How To Grow Blueberries In Containers
Did you know that growing blueberries in containers is one of the easiest ways to expand your edible garden without using valuable backyard real estate? That’s right! With a little preparation and patience, you can be enjoying delicious, farm-fresh, berries straight from the bush, no matter how much space you have!
Blueberries are notorious for their vitamin C and E packed fruit and have become a widely popular addition to backyards everywhere! However, you absolutely must make sure you’re setting yourself up for success and picking bushes that are best for your area.
The wrong kind of blueberry bush can leave you wondering why you aren’t getting much fruit, or why it doesn’t fare as well in the colder months.
Best Blueberry Bushes for Your Area
If your fortunate enough to live in a warmer region that doesn’t get long, frigid, winters, you might want a Southern Highbush like Sunshine Blue (Vaccinium corymbosum ‘Sunshine Blue’). This variety doesn’t need as many chill hours and it’ll still produce an abundant harvest!
Brightwell (Vaccinium virgatum ‘Brightwell’) is another popular warmth-loving variety. This Rabbiteye grows best in zones 6-9 and will give you so many berries each year that you might even consider sharing a few!
Of course, if you live in the northern part of the country, you can’t go wrong with Bluecrop (Vaccinium ‘Bluecrop’). Widely accepted as the most popular blueberry, this Northern Highbush produces flavorful, plump berries that are sure to please your palate!
Hoping for a plant that’ll give you plenty of berries while also being extremely decorative? It sounds like BrazelBerries® Pink Icing™ Blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum 'ZF06-079') is exactly what you’ll want. This Northern Highbush has lush pink spring foliage that’ll fade to a deep blue-green over the course of the growing season. Its berries are nothing short of delightful as well!
Putting the ‘Container’ in Container Gardening
There’s a lot of conflicting information out there about what size your container should be. The fact of the matter is, as far as blueberries are concerned, there’s no such thing as “too big” for the plant.
Now, there is such a thing as too small, and that can be a problem. We suggest starting with at least an 18-inch deep container to give your plant roots some room to grow.
You’ll also want to make sure that whatever container you choose has drainage holes. The same rules apply to blueberry bushes as most other plants, poor drainage, and constantly soggy feet can wreak serious havoc and leave you with an unhappy plant.
Terra cotta pots are always a good option, but, quite frankly, as long as the container has drainage holes, you’re free to get as creative as you’d like. You could even pick up a five-gallon bucket at the local store, drill some holes, and call it good.
Soil Selection is Paramount
Now, this is where you’ll want to follow directions closely, as this acid-loving plant can be pretty picky about it’s living conditions. The most critical being soil pH. Berry production depends on the pH of the soil to be between 4.5 and 5.0.
There are a couple of ways to create the best soil for your blueberry bush. You can make it yourself by mixing one part sphagnum peat moss and one part shredded pine bark. Or you could buy regular potting soil mix and fill the container two-thirds full and use potting mix made for acidic soil plants, like azaleas and rhododendrons.
Being able to totally control the composition of the soil is one of the reasons growing blueberries in containers is such a good idea and works so well!
Pollination and Fertilization
Successfully growing blueberry bushes in containers also depend on the inclusion of a pollination partner. You won’t have many berries come harvest time if there wasn’t another bush around during early spring to help pollinate.
You’ll want to get two bushes that bloom at the same time, so the pollen can transfer from one plant to another. Any two with the same bloom period will do!
Since these plants are in contains, they’ll look to you for most of their fertilization. Sure, the soil immediately after planting should be good, but each time you water, some of that acidity will drain out.
We suggest monitoring your soil pH periodically with a soil tester kit. It’ll give you a pretty good idea of whether or not you should add some cottonseed meal or another fertilizer designed for acid-loving plants.
Sun Exposure: Lot’s, But Not Too Much
Your blueberries will need six to eight hours of sunbathing each day for the best results.
Many are labeled as being full sun and partial shade but you’ll want to be careful not to leave them in direct sunlight during the hottest parts of the day. These bushes can overheat and will appreciate being lightly shaded during middays of the hottest months.
Netting’s For the Birds!
It sure is. Owning and growing blueberry plants means inevitably attracting curious and hungry birds. In order to keep them from stealing your entire crop before you can even think about harvesting, try covering with bird netting.
Sure, netting might not be the most aesthetically pleasing, but we promise it’s better than the alternative. Imagine going to all the work of growing healthy, juicy, berries just to find them all gone one morning!
With all this in mind, you're ready to be America's next top blueberry grower, no garden necessary! Happy planting!