The Ultimate Guide to Growing Blueberries in Containers

Blueberries are one of the easiest fruit bushes to grow in containers. You don’t need to have a lot of property or space to have fresh berries available. You’ll love growing blueberries in containers – it’s so easy!

Opting to grow blueberries in pots is preferred by many gardeners because they need highly acidic soil.

The required range is between 4.5 to 5, but for most other plants that you would include in your garden, that’s too acidic.

It’s also easier to set the soil at such a high acid level rather than attempting to amend an existing garden bed.

Don’t let the talk of acidic soil scare you away. That part is quite easy if you’re growing in containers.

The hardest part is having to wait two to three years for a full harvest. Planting and taking care of the bushes is the easy part. 

  • You need a large-sized pot for blueberries, typically 18-24 inches deep and 24 inces wide. 
  • Blueberries require acidic soil for ideal growth, which you can obtain by using a potting soil mix designed for acid-loving plants and peat moss.
  • You do need to keep the bushes regularly watered to have a full harvest. 
  • Blueberry bushes take several years to produce a harvest, so you need to be patient as you want.

Once you have the container and potting mix, planting and growing blueberries in containers are more straightforward than you could imagine. We’re going to show you what you need to do – it’s not that much!

Growing Blueberries in Containers: How to Get Started

Growing Blueberries in Containers

Similar to growing fruit trees, it’s a smart idea to plant another variety of blueberries in a separate container. Doing so encourages cross-pollination so long as you pick a bush that blooms at the same time.

1. Know When To Buy & Plant Blueberries

Know When to Buy & Plant Blueberries

You can typically buy potted blueberries all year round. Bare-root blueberries need to be ordered in the fall because they must be planted during their dormant periods. 

2. Find The Right Sized Container

Find the Right Sized Container

Picking the right container to grow any kind of plant is a vital step, and blueberries are no exception.

  • Make sure the container is well-draining with plenty of drainage holes at the bottom.
  • The pot should be, at least, 24 inches deep and 24-30 inches wide to provide plenty of space for root growth. 
  • If you’re starting with a smaller shrub or brush, always start with a smaller container. While it might seem smart to jump to the big pot, roots like the snugness of a smaller pot for ideal growth.

While plastic pots can be used, they’re not an ideal choice, instead consider these options:

  • Terracotta or ceramic pots
  • Wooden planters
  • Metal planters

Remember, you don’t have to buy anything to grow your blueberries inside. You can upcycle and find objects around your home that can be used to grow blueberries. A few examples you might want to try include: 

  • 5-Gallon Buckets
  • Old 55-Gallon Barrels
  • Grow Bags
  • An Old Tub or Sink

3. Put The Pot In The Right Spot

Put the Pot in The Right Spot

Blueberries need to be grown in full sunlight, but some shade in the later afternoon can be beneficial since it can be so hot. 

  • It’s much easier to put the container where you want it to be and fill it there rather than moving a filled pot. 
  • In some circumstances, you might need to move your containers around the day to make sure the bushes receive enough sunlight. If you have large pots that are hard to move, use rolling casters.

4. Fill The Container With Proper Soil

Fill The Container with Proper Soil

Remember that we mentioned blueberries love acidic soil, so a crucial part of successfully growing blueberries in containers is creating the right soil environment for optimal growth.

The ground needs to have a pH range between 4.0 to 4.8 for the bushes to absorb water and nutrients while also producing the berries.

5. Plant The Bush Into The Container

Plant the Bush into the Container

Sometimes when you buy a bush, you’ll find that it is slightly pot-bound or root-bound.

If that happens when you remove the bush, you need to gently tease and separate the roots to help encourage root expansion and growth.

Set the bush into the soil in the container and plant it at the same depth as it was in the container, spreading the roots as you do. 

When you set the plant inside of the pot, make sure you firm up the potting mix to avoid large air pockets.

You can do this by patting and moving the soil. At the same time, you don’t want to make it too compact. 

