by Bethany Hayes
Don’t have space in your yard to plant blueberries? Don’t despair; it’s possible to grow blueberries in containers no matter where you live.
Blueberry bushes thrive and produce tons of fruits when grown in containers, as long as they receive full sunlight. However, you need to have plenty of patience because it will take a few years for your plants to produce the harvest you want.
Until that time, you still have to take care of them every year, patiently awaiting homegrown blueberries. So you have to treat them right, and that’s what you will learn in this guide to grow blueberries in containers.
A Few Reasons to Grow Blueberries in Containers
Most gardeners grow blueberries in the ground, but growing these berries in pots has several benefits that might interest you.
These are a few of the benefits of growing blueberries in containers.
- It’s easy to control the acidity level of the soil.
- You can move the plants during severe weather that might otherwise damage the plants.
- Keeping the plants in a sheltered location prevents deer, rabbits, and birds from eating all your harvest.
- Keeping weeds away is much easier when you grow blueberries in containers.
The Types of Blueberries
Most nurseries offer several varieties of blueberries, so make sure you know the different types of blueberry plants you can grow in your area.
- Lowbush or Wild Blueberries
Lowbush blueberries grow native to Canada and northeastern states in the US. They grow well in areas with cold temperatures in the winter, but these aren’t too commonly grown in containers.
- Northern Highbush
Highbushes, both varieties, grow best in containers, but these are different. The northern variety is the most common type of blueberries grown, and they grow best in cold areas. They need over 600 chill hours.
- Southern Highbush
This type of blueberries is a hybrid cross between northern highbush and lowbush that require slower chill hours, only 150-500 hours. So, if you live somewhere with a mild winter, this is a better choice for your garden.
7 Varieties of Blueberries to Grow
Some blueberries are self-pollinating, so be sure to read the description of each cultivar before selecting it. If you’re growing on a patio or balcony, consider dwarf varieties that take up less space.
Here are some popular varieties of blueberry to grow in containers.
- Jelly Bean
Jelly Bean belongs to a collection of blueberry cultivars that are compact and self-pollinating, so if you’re growing blueberries on a balcony, these are an excellent option.
This blueberry cultivar received its name because the fruits are sweet, similar to a jelly bean. It’s a northern highbush cultivar that only reaches one to two feet tall and grows best in zones 4-8. However, Jelly Bean blueberries need at least 1,000 chill hours to produce fruits.
- Midnight Cascade
Midnight Cascade grows well in containers because it tends to have a trailing habit, growing one to two feet tall and wide. The branches look like a plant rather than a bush.
It’s a northern highbush cultivar that grows best in zones 5-9. It needs 450 chill hours, so make sure your region matches this.
If you live in the north and need a cold-hardy plant, Northsky is ideal; it grows in zones 3-7. The plant grows up to four feet high and wide, requiring around 800 chill hours to produce fruits.
Patriot is a northern highbush blueberry cultivar that grows well in containers and in-ground planting. However, the bushes typically reach between four to eight feet tall and three to five feet tall. So, it’s not ideal if you need a compact plant.
Patriot is a cold-hardy cultivar that grows best in zones 3-7 and needs between 800 to 1,000 chill hours yearly.
- Peach Sorbet
Peach Sorbet is a beautiful blueberry cultivar that has pastel leaf colors. It’s a dwarf plant that only reaches up to two feet tall and wide at most. Gardeners living in zones 5-10 can grow this cultivar since it only needs 300 or fewer chill hours.
- Pink Icing
This blueberry cultivar grows in zones 5-10, needing 500 chill hours. It’s a northern highbush variety that reaches three feet high and four feet wide. The yields are moderate, and the foliage displays beautiful streaks of pink.
- Sunshine Blue
Another blueberry cultivar is Sunshine Blue; it’s a southern highbush cultivar that grows in zones 5-10. It only requires 150 chill hours, reaching three to four feet tall and wide.
How to Pick the Best Containers for Blueberries
Growing any fruit-bearing plants in containers takes a lot of work, and they need to be started on the right foot. It’s typically recommended that you start with the largest containers possible, and you can only plant one blueberry bush per pot.
A container for blueberries needs to be at least 18 inches deep with plenty of drainage holes. However, the container size needs to be 24 inches deep and 24 to 30 inches wide for most mature bushes. If you start with a younger plant, pick a smaller plant and repot as it grows. Half-barrels or any deep, wide container will work for growing blueberry plants.
How to Grow Blueberries in Containers
Before you plant blueberries, you need to make sure you have more than one plant. You need at least two plants of two different varieties for cross-pollination. You should grow three blueberry plants and make sure the pots are close together, around two to three feet apart.
- When to Plant Blueberries
Blueberry bushes grow best when planted in the late summer to early fall. This gives the plant’s roots time to grow and develop, spreading out and establishing before the start of winter and dormancy.
- Pick the Soil for the Containers
Blueberries are picky about their soil; they need a very acidic soil with a pH range between 4.0 and 4.8. If the soil isn’t acidic enough, the plants won’t be able to absorb the water and nutrients needed to produce fruits.
Typically, garden soil isn’t this acidic, so you have to create suitable soil for your bushes, and this is one of the advantages of growing blueberries in containers. You can ensure the soil is exactly what your plants need.
You have a few options.
