabbiteye, and half-high that work best for container gardening. Each of these has variables based on the preferred climate and size of the berries. Make sure you get a variety that does well in your climate.
To be successful growing blueberries in containers, choose a variety that has smaller bushes. Top Hat is a good choice since it only gets 2 feet tall. Sunshine Blue gets 3 feet tall and has bright pink flowers; a very popular variety. Patriot grows 3-5 feet tall and is an early season variety, so be sure you have plenty of room and a larger pot for this variety.
Some blueberry varieties are self-pollinating, however, most need more than one to pollinate and produce fruit. (Check the label on each blueberry bush to determine if you’ll need more than one.) Plant at least three blueberry bushes for a better chance success. More blueberries, please. That’s a win-win, blueberry lover!