Here is a detailed guide on the essential requirements to Grow Blueberries In Containers. Blueberries (Vaccinium Corymbosum) are the most popular fruits of the berry family. Extremely delicious, low in calories, a rich source of antioxidants and loaded with nutrients, you can eat this fruit raw, cooked, add in salads and so much more.
Native to Northern America, the blueberry plant is a small flowering shrub producing tiny fruits with dark bluish to purple tints. If you can provide these plants in favorable weather and soil, they thrive well with very little caring for over decades. So lets get ahead with essential requirements and steps to Grow Blueberries In Containers.
Types of Blueberries to Grow in India
There are mainly three types of blueberries- Southern Highbush, Northern Lowbush, and Rabbit-Eye. Nowadays, many hybrid variations such as the half-high are thriving well in hot climatic conditions. The horticulturists recommend choosing the Southern High bushes if you want to grow them in hot climate, and containers. The best varieties to grow in a pot include Top Hat, Sunshine Blue, and Northern High bush.
Essential Requirements for Growing Blueberries
Blueberries grow well in mountainous areas in low to moderate temperatures. In India, this fruit is widely grown in Himachal Pradesh, UP, Kashmir, etc. You can grow them in pots at home under the following basic requirements:
The blueberries grow well in warm climatic conditions not exceeding 25°C. For proper development, the plant needs full sun exposure. Temperature Blueberries grow well in chilling to moderate temperature range. It can survive in extremely cold weather conditions.
However, the ideal temperature for the plant is between 16°-25°C. According to the research by the Institute of Modern Agricultural Research, Dalian University, China, increasing the temperature beyond 25°C harms the plant growth.
Soil Blueberries require highly acidic soil for proper growth. Ideally, you need the soil with a pH level of 4.7-5.2. Always ensure using aerated, highly fertile and moist soil for growing blueberry in containers. They cannot withstand marshy soil, so provide a good drainage system to release the excess moisture from the pots.
Container Size If you are planning to sow the blueberry seeds in a pot, you can initially get started with a small size. However, as the plant grows, you need to transfer the entire plant with the soil carefully into a larger pot of at least 24”-30” width and 24” depth. Make sure there are enough holes at the bottom for drainage.
Steps to Grow Blueberry in Pots
You can grow blueberries in containers from seeds as well as from saplings (available for purchase online or at a local nursery). It is easy for the home growers to use saplings but if you want to use the seeds, it will take about 60 days to germinate and another few weeks before you can place them in the pots.
1. Soil Testing and Preparation:
Check the acidic level of your soil before putting them into the pots. It may require up to a year to make the soil acidic by adding sulfur. You can add peat moss to the soil to reduce the alkalinity, adding organic matter to the plant. When the soil turns acidic, add some compost to the soil to help with the drainage.
2. Germinate the Blueberry Seeds
In a seeds tray, put a layer of moist sphagnum peat moss. Now plant your blueberry seeds in it and cover with about ¼-inch layer of soil. Place the seeds tray in full sunlight at 15°-21°C. Once the saplings become big enough, you can transfer them to the large containers.
3. Prepare the Potting Mix
Once your soil attains, the acidic level, you can sow the seeds. Fill about 2/3rd of the container with sandy soil. Set mulch at the base, filling about 1/3rd of the pot, to allow good drainage. You can use grass, sawdust, pine needles, peat moss, acid compost, etc.
Note: Do not use redwood or cedar tree sawdust for mulching blueberries.
4. Plant the Saplings
While replacing the young saplings to the pot, be careful to keep the roots safe. You do not need to remove the existing soil attached to the roots. Just make some holes at the base to make room for the roots to penetrate deep into the new soil in the large container. After putting the saplings in the pot, add about 2-3 inches of potting soil to provide support to the stem.
5. Place All the Plants Nearby for Cross-Pollination
There are male and female flowers on the same blueberry plant, so it can self-pollinate to produce fruits. However, with 2-3 plants placed very close to each other, you can get more fruits through cross-pollination. 6. Keep the Containers in Full Sun If you want the best fruit and optimal plant growth, keep the pots in a sunny place.
These young bushes grow well when they receive full sunlight. Note: Avoid moving the pots too frequently as minor fluctuations in weather conditions can damage the plants entirely.
Blueberry Plant Caring
Watering The blueberry roots require enough moisture for plant growth but cannot survive in marshy soil. Sprinkle enough of water (about 1-2 inches) equally on all sides of the blueberry bushes. The plants require more water at the time of fruit ripening.
The soil in the pots can eventually lose the acidic levels. You can add organic fertilizer including peat moss, sphagnum peat, and pine needles to increase the acidic level of the soil. Feeding your plants with rainwater is also beneficial to provide sufficient nitrogen to make the soil acidic.
Blueberry bushes do not require pruning during the initial 2 years. It is essential to prune the plants to remove the twigs, dry and damaged stems, the branches touching the ground, etc.
Pests, Diseases, and Birds
Blueberries require protection mainly from birds. Once, the fruits start turning purple, provide strong netting around the plants to keep birds out of reach. The other diseases damaging the blueberry plants include powdery mildew and blueberry maggot.
Harvesting The blueberries
ripen during June-August. Wait for the fruits to turn blue and allow about a couple of days for proper ripening. When the fruits are ripe, they should fall easily when you try to pick them. It takes up to 6 years for the blueberry plants for full production when you can get a larger quantity of fruits.