How to Plant Blueberry Bushes
Video by Jonathan Parrish
Blueberries aren’t just delicious. They’re high in antioxidants, fiber, and vitamins, which is part of the reason they have gained popularity in our kitchens.
They are the largest commercial fruit crop in Mississippi. But if you want the convenience of stepping out the back door for fresh berries, they are super easy to grow.
Now is the perfect time to plant a few bushes. Just keep in mind it usually takes two to three years to get a harvestable amount of fruit. You can plant blueberries between November and February, but the ideal time is before the end of December. Planting earlier gives the plants time to establish roots before spring and get a good start. Be careful not to plant them too deeply. The rootball should be just below the surface -- one-quarter to one-half inch.
Rabbiteye and Southern Highbush blueberry varieties both grow well in Mississippi. Rabbiteye varieties are native to Mississippi and have been improved to grow quickly and produce large amounts of berries. Fruit ripens in June and July. These bushes require cross-pollination to produce fruit, so you’ll want to plant at least two varieties close to one another. Southern Highbush varieties produce fruit during May. Several varieties of each kind produce a range of bush sizes and fruit types.
Blueberries prefer a moist, well-drained soil enhanced with organic matter. Ideal pH is 4.5 to 5.5, so plants can be successfully planted with acid-loving ornamental landscape plants, such as azaleas, camelias and gardenias. Blueberry plants are evergreen with a pretty, pink bloom in the spring.
Blueberries have shallow root systems and can’t compete well with weeds, so mulching with pine bark, pine needles, grass clippings, or leaves is recommended. Do not use barnyard manure. Mulching with pine products can help acidify the soil as well.
There is no need to fertilize rabbiteye bushes the first year. Extension information sheet 1448, “Fruit and Nut Review – Blueberries” has more information about a fertilizer schedule for rabbiteye bushes.
Keep the plants well-watered to help establish the root system. Consistent watering is especially important once a fertilizer schedule is begun, otherwise the plant won’t take up those nutrients.
Soil testing helps determine soil pH and soil nutrient levels. These tests can be performed in our Extension soil testing laboratory for a minimal fee. Watch our video to learn the proper way to do a soil sample.
For more information about growing blueberries, check out our Extension publications 1758, “Establishment and Maintenance of Blueberries.”
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