Grow Blueberries in Pots
New, compact kinds are perfect for your porch or deck.
When I was a kid, lots of people grew fruit out in the yard, but it’s not that way anymore. People in the burbs say it’s because they don’t live on a farm or have a back acre and, besides, growing fruit is just so country. (My apologies to rural readers.) Well, there is one native fruit that blows those lame excuses out of the water. You don’t need a farm for them. Heck, now you don’t even need a garden.
Yeah, I know, all the blueberry bushes you’ve seen growing at U-pick places are 6 to 7 feet tall and wide. They aren’t the prettiest looking bushes either after all the fruit is picked. No way you’d stick one by the front door.
New tidy, compact selections change all that. Their smaller size means you can grow them in containers, which has lots of advantages. For example, if the soil in your garden isn’t suitable for blueberries, you can grow them in a pot filled with just the right stuff. Plus you can easily move them into a sunny spot, because full sun produces the sweetest berries. Featuring pretty, white flowers in spring, juicy blue berries in early summer, and brilliant red foliage in late fall, they’re highly ornamental.
Bushel and Berry offers seven different selections of compact blueberries, ranging in size from 1 to 2 feet tall and wide (‘Jelly Bean’ and ‘Peach Sorbet’), 2 to 3 feet (‘Southern Bluebell,’ shown above), and 3 to 4 feet (‘Pink Icing’). I especially like the latter’s mixture of pink, blue, and deep green leaves in spring. Most of these low-chill plants do well as far south as Florida. Online source include Stark Bro’s and White Flower Farm. You can also look at B & B’s website for local retailers.
I would be unforgivably amiss if I neglected to mention that our Southern Living Plant Collection also offers a pair of compact rabbiteye blueberries for containers. (Rabbiteyes are well suited to the South’s hot summers and mild winters.) ‘Takes the Cake’ and ‘Bless Your Heart’ grow 4 to 5 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide. You’ll need to grow both for cross-pollination and fruit production. (That’s fruit from ‘Bless Your Heart’ up at the top.) Look for these at local garden centers.
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Blueberries need moist, fertile, well-drained soil that’s decidedly on the acid side, around pH 4.5. Use a brand name potting mix (not top soil or garden soil). Fertilize in spring using an acid-forming azalea/camellia fertilizer at the rate specified on the label. Plants in containers need more frequent watering than those in the ground. This can be a problem if you have hard water that contains a lot of calcium, as this can raise the soil pH over time. To counteract this, add vinegar to the water twice a week – 1-1/2 ounces per gallon. Very little pruning is needed for these plants, except for removal of dead wood in the spring.