6. Keep The Bushes Close Together

Keep The Bushes Close Together

Remember that we said that blueberries need more than one bush for pollination purposes. To produce fruits, you need at least two different varieties of shrubs, but three plants are ideal. 

Keep the bushes together; put the pots two to three feet apart.

How to Care for Blueberries in Pots 

Plant the Bush into the Container

Once your bushes are planted, you have years to take care of them. You want to make sure that you do so the right way to help your plants create a large harvest.

1. Remove Flowers

Remove Flowers

Typically, you purchase one-year bushes, and you might not have a full harvest until five years after planting.

When you get your bush, remove the flowers that appear during the springtime. Doing so helps the plant concentrate its energy on root growth rather than fruit production.

2. Fertilize Your Bushes

Fertilize Your Bushes

Don’t use fertilizers that contain nitrates or chlorides, which could cause your plant’s growth to slow. Instead, they need an acidic based fertilizer, but blueberries really aren’t a fan of too much fertilizer. 

  • Fertilizing in the spring is the best plan. It’s an ideal time to fertilize before the main growing season begins. 
  • If you want an organic fertilizer, try blood or cottonseed meal. You also can find an organic fertilizer meant for acid-loving plants. 
  • It’s important for you to test your soil regularly to make sure the pH range stays between 4.0 and 4.8. Acid washes out of the soil over time, so some gardeners find it’s better to add a half dose of the fertilizer in the spring and another light monthly dose throughout spring and summer.
  • Always check the fertilizer package to see which form of nitrogen it contains. 

3. Water Your Blueberries

Water Your Blueberries

Blueberries do NOT like dry conditions, so the containers need to be watered and kept moist the entire time. At the same time, you don’t want the bushes to be in standing water, which is why drainage is essential.

  • Put the containers on top of bricks or some sort of platform to get it off of the ground if it’s on a hard surface. 
  • Even if it rains, that doesn’t mean you don’t need to water. The leaves of the plant act as an umbrella, so water doesn’t always make it into the container.  
  • Check with your finger to determine if the soil is wet and inch or two below the soil. 
  • You can add a layer of compost and pine bark to the top of the container to help retain moisture.

4. Mulch Your Plants

Mulch is necessary for proper growth, in particular for the first two years of planting. Not only does mulch help to suppress weeds, but it also adds acid to the soil, conserves soil moisture, and moderates soil temperature. 

Make sure the layer of mulch is two to three inches deep and covers all of the exposed soil at the top of the container. A few choices for mulches include:

  • Peat Moss
  • Pine Straw
  • Pine Bark
  • Shredded, Dry Leaves
  • Grass Clippings

5. Protect Your Bushes

How to Care for Blueberries in Pots

Birds aren’t your friends! We can’t blame them for loving blueberries, but they will eat everything from your bush leaving you nothing to enjoy. 

The best way to protect your bushes is by using bird netting a few weeks before the berries are set to ripen. It takes time to wrap bushes in netting, but it’s useful!

6. Overwintering Blueberry Bushes In Containers

If you live in a colder climate, plants need some winter protection. While blueberry bushes are considered hardy, that doesn’t mean they don’t need winter protection. Here are some simple ways to overwinter your blueberry plant.

  • Move the pots to a sheltered location out of the wind or underneath of a covered area. 
  • Insulate your pots with burlap or bubble wrap. This is particularly important if you use ceramic pots that crack if the soil freezes. 
  • Try adding a layer of mulch around the top of the pot to reduce the risk of your soil freezing. 
  • For those who live in cold regions, you might want to use old fabric or horticultural fleece to protect your plants.

7. Pruning Blueberries

During the first few years, blueberries typically do not need to be pruned much if at all. Once they’ve matured, you’ll want to prune to maintain size and shape. The best time to prune is in late February or March each year. 

When you’re pruning, here are some of your goals. 

