One of the first fruits I started to grow whilst renting was a blueberry. Many years ago blueberries used to be so cost prohibitive to buy here - around $8 for a 125g a punnet. I always thought they were a cool weather fruit after seeing them sell dirt cheap in huge punnets when we were travelling in Canada, but failing to realise that blueberry farms surrounded me in my home town growing up.
I decided to risk a blueberry from the nursery and honestly they surprised me and it’s now a staple in our collection of fruit trees.
Blueberries grow really well in pots. In fact, my experience is, they do better in pots as they need really good drainage and soil on the acidic side. Usually around September/October you will see them in abundance at nurseries.
Over the years I have made some mistakes and I thought I’d share some tips for good harvests if you want to grow blueberries in pots.
Pot size & Potting Mix
Make sure your pot is a minimum of 40cm - we have 50cm and I have found that to be the perfect size.
If you’re buying commercial potting mix opt for a 50/50 mix of azalea/camelia specialised potting mix and pine bark. This will give the good drainage they require along with the acidity.
Depending on how the plant is going, usually every 1-2 years we refresh the potting mix just after fruiting has finished. If they are root bound, they will handle a bit of teasing and trimming of roots.
Choosing the right location
We have found here in QLD that our blue berries only need around 4 hours of sun, preferably morning sun. We did have them in a full sun position and they just cooked, keeping water up to them was a challenge. They have thrived since being moved to a more protected position with less sun..
More plants will get you bigger harvests
Some varieties of blueberries do need extra plants to ensure pollination, so it’s better to have at least 2 (plus you’ll probably want two plants if you have berry eating children like mine). We increased our collection to 4 plants this year (from 2) and the kids finally haven’t been able to keep up with the harvests.
Caring for your blueberry plants
Generally I haven’t found blueberries wanting for much. The main thing I overlooked was how much water they need during the fruiting stage. As soon as your blueberry plant starts to flower you need to up the water like nothing else if you want big berries. If you find the leaves are starting to look black and crispy on the outer edge this means your plant needs more water.
In terms of fertilisation I did make a poor choice once giving them blood meal, the plant did not like to be fertilised with high nitrogen. So if you want to feed your blueberry opt for a gentle slow release fertiliser or liquid fertiliser. But to be honest, with a good quality potting mix they shouldn’t want for much.
The only two things that I have found blueberries potentially become deficient in is magnesium and iron. If you find that the foliage is yellowing between the veins particularly in newer growth give them a little iron boost. If you find the foliage is yellow to red between the veins usually in older growth a bit of epsom salts will do the trick. But again, good quality potting mix should prevent
Pests of blueberries
Birds love blueberries, but to be honest we haven’t had a great deal of theft on the bird front aside from an unsupervised chickens. The main thing we’ve found is scale, but it’s never been enough to warrant treating. But if you do have a plant that is struggling with scale, you can use an eco oil spray to get it under control. Dirt Lovers can grab our DIY Eco Oil recipe here.
Varieties of Blueberries for the subtropics
We grow two different types of low chill varieties here in Brisbane. The Biloxi and the Sharpe Blue. If I had to make a choice in terms of yield I would definitely go with Sharpe Blue.
I’d love to know, do you grow blueberries? Has it been a good season for you? Leave a comment below.