Where to Plant Blueberry Bushes To Keep Them Alive


Planting blueberry bushes in your yard will give you fresh berries and a beautiful landscape.  However, to make sure that your blueberry bushes thrive, you will want to make sure that you plant them in the proper location.

So, where should you plant blueberry bushes in your yard?  Plant blueberry bushes in an area with full sun and well-draining, acidic soil.  You will get more berries and larger fruit if you plant two or more varieties, and they should be spaced 4-6 feet apart, with rows 8 feet apart.

Of course, when you grow blueberries, there is more to take into account than location alone.  You also want to think about how to prepare the soil, which varieties to plant, when to plant, how to protect the fruit, and how to prune the bushes.  Let’s start with where to plant, and why.

Where to Plant Blueberry Bushes

There are three main considerations for the location of your blueberry bushes: sunlight, soil drainage, and soil pH.

Choose an Area with Full Sun

Blueberry bushes need full sunlight.  This means 6 to 8 hours of exposure to the sun each day.

sunlight through forest
Your blueberry bushes will need plenty of sunlight to thrive.

In general, you won’t be able to change the amount of sunlight in a location after you plant your blueberry bushes.  So, don’t plant too close to your house, a shed, or anything else that could block the light.

Remember that young trees and shrubs will grow taller someday, so keep this in mind when choosing a location for your blueberry bushes.

If you cannot find any suitable areas, you may need to cut down some tree branches to allow more light into your yard.  Before you do this, make sure to choose an area with soil that is well-draining and acidic, if possible.

Choose an Area with Well-Draining Soil

Blueberry bushes like soil that is well-draining.  This means that extra water flows through the soil and away from the plant’s roots.  If the soil is too wet for too long, you can get root rot on your blueberry bushes, which can damage or kill the plants.

Don’t worry if you cannot find a place in your yard with naturally well-draining soil.  We’ll go over some ways to improve soil drainage later in the article.

Choose an Area with Acidic Soil

Blueberries like soil that is more acidic than what most other plants prefer.  A soil pH of 4 to 5 (fairly acidic) is ideal for blueberry bushes.

Most other plants prefer a soil pH of 6.0 to 7.0 (slightly acidic).  So, you won’t be able to plant your blueberry bushes in the same soil as other plants.

One way to tell that soil is more acidic is to look at what is growing there.  For example, pine trees prefer more acidic soil.  So, planting your blueberry bushes in an area with lots of pine trees is probably a good bet.

pine needles
If you see pines nearby, the soil may be acidic enough for blueberry bushes.

Of course, the best way to know for sure is to do a soil test.  This will determine the exact pH, and it will tell you how much more acidic the soil needs to be.

You can buy a soil test kit or digital tester online or at a local garden center.  You can also send a soil sample to your local agricultural extension for testing.

soil
A soil test kit will tell you the pH, so that you know how to treat your soil.

The advantage of doing this is that you will receive detailed information about nutrient content in your soil, in addition to the pH level.  You can also send information about what you are growing, and they will send you recommendations about how to treat your soil.

For more information, check out my article on soil testing.

How to Prepare Your Soil for Blueberry Bushes

Once you have decided on a sunny location for your blueberry bushes, you may need to do some work to prepare the soil.  Three tasks you may need to work on are soil drainage, soil pH, and fertilization.

Help Your Soil to Drain Better

Sometimes, your soil just does not drain well naturally.  Luckily, there are some things you can do to turn things around.

One method is to add organic material, such as compost and manure, to your soil.  The organic material will help the soil to drain better.

As an added benefit, you will be adding vital nutrients to your soil, which your blueberry bushes can use for growth. For more information, check out my article on how to make your own compost and my article on where to find manure.

compost bin
A compost pile will yield rich organic material for your blueberry bushes.

You can also use the method of hilling to improve soil drainage.  With hilling, you mound up the soil in the area where you are going to plant.  Then, excess water will drain away more easily, thanks to the effects of gravity.

Another good method is to use raised beds for planting.  Similar to hilling, this will allow gravity to assist in draining away excess water from the soil.  Raised beds also make it easier to keep grass from growing near your blueberry bushes, which makes it easier to mow your lawn.

One final note on soil moisture: it is possible to have soil that is too dry.  If your soil is dry, you add a few inches of mulch (wood chips) on top of the soil near your blueberry bushes.  The mulch should help to retain moisture and prevent water from evaporating so quickly.

