Pruning Blueberry Bushes - How and When To

Pruning Blueberry Bushes - How and When To

Blueberry Bush

Blueberry bushes (Vaccinium) are enjoying a little renaissance in home gardening! You can readily find them in garden centers and edible landscapers love their 3 season ornamental beauty and of course their healthy, antioxidant-rich fruit!

With so many varieties available these days, the probability of finding one that grows in your climate is very good! They are easy to grow and are so delicious when they're fresh and homegrown!

Pruning Blueberry Bushes

blueberry bush bloom

Featuring darling little white blooms in spring that the pollinators adore, Blueberry bushes bloom in profusion when planted in full sun. More flowers and pollinators, of course, means more fruit for you in the summer and fall! You’ll also encourage larger-sized fruit!

When Should Blueberry Bushes Be Pruned?

Close up view of woman hands pruning domestic blueberry bush old branches outdoors in springtime.

Pruning is necessary to maintain Blueberry bush health! However, you must be careful as pruning can directly affect the fruit production of your plant, especially the timing of said pruning!

Pruning is best done in late winter, just after the coldest part of winter passes. Only prune out old, weak, and dead wood before new growth begins. Spring is often the preferred time because you will be able to see which (if any) branches that were damaged through the winter. A dormant shrub also allows you to see the framework best, because these deciduous shrubs will be bare.


Do Blueberries Fruit on New or Old Wood?

Remember that berries are grown on canes that are at least one year old, so any branches you trim will not produce berries that first year. 

What is the Best Way to Prune Blueberry Bushes?

Best way to prune blueberry bushes infographic

  • First, if you are unsure if a branch has died back in the winter, you can perform a Scratch Test. Nick the bark of the stem from the tip down until you see fresh, green tissue beneath the bark. Often the dead portion will look brown/gray and not healthy green. Cut back to a nice green section just above a swelling bud.
  • Remove the damaged branches and other issues, you will want to remove some lower-growing branches and open the canopy for air circulation and sunlight penetration (almost eliminating fungal and bacterial issues). If damaged and weak branches go unattended, the quality of the berry will diminish and the bush will be more susceptible to issues like insects and diseases that can limit your crop.
  • Next, you can select some of the smaller, thinner (or spindly) branches. You will also want to thin out some of the older weaker canes. This is called Renewal Pruning. By removing the oldest, fattest branches that are less vigorous, you’ll make room and push the plant's energy into the younger and more productive stems. Remove no more than one-third of the shrub per year in this manner.
  • You can control the height and width of your Blueberry bush by trimming some of the more vigorous upright shoots back.

Do Blueberry Bushes Spread?

Wild Lowbush Blueberries and Lowbush Blueberries can spread both by seed (very rarely) and through the growth of underground stems called rhizomes. These shrubs can form thickets and groves slowly over time and will not become a problem or invasive in your area.

To control this spread, once a year when you are pruning, nip off any suckers forming where you don’t desire them to be.

Sweet & Decadent Blueberries!

Close-Up Blueberries

Please realize that the more severe the pruning, the fewer berries you will be left to harvest, but at the same time you don't want to skip pruning!

Although mild pruning will lead to a longer harvest and more berries, they will be smaller in size. This is why renewal pruning is the preferred method, leaving younger stems from last year intact to flower and fruit.

There are several varieties of Blueberry bush and each needs a particular pollinator, so it is important to know which type you have for the best crop and the healthiest fruiting plant.

  • Rabbiteye
  • Southern Highbush
  • Northern Highbush
  • Half-High
  • Low-Bush

Choose an appropriate pollinator partner for your preferred shrub, and ensure you’ve selected a Blueberry variety that is rated for your hardiness zone.

Blueberries need very well-drained, moist, and enriched soil that has an acidic pH. They need regular moisture, fertility, and mulched organic beds to do their best. 

For more in-depth care for your Blueberry bush, check out the Nature Hills Nursery Garden Blog on Blueberry selection and care here!

Happy Planting!

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