With in-ground plantings, maintaining this low pH may require a concerted, ongoing effort. In a container or raised bed, you can create the ideal soil pH at planting time and have it last for 6-10 years before you have to tackle major soil amending. (At that point, bushes also benefit from root pruning, so it’s a win-win situation.)
When you first purchase a blueberry bush, tuck it in a 12-inch pot for the first two to three years. Then transplant it into a 20-24-inch-diameter container – about the size of a whiskey barrel planter.
Get The Soil Right
Fill containers with this soil mix, which fostered the best yields in trials at Colorado State University:
- 40% untreated, raw peat moss
- 40% coir (shredded coconut husk, available at most garden centers)
- 20% perlite
- A handful of soil sulfur per plant
While blueberries are technically self-pollinating, you’ll get better, more consistent yields when you plant more than one type for cross-pollination. Choose types with overlapping flowering times. Check with your local Cooperative Extension System office for the best locally adapted varieties.
Other Keys To Success
- Site – Blueberries need full sun.
- Hardiness – Because containers expose roots to winter air temperature, choose plants hardy to two zones colder than your zone.
- Mulch – Apply an acidifying mulch, such as oak leaf compost, pine needles, or pine bark, to maintain soil moisture and reduce heating.
- Water – Keep soil consistently moist. Monitor water pH; an alkaline water source shifts soil pH.
- Soil pH – Check soil pH frequently using a pH soil probe. If pH moves above 5.0, add cottonseed meal or iron sulfate.
- Fertilizing – Use fertilizers formulated for acid plants, such as Azalea, Camellia, or Rhododendron. Never use fertilizers containing nitrates. Fertilize 4-6 weeks after planting.
- Flowering – During the first season, remove all flowers to establish strong roots.
- Pruning – Established plants require annual pruning in early spring. Check with your local Cooperative Extension System office to learn pruning techniques.
- Picking – Protect ripening berries with bird netting. Allow berries to turn blue, then wait up to a week before picking to allow berries to sweeten. Berries don’t ripen or sweeten after picking.
Blueberries For Pots
Try these varieties for growing in containers. You’ll purchase 2-3-year-old plants. Shrubs start bearing strongly in the fourth year. At maturity (8-10 years old), expect yields from 2-12 pounds of fruit per bush.
- Top Hat (true dwarf Northern Highbush)
- Chippewa (half-high)
- Northcountry (half-high)
- Northblue (half-high)
- Misty (Southern highbush)
- O’Neal (Southern highbush)
- Sharpblue (Southern highbush)
- Sunshine Blue (semidwarf Southern highbush)
1-Small size ideally suited for growth in containers.
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