For more information, check out my article on treating dry soil.

Make Your Soil More Acidic

If the results of your soil test indicate that your soil pH is too high, then you need to make it more acidic.  One way to do this is to add elemental sulfur to your soil.

sulfur
Adding elemental sulfur powder or pellets to your soil will lower pH, but it takes time to take effect.

Remember that there is a delay of a few months between when you add the sulfur and when the pH decreases.  So, get started ahead of time, and wait before adding more sulfur.  Otherwise, you may cause the pH to go too far in the other direction!

For more information, check out my article on how to lower soil pH.

Fertilize Your Soil

If your soil test indicates a nutrient deficiency in your soil, you will want to fertilize accordingly.  Your blueberries will need the “big three” (NPK, or nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) to grow properly. However, there are other elements that are vital, such as iron, magnesium, sulfur, and others.

Adding compost or manure to your soil will help to prevent nutrient deficiencies.  However, if your soil is deficient in one specific nutrient, there are ways to treat the problem.  For more information, check out some of my articles on how to treat nutrient deficiencies in your soil:

Which Varieties of Blueberry Bush to Plant

Now that your location is chosen and your soil is prepared, it is time to choose the variety of blueberry bush to plant.

Some blueberry bushes are self-pollinating, meaning that the flowers contain both male and female parts.  However, pollinators such as bees are still necessary to form fruit.

It is important to remember that your bush will produce larger berries and more fruit if you plant two or more varieties of blueberries.

blueberry bush
Multiple varieties of blueberry bushes in one yard will yield bigger berries and more fruit.

It is also important to remember that your blueberry bushes need a certain amount of exposure to cold during the winter (known as chill hours).  Low chill bushes need less than 800 chill hours to set fruit, while high chill bushes need more than 800 chill hours to set fruit.

For more information, check out my article on blueberry bushes, flowering, and fruit.

Finally, remember that you can choose blueberry bushes based on height.  The varieties are:

  • lowbush (1-2 feet tall)
  • hybrid half-high (3-4 feet tall)
  • highbush (4-7 feet tall)
  • rabbiteye (10-15 feet tall)

These varieties will vary slightly in their cold tolerance – check your zone hardiness map before you order blueberries!  For more information, check out the USDA Zone Hardiness Map here.

When to Plant Blueberry Bushes

Blueberry bushes should be planted in early spring, when they are 1 to 3 years old.  As mentioned earlier, you will want to amend your soil with elemental sulfur months in advance, to allow it time to work.  So, plan ahead – you may need to start preparing your soil in the fall of the previous year!

As a rough guideline: when you plant your bushes, dig a hole that is 18 inches deep and 18 inches wide.  However, you should always give the hole enough width and depth so that the blueberry bush’s roots are not crushed or bent when you plant it.

How to Protect Blueberry Bushes

Now that you’ve done the work of preparing the soil and planting the bush, you need to protect your blueberries!  Humans aren’t the only ones who like them.  Birds will go after your blueberries if given the chance.

There are a few ways to stop them.  You can put netting or row covers over your blueberry bushes to keep the birds from eating the fruit.  Agribon is one brand of row covers, made of fabric that allows sunlight through but deters birds and insects.

You can also scare away birds using a scarecrow or by hanging CDs from a piece of string.  The CDs will spin and reflect the sun.  Just remember to move the scarecrow or CDs occasionally.  Eventually, the birds may learn that they have nothing to fear from an object that never moves!

How to Prune Blueberry Bushes

Most blueberry varieties will yield fruit in late July to mid-August.  However, you should pinch off the flowers for the first couple of years after planting.

This will prevent fruiting and force the bush to put energy into roots and growth.  This strategy is a short-term sacrifice for a long-term gain.

After your blueberry bushes have been in place for 3-4 years, you can begin pruning in late winter, when the bushes are still dormant.  Cut away some of the older wood to promote new growth, which will eventually produce berries.

Conclusion

Hopefully, this article gave you an idea of where, when, and how to plant your blueberry bushes, along with ways to care for them and protect your harvest.

I hope you found this article helpful.  If you have any questions or advice of your own about blueberry bushes, please leave a comment below.

jonathon.david.madore

Hi, I'm Jon. Let's solve your gardening problems, spend more time growing, and get the best harvest every year!

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