Blueberries are not only one of my favorite fruits to eat, but the plants are some of my favorite eye-candy in any garden. Here are some tips for growing blueberries in your garden.
Over the years, I’ve foraged for blueberries in wild, marshy bird sanctuaries in New England, harvested them from carefully coiffed borders in Los Angeles suburbs, and gorged myself from various U-pick fields in Seattle.
Seeing fruit-laden blueberries thrive in such varied climes helped me understand that these hardy shrubs are adaptable and worth installing in almost every garden I design. Fortunately, these acidic-soil-loving woody plants almost grow like weeds in the Pacific Northwest.
When growing blueberries, keep in mind the plants come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some are semi-evergreen; others turn brilliant fall colors before spending the winter brightening beds with yellow or red stems.
Each blueberry variety has a unique blooming period, which will determine whether they are early, mid-, or late bearing. If you have room, try planting an assortment of varieties. Doing so will help maximize pollination (and therefore fruit yield). Plus, done right, you’ll be harvesting blueberries all season – beginning with early bearing plants and wrapping up with the late season fruits.
Only Have Room for Container Plants?
Some blueberries like ‘Top Hat’ have been around for years, and do great even in a small pot. ‘Bountiful Blue®’ offers big yields, beautiful foliage, and does quite well in containers.
Hoping for Winter Foliage and Summer Fruit?
Again, ‘Bountiful Blue®’ is a wonderful small border blueberry shrub that provides multi-season interest. A great companion or alternative is ‘Sunshine Blue’, which is nearly as lovely.
Want Bigger Bushes, Fall Foliage, Showy Winter Stems?
‘Earliblue’ is one to try for the first blueberries on your block, and its red fall foliage pops on darkening fall days.
‘Draper’ gives up sweet yields in the middle of harvest season. Adding the old-time favorite ‘Jersey’ should feed you late summer into fall, just before its yellow leaves begin to drop.
Not every blueberry will grow in every climate, so take the time to work with your local gardening gurus to pick the one best for your location. And, be sure to ask about disease resistance. Despite being tough, long-lived, easy-care plants, blueberries are susceptible to many disease issues.
In order to set fruit, blueberries need pollinators. Maintain a garden friendly to hummingbirds and bees, and you should have fantastic fruit-set.
Keep a keen eye out for wasp nests; often they will chose blueberries as their seasonal homes – making picking a dangerous job.
Once the pollinated flowers fall, but before the fruit begins to ripen, consider carefully draping your plants with bird netting. Otherwise, wild birds will be gulping down your berries before you get a chance.
Learn More! Growing Blueberries in the Home Garden by Oregon State Extension. If you don’t have acidic soil, read how these experts recommend you prepare soil for growing blueberries.