How to Grow Blueberries in Containers
PLUS Getting Rid of Blueberry Pests and Disease
Reading Time: 5 minutes
Do you want to learn how to grow blueberries in containers? Blueberries are one of the most nutritious and versatile fruits you can eat. They fit almost every diet regimen you can think of.
So, how do blueberries grow? Fortunately, blueberries are one of the easiest fruits to grow. Each blueberry bush produces five to seven pints of berries each season. The standard is three bushes for every person as a minimum. I prefer six to eight bushes per person. We eat a lot of blueberries!
Blueberries are Nutritious
Besides all of the delicious things to make with sweet blueberries: pancakes, muffins, smoothies, etc., their bountiful nutrition makes them a mainstay for a healthy immune system.
Blueberries not only contain protein and fiber, but they’re also an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin K1, and manganese. They contain smaller amounts of vitamin E, vitamin B6, and copper.
Everyone is talking about getting more antioxidants in their diet. Blueberries are loaded with anthocyanins, quercetin, and myricetin; these support many of your body systems and help prevent disease.
How to Grow Blueberries in Containers
Most people plant their blueberry bushes directly in the ground. Since I learned how to grow blueberries in containers, I prefer mine in raised bed planters. For people who are limited on gardening space, those who want a smaller harvest, or for those who prefer to have berries at a more accessible height, growing blueberries in containers could be the answer.
Container Size Requirements for Blueberry Bushes
To start with, you’ll need a container twice the diameter of the pot your blueberry bush is in when you purchase it. If you purchase a bare root plant, you’ll need a container twice the root system’s diameter.
Depending on the age of the bush, you will have to repot it at least once. A mature blueberry bush needs to be in a container at least 24 inches deep and 30 inches wide. The best time to repot one is in late January or early February before the plant begins its spring growth.
Age When Blueberry Bushes Bear Fruit
Blueberry bushes bear fruit at two to three years of age. They reach full fruit-bearing production around six years old. At 10 years, they are considered fully mature. That may seem like a long time, but if healthy and properly tended, they can live up to 50 years!
I recommend buying two-year-old blueberry bushes to get an earlier harvest than you would with planting a one-year-old bush. I always pull the blooms off the blueberry bushes the first year after planting. This allows them to establish healthy root systems and a strong bush without using energy for the fruit-bearing. I’ve always had great results doing this.
Which Blueberry Bush to Plant
There are four basic groups of blueberry bushes. Within each group, there are several varieties.
1. Highbush Blueberry — The most common variety. It can be subdivided into Northern Highbush and Southern Highbush. They can grow four to seven feet tall and can reach five feet in diameter.
2. Lowbush Blueberry — Best suited for cold climates. It’s the shortest of the varieties, reaching only two feet and two-to-three feet in diameter.
3. Hybrid Half-High Blueberry — As a hybrid, it has the highbush and the lowbush characteristics. Its max height is four feet, reaching four feet in diameter. It does well in cool, mild climates.
4. Rabbiteye Blueberry — Best-suited to hot climates. It will reach up to 10 feet in height and 10 feet in diameter. They are considered the oldest group of blueberry bushes.
Number of Bushes Needed for Pollination
Blueberry bushes are self-pollinating. However, having more than one increases the yields and lengthens their fruit-bearing season.
Exception: Both the lowbush and the highbush have two varieties that are NOT self-pollinating.
Be sure to check the bush label or ask the nursery worker to ensure you are getting the type of bush you want.
Best Soil for Blueberry Bushes
With all plant life, soil is essential for healthy plants with high yields. Blueberry bushes prefer acidic, well-draining soil. Growing blueberry bushes in containers makes it easy to manage all of the soil conditions blueberries need.
If you fertilize, use organic fertilizer for acidic-loving plants such as azaleas. If you notice their leaves are turning yellow, you may want to fertilize them.
Blueberries require at least eight hours of direct sunlight to be their healthiest and most productive. Their ideal spot shelters them from wind and provides full sunlight. Avoid planting them near trees. Trees not only produce shade, but their extensive root systems will take up the water and nutrients in the soil before your bushes can.
Always water plants in the morning before the sun is high. If you must water in the evening, avoid watering the leaves and only water the soil around the plant. Watering when the sun is on the plants will cause them to burn. Watering the leaves at night makes the plants susceptible to fungus and disease.
Blueberry bushes need moist soil. They don’t do well in soggy soil. When they enter the fruit-bearing stage, they need four inches of water a week. The rest of the year, they only need one inch of water a week.
Pests and Disease
You’ll be glad to know that wildlife is your biggest concern. Birds and deer love the bushes for the berries and the leaves. You can win the war by using netting and DIY electric fencing.
As far as insects and diseases go, only a few, such as maggots, fruit worms, and a few funguses, even bother with blueberry bushes. I use a non-toxic neem oil spray so that the beneficial insects aren’t killed. This spray is a natural pest control and an effective fungicide, even killing stink bugs!
For ½ gallon of spray:
• Spray bottle (½ gallon or smaller)
• 1 tablespoon pure, cold-pressed, raw neem oil
• 1 teaspoon pure baking soda
• 1 teaspoon castile soap or mild dishwashing soap
Add all these to your spray bottle then add enough water to finish filling the bottle. Shake well and spray. Shake well before each use.
Now you know how to grow blueberries in containers and get the best crop possible. Get out there and make your own blueberry thrill!
Originally published in the January/February 2022 issue of Countryside and Small Stock Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.