People across the country are growing Blueberries in their edible landscape. The Blueberry plant is as valuable as an ornamental in the landscape as it is a healthy tasty source of food. Blueberry varieties are all relatives of the Rhododendrons and Azaleas, with a wonderful bell-shaped flower display in the spring, bear juicy berries from late spring to summer.
The bold display of beautiful blue berries against lime to dark green foliage is absolutely gorgeous. And most Blueberries showcase brilliant fall color of various shades of deep reds, yellows and orange.
The Blueberry has incredibly high levels of anti-oxidants, along with very high levels of vitamins C and A. Various studies have shown that Blueberries are beneficial for anti-aging, disease prevention, eyesight, cholesterol levels, arteries, memory, and weight control. And these superfruit can be grown successful in containers, raised beds or directly in the ground.
Gardeners are including Blueberries in their front yard landscaping, too. Why not? They make a beautiful, useful, hard-working and noteworthy choice for foundation planting in full sun.
Make an investment in your health and enjoy a lovely garden plant with a range of fabulous berries. You’ll have to race the birds to earn your harvest!
5 Types of Blueberry Growth Habits
Today many varieties of Blueberries are grown for every part of the country. These include Northern Highbush, Southern Highbush, Lowbush, Hybrid Half-high and Rabbiteyes, however, the most commonly planted Blueberries are the Northern Highbush and Half-High selections. Most Blueberry breeding has focused on these species, so there are many varieties that range widely in low chill, cold hardiness, to different fruiting seasons, size, and flavors.
Most are either seedling selections of native varieties each with superior flavor and adaptabilities or the simple to complex hybrids. These combine the attributes from numerous varieties that have extended the range where consistent quality fruit can be grown.
Tips for Growing Blueberries in the Home Garden
Location: Blueberries prefer full sun and although they will grow in part shade this will always result in a less flavorful berry. In areas of low humidity and high pH water, it is often recommended that Blueberries be protected from the hot late afternoon sun.
Soil Type: Blueberries will perform well in a number of soil types as long as they are acidic and high in organic matter. It is recommended to get a reading on your soil pH before planting. Northern Highbush and Rabbiteyes Blueberries prefer an acid rich soil with a pH of 6.0 or lower for the. For the Half-Highs, an even lower pH of 5.5 is needed. A simple soil test kit or meter should be used to meter and monitor your soils pH.
Adjusting pH: Prepare soils for planning at least 2 months in advance with soil sulfur, peat moss or chucked coir; which all help to reduce pH. Use a soil meter to check the pH regularly. Amendments should be added as needed to achieve and maintain the required pH. The addition of organic fertilizers such as Feather Meal, Cottonseed or Fish Meal will help to adjust the pH down.
Planting: Blueberries like to grow in soil that is rich in organic matter. When planting, dig your hole as deep as your plant’s container and twice as wide. Add a 25% mix of either compost, oak leaf mold or aged saw dust to the back fill. Remove the plant from the pot and with high pressure water spray the soil away from the bottom of the root to loosen. Spread the loosened roots out and backfill into the hole. Do not plants any deeper than the soil line that exists in the container. Pack soil in firmly around roots.
Mulch: Blueberries require good drainage, so water cannot pool around their roots for long. Blueberry roots are shallow and benefit from a good layer of mulch. Apply mulch to 4 inches deep and to 2 feet outside of the perimeter of the canopy. This will help to decrease the plants water needs and keep the root cool.
Tips for Growing Blueberries in Containers
When growing in the ground is too much trouble, or not possible, you’ll be glad to hear that Blueberries make the perfect container plant. All varieties of Blueberries are good for container growing. You can control the soil pH better in containers, so this technique is highly recommended.
Selecting the Container: Choose a container that is 2 to 4 inches wider than the pot that the plant comes in. Make sure that the pot has plenty of drainage holes in the bottom. A 12 in pot should have at least 3 to 4 one-inch holes drilled out in the bottom. Avoid ceramic or clay pots as they both heat up to very high temperatures and are slow to cool down. They also wick water, causing the roots to dry out quicker. Resin pots have better insulation and are lightweight.
Soil Mix: Start with an Acid (Ericaceous) potting soil, commonly recommended for Azaleas, Camelias and Rhododendron’s. Mix 1/3 of that soil with 1/3 Pine or Fir bark, and 1/3 Peat Moss. (For even better water holding, mix 1/6 Peat with 1/6 Chunk Coir.)
Planting: Plant by loosing the bottom of the roots with high pressure water. Backfill the pot with prepared soil mix to a depth so the top of your plant’s root ball will sit 2 to 3 inches below the top of your container. This provides a lip to contain water and to allow for mulching.
Watering: Pay attention to watering in the summer as Blueberries prefer to be on the moist side. Watch for heat spikes in the summer that may require additional water. This is common in containers.
Winter Care: In the colder climates, move your container to a protected location. Cover the container with straw or wrap it with burlap to protect the root from freezing.
Mulch: Add a 2-inch layer of mulch to the top of the pot.
Blueberries Do Better With Pollination Partners
Blueberries are partially self-fertile, so you will harvest more and larger berries by planting two or more varieties with the same growth habit. Planting more than one variety can also extend your harvest season.
Choose varieties from an Early Season, Mid-Season and Late Season to extend your harvest season.
Highbush (Vaccinium corymbosum) is a six-foot shrub hardy from Zone 4 to Zone 7.
For withstanding cold winters, choose ‘Bluecrop’, ‘Blueray’, ‘Herbert’, ‘Jersey’, or ‘Meader’. For big berries, choose ‘Berkeley’, ‘Bluecrop’, ‘Blueray’, ‘Coville’, ‘Darrow’, or ‘Herbert’. For something different, try ‘Pink Lemonade’, which produces bright pink Blueberries!
Lowbush (Vaccinium angustifolium): For the coldest climates, Lowbush varieties are your best bet, hardy from Zone 3 to Zone 7.
These creeping plants, a foot or so high, are spread by underground stems, or rhizomes. They blanket the rocky upland soils of the Northeast and adjacent portions of Canada. Lowbush Blueberries make a nice ornamental fruiting ground cover. Plants sold by nurseries are usually seedlings or unnamed wild plants, rather than named varieties.
Half-High: Breeders have combined qualities of Highbush and Lowbush Blueberries into hybrids known as half-high Blueberries.
University of Minnesota introductions include ‘Northcountry’, a variety that grows 18 to 24 inches high and has excellent, mild-flavored, slightly aromatic sky-blue fruits; and ‘Northblue’, which grows 20 to 30 inches high and produces an abundance of dark-blue, nickel-size, somewhat tart fruits-just right for pies. ‘Northland’ is a half-high that grows 3 to 4 feet tall from Michigan, it has a sweet, wild Blueberry taste and is a heavy producer of fruit.
Rabbiteye (Vaccinium ashei): Grown in the southeastern United States, Rabbiteye varieties are extremely adaptable, productive, and pest-tolerant. They do, however, have a high degree of self-incompatibility and require two or more varieties be planted together to ensure pollination. ‘Tifblue’, ‘Climax’ and ‘Brightwell’ are beloved, big producers of nutritious Blueberries.