Blueberry shrubs are wonderful 3-season plants. In the spring, they display lovely white blossoms. The summer brings forth weeks of plump, anti-oxidant rich, delicious berries. Finally, the cold fall weather produces glorious colors. They are well-behaved, low-maintenance bushes that attract wildlife and beneficial insects. They rarely grow larger than two metres in height or width.
A few things to remember if you want to plant blueberry shrubs:
- Blueberry bushes need full sun to produce a good crop of berries. Yes, they will grow in shade, but you’ll miss out on the fruit and the fall colors.
- Blueberries require cross-pollination for best results. This means you need to plant at least a couple of varieties. I’ve planted 5 varieties in my backyard: Blue Crop, Blue Gold, Chippewa, Reka, and Chandler. Each variety will have some variation with fruiting time, soil requirements, fall color, height and width, and berry size.
- Blueberries on one bush will ripen over a period of up to 6 weeks. This wonderful feature allows you to have fresh berries for more than a month (from just one bush). Add various shrubs that produce from early to late season, and you’ll have an ample supply for most of the summer.
- Some blueberry bushes are tolerant of heavy, wet soil (such as ‘Reka’ shown above). Most, however, like to be planted in well-drained acidic soil.
- Different bushes color differently in the fall. ‘Blue Gold’ has bright yellow fall foliage, ‘Reka’ will color to a deep burgundy, and ‘Chandler’ turns a mix of red and orange.
- Blueberry bushes live a long time, so chose their location wisely. Some plants have been known to live for 50 years!!
- Some blueberry bushes take 3 or 4 years to produce a good crop of berries. Be patient and you’ll be amply rewarded.
- Birds also like blueberries! Consider getting into the habit of picking your ripe berries first thing in morning. I always pick a bowl before breakfast and had no problems with the birds stealing my berries. They rarely touch the berries that are unripe.
- Plant blueberry shrubs in early to mid-spring. Prune in late winter or very early spring by cutting out 1/3 of the oldest branches.
- Choose the best type of blueberry bush for your climate. There are many different varieties of blueberry plants (Vaccinium) that produce well in British Columbia’s Pacific Northwest. Two early July producers are ‘Duke’ and ‘Reka’. Mid to late July high producers are ‘Patriot’ and ‘Blue Crop’. One late season blueberry shrub is ‘Elliot’ that will produce well into September. ‘Chandler’ is well-known for its large berries. Some of my ‘Chandler’ berries were the size of small cherries!! My ‘Blue Crop’ is also a favorite of mine because it is a vigorous shrub that produces large, juicy, flavorful berries.
I suppose you could really say that blueberry shrubs are four-season plants – if you freeze some of your bounty to enjoy over the winter months!