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.
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
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
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
Picking the right container to grow any kind of plant is a vital step, and blueberries are no exception.
While plastic pots can be used, they’re not an ideal choice, instead consider these options:
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:
3. 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.
4. 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
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
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
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
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
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.
3. 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.
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:
5. Protect Your Bushes
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
These are the most common variety that is grown throughout the United States.
Sometimes called wild blueberries, these are typically grown on a much smaller scale or semi-managed.
Here are some excellent choices.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Amber Noyes was born and raised in a suburban California town, San Mateo. She holds a master’s degree in horticulture from the University of California as well as a BS in Biology from the University of San Francisco. With experience working on an organic farm, water conservation research, farmers’ markets, and plant nursery, she understands what makes plants thrive and how we can better understand the connection between microclimate and plant health. When she’s not on the land, Amber loves informing people of new ideas/things related to gardening, especially organic gardening, houseplants, and growing plants in a small space.