Planting blueberries: when, where & how?


With a passion for growing installed at an early age, I have always been happiest outdoors in nature. After training as a professional gardener and horticultural therapist, I currently run horticultural therapy and community kitchen gardens in the UK, helping others access the many physical and mental health benefits of growing vegetables, fruit and plants.

Favourite fruit: apples and pears
Favourite vegetable: asparagus

Loved for their delicious and healthy berries, blueberry plants are a welcome addition to any garden. However, to thrive and produce a good harvest, blueberries need to be grown and planted correctly.

Planting blueberries in the garden
Blueberries can thrive in your garden if their growing conditions are met [Photo: melis/]

There are several types of blueberries (Vaccinium) available to grow at home. However, the most suitable and widely grown blueberry here in the UK is the northern highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum). Similar to the wild blueberry or bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) that naturally grows in some parts of the UK, Vaccinium corymbosum is the gardener’s favourite due to its larger berries. However, all blueberries have certain requirements when it comes to their location, read on to discover more.

When to plant blueberries?

Blueberries can be planted at any time of year, just as long as the ground is not waterlogged or frozen. However, autumn is generally considered the optimum time, as it gives the roots time to settle and establish before the new growth appears in spring.

Blueberry bush in the sun
Blueberry bushes need a lot of sun to thrive

Where to plant blueberries?

The best location for planting blueberries is a sunny and sheltered spot, as full or nearly full sun is needed for the fruits to ripen. Along with this, you should avoid exposed sites because wind can have a drying effect in summer and lead to cold damage in the winter.

Blueberry varieties vary in size from dwarf bushes to much larger cultivars that can grow to around 2m. Hence, when choosing a site to plant your blueberries, it is wise to ensure they will have enough room to mature and thrive. Depending on the variety, blueberries can be grown directly in the soil or in raised beds or containers. However, if you choose to grow the bigger varieties, they should be grown in the ground.

Unlike other soft fruits, which need frames or trellis to support their growth, blueberries are generally self-supporting. However, when heavily laden with fruits, you can support the branches using a simple system of posts and wire.

Tip: when planting blueberries, it is advisable to avoid frost pockets because late frosts can damage the flowers and result in the harvest being lost.

Best soil for blueberries

Blueberries are acid-loving plants and grow best in free-draining, yet moisture-retentive soil with a pH of 4.5–5.5. Before planting blueberries, test the soil’s pH in your garden using a soil pH meter to check if it is suitable. Here in the UK, garden soil tends to range between pH 4.0 and 8.5 and unless you grow rhododendrons or azaleas (Rhododendron spec.), it is unlikely that your soil is acidic enough for blueberries.

Man planting blueberry shrub in the ground
Blueberries are acid-loving plants and need an acidic soil [Photo: sweetOlli/]

If your soil is only slightly acidic, add sulphur to the soil several months before planting to lower the pH. Incorporate bark or shredded coniferous material into the soil to further improve it. However, if your soil is alkaline or compacted, planting blueberries in a large hole or container filled with ericaceous compost is a better idea. Ericaceous composts are specifically designed for acid-loving plants and have a lower soil pH than regular composts. You can use our Plantura Organic Ericaceous Compost for blueberries, as it has a low pH, a high nutrient content and is peat-free. Fill a pot with our ericaceous compost or amend your garden soil with it. Along with high-pH soils, blueberries should not be planted in an area that is prone to waterlogging, as this can lead to other problems, including root rot.

Organic Ericaceous Compost, 40L
Organic Ericaceous Compost, 40L
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  • Perfect for acid-loving plants such as hydrangeas, rhododendrons, blueberry bushes, azaleas & more
  • Ensures all-round healthy plants with lush blooms and aromatic berries
  • Peat-reduced & organic soil: CO2-saving composition

Tip: providing the right soil conditions is key for blueberries to thrive.

Growing blueberries in pots

Growing blueberries in pots or containers is a great way to ensure that they have the correct soil they need to thrive. As blueberries have a fine and shallow root system, you can use a 30cm diameter pot when planting young specimens. However, more mature blueberry plants require a pot width of 50cm or larger to support them and their growth. Make sure the pot has drainage holes to allow any excess water to drain away freely. Since blueberries require a consistently moist soil, regular watering is required, especially when grown in containers, which can dry out more quickly.

Blueberry companion plants

When it comes to companion planting for blueberries, the best plant you can grow next to them is another blueberry. More often than not, blueberries are listed as self-fertile but tend to produce a less than impressive crop when grown on their own. To help ensure maximum harvests, it is advisable to grow at least two blueberry varieties together to aid pollination. Other plants that grow well with blueberries include other ericaceous plants such as azaleas (Rhododendron spec.) and cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon).

