Where to Plant Blueberries
Blueberries require well-drained, acidic soil of pH 4.5 to 5.0, and full sun to grow. When you choose a location for planting, look for a place with lots of sun and good drainage. Sandy loam soil is best. Plant your blueberry bushes in the spring while the blueberry bush is still dormant.
Is Your Soil Acidic Enough for Blueberries?
Blueberries will not grow in soil with a pH above 5.5. If you don’t know the acidity of your soil, you can test it and amend it if the pH is within a certain range. You can adjust soil acidity to some extent with powdered elemental sulfur, though sulfur can take several months to alter the pH of the soil, so we recommend using this in the fall before planting. You may have to keep applying sulfur to the soil to keep it at the right acidity. If your soil pH is above 7.0, you may not be able to lower the soil pH with sulfur over the long term.
Despite what you may have heard, you can’t just add coffee grounds to make your soil more acidic.
Planting Blueberries in Containers
An alternate option is to grow your blueberries in a container filled with an acidic growing medium. There are a few options. You can use a mix of one part sphagnum peat moss and one part shredded pine bark. Another option is to use two parts coir (shredded coconut husks), two parts sphagnum peat moss, and one part perlite. Mix all ingredients well. Fill a five-gallon container with whichever mix you decide to use, and plant a single blueberry plant in the container. As it matures, repot it in a larger container or in a barrel, once again filled with your acidic growing medium of choice.
Planting Your Blueberry Bush in the Ground
Dig a hole about three times the diameter of your container and about three times as deep. This will be about as big as an average beach ball. Get your peat moss ready!
Mix the soil you’ve dug out of the hole with an equal amount of peat moss. Even if your soil is naturally acidic, it’s a good idea to mix in some acidic organic matter. Oak leaves or pine needles or pine bark work well. NOTE: It’s important NOT to use mushroom compost or fertilizer in the planting hole. This could kill your blueberry bush.
Remove the plant from its container and gently loosen the root ball. Place the plant in the hole and replace the soil mixed with organic matter and gently pack down the dirt. The top most roots should be at the soil line.
Water each bush thoroughly to settle the roots and eliminate air pockets.
If you’re planting more than one blueberry bush, leave 5-6 feet apart to create a hedgerow. If you are planting several bushes individually and they are not self-fertile, make sure there’s another variety no more than 10 feet away.
Blueberry bushes are slow growers. It can take 2-3 years to get a full fruit harvest, but the bushes live a long time. So once they start fruiting a lot, you’ll have years of delicious berries.
Blueberries have very shallow roots, so you should mulch your bushes with about 4-6 inches of acidic organic matter like pine bark or oak leaves each spring and fall. Keep mulch a few inches away from the plant itself. Pine saw dust makes a good mulch.
If you notice that the leaves of your blueberry bush are discolored, check the soil pH.
Watering Container Blueberries
If you’re growing containerized blueberries, closely monitor the moisture levels in your pots. Blueberries don’t like “wet feet,” but they can dry out easily in containers, especially black ones. Aim to keep the growing medium moist with frequent, light watering with rainwater. Well-water can be too hard and have a high pH. An occasional soak will eliminate soil salts. Mulch the soil surface with two inches of pine bark or chipped hardwood bark to conserve moisture. You can also try burying your containers in the ground to retain moisture.
Over-Wintering Container Blueberries
Prevent root damage by burying container-grown blueberries over the winter. In mid- to late October, choose a spot that’s sunny, protected from the wind, where snow usually accumulates. In mid-November, cover bushes with burlap or place a thick layer of straw (4-6 inches) over the soil. You can leave the pots there all year or if you prefer, you can remove them in the early spring and place the bushes in full sun.
When to Fertilize Blueberry Plants
Blueberry roots are sensitive to fertilizer salt. We recommend a combination of slow-release elemental sulfur a month after planting your bushes. And again a year later. Slow-release fertilizers will typically need to be supplemented with more fast-acting acidic liquid fertilizers- check your local nursery or garden center for supplies- when the blueberry plants are in their active growing season during the spring through mid-summer.