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.

1. Design Considerations

1 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.

2. Design Considerations

2 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.

3. Design Considerations

3 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.

4. Planting

1 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.

5. Planting

2 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.

6. Planting

3 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.

7. Planting

4 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.

8. Planting

5 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.

9. Planting

6 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.

10. Planting

7 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.

11. Planting

8 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.

Photo Credits

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