Bright blueberries give your garden color and fruit.

How to Plant Blueberry Bushes in a Perennial Garden

by Susan Lundman

It makes sense to include blueberries in your perennial garden -- in addition to fruit, they provide attractive bronze leaves that turn to dark green, spring flowers and fall color. They also give you an opportunity for fun family activities, from blueberry-picking parties and pie baking, to making smoothies to simply snacking in the garden. Choose from half-high blueberry varieties (Vaccinium corymbosum), which grow 1 to 3 feet tall; rabbiteye blueberries (Vaccinium ashei), which grow 4 1/2 to 12 feet tall; or highbush blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum), which grow 6 to 12 feet tall.

Design Considerations

Plant at least two blueberry varieties to ensure cross pollination, and to encourage larger berries and larger yields. Blueberries are self-fertile, so you might have luck with just one plant if your perennial bed is too small for two bushes.

Measure the distance between potential planting spots in the back of your perennial garden beds for taller blueberry varieties, allowing for 4 to 5 feet between the blueberries or other plants. Shorter bushes will fit into the middle section of the bed.

Measure planting locations 3 feet apart if you want to use the blueberries as hedging to form a dense wall in the back or sides of your perennial bed. Make sure that any location gets at least six hours of full sun each day.

Planting

Test your soil with a kit available at nurseries and home supply stores. Blueberries need somewhat acidic soil, with a pH between 4.8 to 5.2. To lower the pH, Arthur Gaus, professor of Horticulture at Kansas State University, recommends adding 2 cubic feet of sphagnum peat moss per 100 square feet of slightly alkaline soil or 1 pound of sulfur to the same area for very alkaline soil.

Conduct a soil-drainage test by digging a 2-foot hole and filling it with water. Let it drain and refill it. If it drains again within 12 hours, your soil is well-draining. If not, add organic matter, such as peat moss, in the same proportions as you would to acidify the soil.

Dig peat moss, compost or leaf mold 6 inches into the soil to add nutrients. If you have already amended the soil in your perennial bed, you do not need to add additional organic material.

Fertilize the soil by adding 1 pound of superphosphate fertilizer and 1/2 pound of potash to each 100 square feet of the garden bed, dug in about 6 inches deep.

Dig a hole so that your plant's crown, where the roots and the trunk join, is no deeper than 1/2 inch below the ground. Make the hole about twice as wide as the plant itself.

Place the blueberry in the hole, spreading its roots over a slightly raised plateau or mound you have formed at the bottom of the hole. Use your hands to hold the bush in place while you backfill the hole.

Water the blueberry thoroughly, with about 2 inches of water, and make a small water basin in the soil around the plant. Spread a 3 to 4 inch layer of organic mulch, such as compost or leafmold, around the base of the plant, keeping it a few inches away from the trunk itself.

Water established blueberries with 1 inch of water at least twice a week during the growing season, or more if the weather is very hot. The soil should be kept constantly moist.

Items you will need

  • Tape measure
  • Soil test kit, optional
  • Shovel
  • Hose
  • Sphagnum peat moss
  • Sulfur, optional
  • Leafmold or compost

Tips

  • Select the right blueberry variety for your U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zone. Rabbiteye blueberries grow best in USDA zones 7 through 9; half-high varieties grow in USDA zones 3 or 4 through 7 depending on the specific type; and highbush varieties grow in USDA zones 5 through 8.
  • Plant your blueberry in early spring, as soon as you can work the ground, if you live in a cold-winter areas; or plant in the fall in milder climates.

About the Author

Susan Lundman began writing about her passions of cooking, gardening, entertaining and recreation after working for a nonprofit agency, writing grants and researching child development issues. She has written professionally for six years since then. Lundman received her M.A. from Stanford University.

Photo Credits

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