The One Thing My Dad Taught Me About Growing Blueberry Shrubs
It takes two to make a thing grow right.
After reading the tout for new selections of blueberries from the Southern Living Plant Collection in the Editor’s Letter of our March 2019 issue, my dad needed no further convincing that the ‘Takes the Cake’ and ‘Bless Your Heart’ rabbiteye blueberries should be planted in his garden this spring. He, too, wanted shrubs that produced plump, juicy gems blooming in his backyard. He immediately went to his local garden center and bought five plants, three of one selection and two of the other.
When he called to relay the exciting news of his new gardening project, I assumed he had bitten off more than he could chew. Why not start with just one of what seemed like a high-maintenance shrub? Why risk killing five whole plants in Alabama’s sporadic spring weather? Turns out, I assumed wrong, and my dad knew exactly what he was getting himself into. First, blueberries are actually very easy to grow and maintain. Second, planting two or more selections promotes better cross-pollination, which will result in increased yields as well as larger fruits.
Blueberries are perennial shrubs that need full sun and fertile, well-drained, acid soil amended with organic material. Blueberry bushes have shallow root systems, and they can be grown in the ground or in containers. If planting in the ground, alternate the different selections in a line to encourage cross-pollination. The best time for planting blueberry bushes is in the fall or winter, but with regular watering, they can be planted any time of year.
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The Southern Living Plant Collection's ‘Bless Your Heart’ and ‘Takes the Cake’ rabbiteye blueberry shrubs are disease and pest resistant, as well as heat tolerant. These two selections make a great match for planting together in gardens.
Don’t be alarmed if the harvest is small the first year of planting—it will take two or three years for them to produce higher yields. The berries are ready to be picked when they turn deep blue. Blueberry bushes are beautiful additions to your garden, with white bell-shaped flowers and blue-green leaves in spring; the leaves turn bright red in fall.