  • Remove any dead, damaged, diseased, or dying stems. If the stems bend downward, remove them as well. 
  • Take off the twiggy growth at the ends of the branches that fruited.
  • Your goal is to take off 25% of the oldest stems at the base of a mature plant. You also can prune to a younger strong shoot that is lower on the branch.

Harvesting Blueberries

Harvesting Blueberries

Blueberries can take up to five years to reach a mature, full harvest, but you will have some fruit set in your second or third year.

You should be able to harvest your blueberries starting in the midsummer onward. You’ll know that they’re ready to collect when they change from green to a dusky blue associated with blueberries. 

The one negative thing about blueberries is that they don’t ripen at the same time. You need to go over all of your plants to avoid missing ripened berries on the bushes.

Potential Pests and Diseases

Container grown blueberries have fewer pest and disease problems than the ones grown in-ground. That doesn’t mean your plants are exempt; you could still face a few of the common pests and diseases that bother blueberry plants.

Double Spot

This can cause circular leaf spots in the early summer that are either light brown or grey with a dark brown ring. You don’t need to worry too much about this unless the incidence is high. You can use a fungicide that is used to control fruit rot to reduce double spot.

Powdery Mildew

Powdery mildew is characterized by a fluffy white growth on the upper surfaces of the leaves. Some of the leaves might have a puckered look. A foliar fungicide can be beneficial to help stop the spread of powdery mildew.

Mummy Berry

This fungus causes the drooping of new leaves and shoots. It progresses to rapid browning, and when fruit development takes place, the infected berries turn cream or pink and then turn tan or grey. The berries shrivel and become hard. 

Using a foliar fungicide can help control this disease.

Mites

A mite infestation will have blistered red scales on the buds and distorted flowers. Sometimes, an infestation can damage the crops and cause weak growth and low yields. 

It can be hard to control mites because their bud scales protect them from pesticides. You can look for miticides that are applied just after harvest before the buds have formed.

Flea Beetles

These pests leave small holes or pits in the leaves of your plant. Young plants are vulnerable, and these pests can cause reduced growth. A severe infestation can kill an entire plant, and flea beetles can overwinter in debris or the soil. 

Floating row covers can help before the emergence of the beetles. The covers create a physical barrier to protect the plants. You can use trap crops as a control measure or put a thick layer of mulch over the soil to stop the beetles from reaching the surface.

An application of neem oil can be an effective method to get rid of them, or you can try applying insecticides.

The Best Blueberry Varieties for Containers

Not all blueberry varieties will handle life in a pot well. Ideally, you’ll look for shorter growing varieties. Sticking to smaller bushes also means that you won’t need to do as much pruning as you would with larger ones. 

Before we dive too far into the varieties, you do need to know that there are two main types of blueberry bushes you’ll find on the market.

Highbush Blueberries

Highbush Blueberries

These are the most common variety that is grown throughout the United States.

Lowbush Blueberries

Lowbush Blueberries

Sometimes called wild blueberries, these are typically grown on a much smaller scale or semi-managed.

Here are some excellent choices.

Top Hat

Top Hat

This cultivar reaches heights of 2 feet tall, featuring white flowers and orange foliage in the fall. Top Hat grows best in cold climates; if you live in USDA zones 3-7, this will work correctly for your garden.

Sunshine Blue

Sunshine Blue

This variety is just a bit bigger, reaching three feet tall, on average. Sunshine Blue blooms with pink flowers and burgundy fall leaves.

Unlike other cultivars, this one is self-pollinating and doesn’t require another bush to be near for pollination. Also, Sunshine Blue does better in warm climates; USDA zones 5-10 are ideal. 

Patriot

Patriot

If you want a bush that is just slightly taller, Patriot grows between three and four feet tall with white flowers that have pink tips and orange toned fall leaves.

Final Thoughts

Growing blueberries in containers is an excellent option because you can have the ultimate control over the acid level in the soil. Blueberries love acidic soil, and they’re easy to take care of as they grow and fruit. Give it a try! You won’t be disappointed with homegrown blueberries right on your patio.

Updated on by Amber Noyes

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