July 21, 2009 11:02 AM   Subscribe

Has any of you gardeners had any luck with potted blueberry bushes?

I don't have enough room in my backyard to plant them, and I've also heard that they can get quite out of control if you do. Then I heard of potted BB bushes and wanted to get some advice.

Thank you....
posted by Chele66 to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I tried to grow blueberries in containers a few years ago with limited success - they produced a little fruit one season but died the following year.
posted by foodgeek at 11:24 AM on July 21, 2009

For what it's worth, we have two different varieties of blueberries in the ground in our backyard in DC and they are growing very slowly. Our raspberries are verging on out of control, and the hops are certainly out of control, but not definitely not the blueberries.

What zone are you in?
posted by exogenous at 11:31 AM on July 21, 2009

A search for container blueberries gives some promising results. I mention this because "container" seems to be used a lot instead of "potted", and I thought maybe you hadn't tried that yet.
posted by amtho at 11:41 AM on July 21, 2009

Our potted blueberries here in the UK are doing really well. Admittedly they were in the ground last year, and we uprooted them and put them in pots a couple of months ago when we moved house. But despite the upheaval they're absolutely covered in fruit this summer.

One important thing with blueberries is to grow them in ericaceous compost - that is, compost formulated for acid-loving plants such as rhododendrons. They also seem to like plenty of water.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 11:43 AM on July 21, 2009

My blueberry bushes get gnawed to death by scavenging animals--I'm guessing rabbits--in the winter when there's snow on the ground. It's very hard for me to get them to grow to a proper height, partly because I haven't done as good a job as I should of putting barriers around them.
posted by gimonca at 12:16 PM on July 21, 2009

They can be totally fine in containers; that's how you have to grow them here in the Bay Area if you want to provide the proper pH and soil type for them. Blueberries are specialists that require rather more exacting conditions than the average garden can provide. Growing in containers can give you more control over their environment and allow people who wouldn't normally have success with them to do so.

Since you didn't supply any specifics in your question, the only advice I can give is that you ask a local nursery person what varieties do best where you live. You need to determine whether you want highbush, half-high, rabbit eye, or lowbush- they all have different growth patterns and different climatic preferences. They do better with pollinators even though most are self-fertile, need 4-6 hours of sun, and have shallow roots which do best in wide containers with lots of organic material and good drainage.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:26 PM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Mine are doing fine. Highbush type, Bluejay and Bluecrop varieties. Most places recommend mixing varieties for better production. If you want blueberries for longer in the season, get early and late varieties.

I mixed half and half composted manure with peat moss (mostly for acidity, but for water retention as well) and put them in large pots. I think 25 gallon, but it might be a little smaller or larger, about 24" across, in any case.

They were new last year, but 2 year old plants, so no berries, but we got a few handfuls this year and they were pretty great. Blueberries typically only fruit the third year.

The leaves are getting a little chlorosis, so I need to add some soil acidifier, probably just sulfur.

Anyway, this guide is pretty spot on for the issues you need to be concerned about, even though it doesn't address containers specifically. Mc Gee and Stuckey's has a section on blueberries if you want to know about containers specifically, but some googling should get you plenty of information.
posted by electroboy at 1:04 PM on July 21, 2009

Also, I got them from Miller Nurseries, but any place may have them. They sell lots of other fruit you can do in containers too, like strawberries etc.
posted by electroboy at 1:11 PM on July 21, 2009

Blueberries have shallow root systems that spread out in a wide circle around the plant. Your container really should be at least 2 feet/60 cm deep and at least 1.5 times that wide for each plant.

They're long-lived, long-producing plants that bear their fruit on what was last year's growth. They don't start producing well until about 3 years old. They will continue to produce for you if you regularly cut out the growth (at the soil line) that's more than 4 years old when the plant is dormant (late winter is the time). It's good to keep the sucker population down, too. This is likely very critical if you are container-growing.

They also produce better if they have companion plants of another variety. I grow EarlyBlue and Jersey together. The plants are 6 ft/1.8 m apart.

They are happiest in very moist very fertile ground and get unhappy fast if the soil is not very very well drained. I grow mine on the edge of a swampy area in peaty loam.

Have you considered trying the low-bush variety? They need less area.
posted by reflecked at 1:46 PM on July 21, 2009

Response by poster: Sorry that I didn't think to put were I live-- I'm still kind of new at this.

I live in Southern California is zone 8B- a question someone asked earlier.
We have very mild winters with little rain for the most part, warmish springs with
some rain, and very hot summers.
posted by Chele66 at 1:05 AM on July 22, 2009

Do get one of the Southern Highbush varieties, then. They have a lower chill requirement. They're like all blueberries, though, and will not tolerate alkaline soil.
posted by reflecked at 5:09 AM on July 22, 2009

For California gardeners, Sunset zones are more precise (and the Sunset Garden Book is the best basic overall (California) gardening book to own, BTW). You can see Sunset's recommendations for blueberries. Rabbiteye blueberries are a little more forgiving of drought than southern highbush, but both will work in the same places. You will do best to get a pollinator; you must have a rabbiteye for a rabbiteye or a southern highbush for a southern highbush.
I don't think you'll find much available to plant right now, and in dry summer areas it is better to plant in fall or winter anyway because plants are much less prone to stress and can spend the winter growing a nice big root system.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:42 AM on July 22, 2009

Listen to that ^ expert. :)

I do some garden/landscape consultation on a part time basis. If I lived anywhere close to California, I'd want oneirodynia for a partner.
posted by reflecked at 11:41 AM on July 22, 2009

Wow, thanks, reflecked!
posted by oneirodynia at 10:11 AM on July 23, 2009

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