News: Blueberries in Home Containers


Blueberries are ideally suited for growing in containers because they have a shallow root system that easily adapts to the tight confines of a container. Another reason to grow them this way is that blueberries require specialized soil with a low, acid pH (ideal range: 4.5 to 4.8).
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.)
Container Size
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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