Red cranberries on a plant
Cranberries like the same growing conditions as blueberry plants [Photo: Pryimachuk Mariana/]

On the flip side, some plants do not grow well alongside blueberries. For example, those that would overshadow a blueberry bush such as lilacs (Syringa) and privets (Ligustrum spec.) or plants that require an alkaline soil like cabbage (Brassica oleracea var. capitata) and broccoli (B. oleracea var. italica).

Planting blueberries: step-by-step

It is important to purchase blueberry plants from a reputable source or supplier to help ensure a healthy plant and bountiful harvests for many years to come. In addition, only plant out young specimens when they are robust enough and have developed a thorough root system.

How to plant blueberries:

  1. Dig a hole the same depth and twice the width of the current root ball
  2. Gently loosen the roots if they are tightly bound
  3. Place the plant in the hole at the same depth it was previously planted
  4. Backfill with ericaceous compost, firming in as you go
  5. Water in with harvested rainwater
  6. Mulch with chipped bark or leaves to prevent moisture loss and weeds

When planting blueberry bushes, it is important to give them enough room to grow and mature. Generally speaking, blueberry plants should be spaced 1.5 to 2m apart. However, this is dependent on the variety, and if growing blueberries as a hedge, a spacing of 1 to 1.5m is sufficient.

Several blueberry bushes
Keep a distance of 1.5 – 2 metres between blueberry bushes

Blueberry bush care after planting

Even though blueberry bushes will often begin cropping in the first year, they do not reach optimum production until they are several years old. Hence, it is wise to provide the correct care from day one.

Watering blueberries

Blueberries prefer their soil to be kept consistently moist but not saturated, which can lead to the roots rotting. Since blueberry plants have a relatively shallow root system, they require regular irrigation, especially when growing in containers. If possible, water your blueberries with harvested rainwater, as tap water can reduce soil acidity when used regularly. Annual mulching is beneficial because it not only improves soil quality but also protects the soil from the drying heat of summer.

Ripe blueberries
For the best harvests, blueberries require consistently moist soil [Photo: Likee68/]

Fertilising blueberries

Whether grown in the ground or containers, blueberries can benefit from being given a fertiliser designed for ericaceous plants, especially when growth is poor. Discover more about how and when to feed blueberries in our separate article. A low-lime azalea or rhododendron fertiliser is usually suitable for feeding blueberries or our Plantura Hydrangea food can be used, which is formulated for ericaceous plants and will provide the blueberries with the nutrients they need for up to 3 months.

Hydrangea Food, 1.5kg
Hydrangea Food, 1.5kg
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  • For beautiful hydrangeas with lush blooms in pots & flower beds
  • Prevents common deficiency symptoms & supports healthy plant growth
  • Long-lasting fertiliser that is free from animal products - child & pet friendly

Blueberry diseases and pests

Named cultivars generally grow free from any diseases. However, powdery mildew (Erysiphe vaccinii) can affect blueberry bushes along with other pests.

  • Powdery mildew: not usually prevalent until later in the summer, you can identify powdery mildew on blueberries by the white fungal growth that appears on the foliage, which later turns red. Preventative measures include consistent watering, planting at the correct spacing and keeping the soil around the plant clear of weeds and fallen debris.
  • Aphids: more commonly known as greenfly (Aphidoidea), sap-sucking aphids are often found on soft new shoots or foliage. Small infestations are tolerable and squishing by hand or encouraging predatory hoverflies (Syrphidae) and ladybirds (Coccinellidae) into the garden can help keep numbers low.
  • Birds: in the UK, blackbirds (Turdus merula) and pigeons (Columba palumbus) are perhaps the most common and destructive blueberry pests against which protection is needed.

Tip: although not a pest or disease, chlorosis can affect blueberry plants and lead to the leaves yellowing. To treat blueberry chlorosis, apply sequestered iron or repot using fresh ericaceous compost.

Protecting blueberries from birds

If you are not careful, birds can devour blueberry harvests before you get a chance to enjoy the fruits. Bird scarers can be erected and can prove effective in some cases. However, the only sure way to protect blueberries from birds is to cover the plants with netting or fleece. When using netting, it is advisable to only use a hole or mesh size of 25mm or smaller, as larger sizes can lead to birds getting caught.

Bird eating a blueberry fruit
Net blueberry bushes to stop birds eating the fruits [Photo: Trevor Howard Jones/]

When planted in the correct way blueberry plants can provide a bountiful crop for years to come. Learn all about when and how to harvest blueberries in our separate article.