The Q&A Archives: Pruning & Fertilizing Blueberry Bushes

Question: How does one go about caring for blueberry bushes. Do I need to prune them? If so, when and how? Should I fertilize, If so, with what and how often?

Answer: Blueberries need little pruning early in their life. Remove broken and crowded stems and tip gangly shoots to encourage branching. Once a bush is about 5 years old you can begin a process of rejuvenating in which 1/5 of the oldest shoots are removed back to the ground to encourage vigorous production of new growth. By removing about 1/5 of the oldest shoots the bush is rejuvinated and branches never get much over 5 years in age.

Blueberry varieties differ signifiantly in growth habit, so the pruning regimen will need to accomodate the differences. Some tend to produce lots of new shoots from the base while others tend to form a trunk and not produce many new shoots. The latter may need to have old branches removed back to the trunk rather than back to the ground. The best time for pruning is in late winter just prior to spring growth emergence.

Blueberries can be fertilized lightly after fruiting and in late winter with an acid loving plant food, such as an azalea/camelia fertilizer, or by using ammonium sulfate (21-0-0), or cottonseed meal. All tend to be acidifying and provide plants with nutrition. Sometimes an iron supplement is needed when new growth shows yellowing leaves at the end of the branches. Often the veins will remain green as the rest of the leaf start to turn yellow.

Thanks for the question and good luck with your blueberries!

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