Buy an acidic blueberry-friendly potting mix; some mixes are specifically created for the blueberry plants. Another option is to create your own mix, fill the pot two-thirds full with regular potting mix, and add a potting mix made for acid-loving plants.
These plants need to be in well-draining, sandy soil for proper drainage. It’s best to add plenty of compost when you fill the containers.
- Find the Best Spot for Your Blueberries
One of the best things about container gardening is that you can move your pots around as needed if the spot doesn’t suit your plants properly. Blueberry plants require six to eight hours of sunlight per day.
If you live somewhere with hot afternoon sun, consider picking a spot with some shade in the afternoon. Blueberries grown in containers are a bit different, and they might overheat.
You might have to put the container on rolling casters so you can move the pot around as needed to ensure your plants get enough sunlight throughout the day.
- Plant Blueberries
When it’s time, plant your blueberry bushes in their containers. They need to be buried as deep as they were in their nursery pots. You might have to add more soil on top, leaving only one inch on top of the container.
If you fill the pot to the top with soil, the water will spill over the sides.
- Mulch Around Your Bushes
Container-grown plants still benefit from mulching. After you plant the bushes, mulch around the plants, adding two inches of acidic mulch, such as bark chips, wood chips, or pine needles. You should keep the mulch two inches away from the stem of the bush.
Using mulch has many benefits, but when it comes to container growing blueberries, it helps protect the roots during the winter and maintain consistent soil moisture. In addition, containers lose moisture rapidly, so this reduces how often you need to water.
Caring for Blueberries in Containers
Taking proper care of your blueberry plants is essential; these plants will only produce large yields when cared for properly. Here is what you need to know about caring for blueberries grown in containers.
- Water Regularly
Blueberry bushes need plenty of water, but they don’t want to be planted in soggy soil. If the plants are in standing water, they’ll die or face root rot. They need at least one inch of water per week, but container soil dries out faster than in-ground soil. So, make sure you check regularly.
Rain isn’t always enough when caring for your blueberry bushes. The leaves often act as an umbrella, pushing the water away from the container and soil, never making it to the base of the plant.
Always check the soil with your finger. Stick your finger into the dirt and see if it’s wet an inch or two down. If it’s not, then you need to water.
- Make Sure to Fertilize
Unlike other fruit bushes, blueberry bushes don’t need or want a lot of fertilization. All you need to do is give a single, early fertilizer application, such as an organic cottonseed meal or an organic fertilizer created for acid-loving plants.
The best time to fertilize blueberry plants is in the early spring, as buds and leaves appear on the plant. Apply the fertilizer according to the instructions on the package. Granular fertilizer is worked into the surface or broadcasted over the soil.
Something else you need to do is test the soil regularly to ensure it stays in the proper acidity range. You can use any soil pH test in the spring, summer, and fall. Acid washes out of the soil over time, so you have to be careful how much or how little fertilizer you add.
- Prune Your Plants
Blueberry bushes need to be pruned in late February or March before buds appear on the plant. This time is when you want to maintain your preferred size and shape of the bush.
Always remove any dead, diseased, or dying branches. Also, look for branches that might cross; this is a problem because branches rub together, causing wounds that might encourage pests and diseases to enter the plant.
- Winterize Your Blueberry Bushes
As the growing season ends, remember that blueberry bushes are perennials, even when grown in pots. They are tough, hardy plants, but it’s best to move your plants against a sheltered side of your home to keep them out of the wind.
Container-grown blueberries aren’t as hardy as in-ground grown bushes. So, consider mulching your plants with straw or wrapping them in burlap. You don’t need to water regularly in this season of dormancy, but don’t let the soil dry out entirely.
Blueberry plants don’t like to have their root systems completely frozen, and that’s more likely to happen when grown in containers. So make sure the containers have good drainage to avoid ice build-up.
If you’re worried that you won’t be able to stop the roots from freezing, bring them into an unheated garage or shed.
How Long Before Blueberry Bushes Produce Fruit?
Blueberry bushes reach full maturity when they’re five years old. During the first and second year, you’ll harvest a few handfuls of berries, and the harvest continues to grow each year.
Once your bushes reach maturity, each plant will generally produce five pints of berries. Of course, that does depend on the variety and growing conditions, but it’s an average yield size.
3 Common Blueberry Problems
Blueberry bushes are hardy and typically have few pest and disease problems, especially when grown in containers. However, there are a few problems you might notice.
One of the most common blueberry pests is aphids; these pests seem to infest all types of plants.
The biggest problem is that aphids suck out the sap from the plants, secreting honeydew over the leaves and stems of your plant. Then, honeydew attracts other problems like ants and sooty mold.
Birds love blueberries; who can blame them? Unfortunately, however, these feathered friends will eat all of the ripe fruits on your bushes before you have the opportunity to harvest them.
One way to keep birds away from your blueberry bushes is to keep the containers in high-traffic areas, like your porch. All the humans coming and going typically is enough to keep the birds away, but you also can try hanging silver tape from the stems to scare away the birds.
Phytophthora Root Rot
One of the most common problems that contain-grown blueberries have is phytophthora root rot. This comes from overwatering and poor drainage, resulting in water mold. It typically has reduced new growth, yellowing leaves or reddening, leaf drop, and necrosis.
If you lack space, it’s possible to grow blueberries in containers no matter where you live. All you need is a spot with full sunlight, an appropriately sized container, and acidic soil, and the blueberry plants will thrive.