Good news! It's easy to grow blueberry bushes in containers on your deck or patio. That's a boon for small-space gardeners -- and it's fun to have the berries to pick at the outdoor breakfast table even when you have a blueberry hedge elsewhere in your yard. Blueberries are at the top of the health-boosting hit parade and they're popular with all ages. And species! Your dog may "pick" the ripe berries if you don't watch out.
Varieties that will live happily ever after in containers
Two blueberry varieties stay small and won't need extensive pruning to thrive in your containers: * Northern Lowbush 'Top Hat' grows best in cold climates (USDA zones 3-7) * Southern Highbush 'Sunshine Blue' also known as the Southern Patio Blueberry, it does well in warm climates (USDA hardiness zones 5-10) Blueberries have wide, shallow root systems. Place a bare root or a transplant into a 5-10 gallon container. After a couple of years, shift up to a wider container, such as a half wine barrel. All blueberries will grow well in a container, just make sure you select the varieties that are right for your growing zone. Northern Highbush varieties need plenty of cold weather and Southern Highbush varieties are great for mild winter areas.
Acid soil is a snap in a container
Is your soil alkaline? Growing acid-loving plants in containers, with an acid potting soil mix or a 50-50 mix of peat (not the sphagnum peat moss) and potting soil, is a simple solution to that problem. In our video, Growing Blueberries, Tricia creates a container soil mix of half organic potting mix and half Coco Peat (a sustainable alternative to peat moss). You can also use the prepared acid soil mixes sold for rhododendrons, azaleas, and camellias, but do not use any mixes that contain redwood sawdust as an ingredient. It is not recommended for blueberries. Smart Pots are a great choice for planting containers, and if you get one with handles, it is easy to move as well. Blueberries must have acid soil, pH 5.0 to 5.5. You should monitor the soil pH throughout the year with a pH test kit. Use fertilizers that will gently increase soil acidity, such as cottonseed meal or other Acid Mixes. Add fertilizer in small amounts from early spring to late summer according to the feeding instructions on the label.
Watering blueberries in containers
Soil in containers dries out quickly. Blueberries want damp soil, so water regularly (increasing water during any heat waves) and add a thick layer of mulch, a few inches away from the stems of the bush.
Keep the birds away
When the berries first appear, wrap the bush in some unobtrusive black bird netting.
Site and long-term care
Blueberries need full sun, but if they're on a patio or deck in a hot climate you should place them where they don't get blasted with late afternoon sun. 'Top Hat' and 'Sunshine Blue' will thrive in containers for their lives. Every 3 to 4 years change out the soil and root prune the plants to keep them the right size for your containers.
More information about the amazing blueberry
We have posts on growing and caring for for blueberries. Check out how to prune blueberries, and our blueberry Growing Guide. Reliable, research-based help comes in Growing Blueberries in the Sacramento Region by Chuck Ingels, Sacramento County Farm Advisor.
GROW BLUEBERRIES AND MORE IN CONTAINERS Don't stop with the blueberries: grow all kinds of fruits and vegetables in containers!