Did You Know You Could Grow Blueberries in Containers?
Picking blueberries is a popular highlight of summertime in the South, evidenced by the many you-pick farms that dot the countryside. Fortunately, you don't need acreage to grow your own blueberries. Container gardens fill the void for families who want to grow their own food but lack the space for a big garden. Blueberry bushes not only yield a healthy and delicious fruit, but they are also handsome potted plants that will add beauty to your front porch or patio decor—just make sure they get enough sunlight.
Pick the Right Size Container
Blueberry bushes thrive when grown in containers, because their shallow root system easily adapts to the small space. After buying a blueberry bush, plant it in a 12-inch container for the first two to three years. When the bush outgrows the smaller pot, transfer it to a 20- to 24-inch-diameter container—about the size of a barrel planter. Blueberries flourish in soil conditions that are also suitable for their relatives, azaleas and rhododendrons. These plants require lots of sun and moist, well-drained, acid soil (pH 4.5-5.5), so fill your container with an acidic potting mix.
Plant More Than One
Though some blueberry bushes are self-pollinating, many others rely heavily on bees to help with the process. You can get away with growing just one plant, but to get larger berries and bigger yields per plant, grow at least two selections for better pollination, and choose types that flower at the same time. Two selections to try in your next container are "Pink Icing" and "Perpetua" from Bushel and Berry (bushelandberry.com). Consult your local Extension office to learn the best selections for your area.
Plant Based on Your Need
Depending on the size of the bush, you may have to wait two to three years before it produces fruit. Then expect 1 to 2 pints of blueberries per bush. If you just like to toss a handful of blueberries into your oatmeal or salad, two bushes may be all you need. If you prefer baking or freezing fresh fruit, we suggest planting more.
WATCH: Planting Blueberries with the Grumpy Gardener
These plants often produce so many fruit buds that the berries are undersize, and the growth of the plants slows down. Pruning will prevent overbearing. Keep first-year plants from overproducing by stripping off flowers. On older plants, cut back the ends of twigs until the fruit buds are widely spaced, or simply remove some of oldest branches each year. Also, be sure to get rid of all weak shoots. Protective netting will keep birds from getting the berries before you do.