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  • Blueberries in pots

    In post 11 of the thread linked below, Gene asked:


    Hi Gina, perhaps you can describe how you tend to BB in pots. My soil is much too sweet for blueberries so I wanted to plant a few in pots but I'm not sure of how to do it. Can you treat them mostly like potted fig and root prune and repot every few years. If not what is your method and what is your soil.
    "gene" -
    I guess they can be treated pretty much like figs, except they need low pH, acidic soil, not alkaline.

    This is what I do, and it's worked for me. Your mileage may vary. I found my method by trial and error since when I started I could find very little about the subject online.

    I live in SoCal, so my mix might be different than someone who lives where it rains or freezes. Since I have so many plants in pots, mostly 15 with some in 25 gallon, I needed a lot of mix. I used what I had, including compost, and more recently, have been getting free, used mix from a local nursery. It's porous, yet holds some water. I believe people who live where it rains can use a coarser mix with lots of fir nuggets. Many people also add a significant amount of peat moss to keep the pH low, or just start with azalea mix.

    The most important thing is to acidify the water that you irrigate with. Some use vinegar or citric acid, but for me the best is sulfuric acid purchased as new battery acid (33% sulfuric) from an automotive store. You only need a small amount added to water. There is not one single dilution for everyone - you will have to determine that based on your own tap water. I do not have a pH meter, I did it hit/miss and was lucky my first dilution worked well. Some store rain water for the task.

    In the summer when it's hot and dry, I have to water almost every day... but I only use the acid mix about once per week. Seems to work.

    I also keep my berry plants pruned to keep the tops from requiring too much water. I don't know if it's necessary to root-prune, but this year, after about 7 years, I did seriously root prune most and up potted a number of them. Root pruning was easy since the roots are fibrous and can be cut with a serrated knife. What I cut off was much like thick pieces of felt.

    Blueberry plants are unforgiving if left in need of water for very long. They literally will die.

    They are not the easiest plants to grow in pots, but they are well worth it.

    Hope this helps.
    Last edited by Gina; 02-17-2015, 10:17 PM.
    SoCal, zone 10.
    www.ourfigs.com Invite your friends.

  • #2
    Thanks Gina, at least now I have a starting point. We love BB's and so do my grandkids. Each year we go to a U-pick farm and gather 5 or 6 gallons which we freeze in small containers and use throughout the year. Thank again.
    Zone 9 Houma LA in the bayou land.


    • #3
      Thanks, Gina, for your tips. I've tried growing blueberries in pots up in the Bay Area. I got Southern Highbush plants, and they did well until a stretch of about a week of 100+ temps. Yes, they did literally die. But my grandson loves his blueberries, so I'm going to give it another shot this year.
      USDA Zone 9b Wish list: Abruzzi, Pasquale, Filacciano, Tagliacozzo, Zingarella, Godfather. Any, including unknowns, from Abruzzo, Italy.


      • #4
        I grow my blueberries in pots (fortunately...since they're in my garage right now trying to keep the buds from freezing!). My two small plants are in 4-5 gallon pots, and my two big varieties are in 10 and 15 gallon pots. I don't have to water every day, but I try to water deeply every 2-3 days. Mine aren't fully sized yet though....the two bigger ones are only 3rd or 4th year plants, so they'll likely need more water as they get bigger.

        As far as acidity goes, I use a variety of methods to keep the soil pH down. I use hollytone, as well as a soil acidifier. Once in a blue moon, I give them some apple cider vinegar diluted in a couple gallons of water. I'm not positive how many positive effects I've gotten from all of this...but I haven't had any negative effects :-D
        Brett in Athens, GA zone 7b/8a


        • #5
          My Blups (as my kids called them) were transplanted into raised beds two years ago but, for 5-6 years prior, were grown in 15 gal containers- I kept a close eye on watering needs and acidified the soil with ammonium sulfate a couple of times per year as well as used Miracle Grow fert for acid loving plants (varieties were Blue Crop, Blue Ray, Darrow, Elizabeth and one or two others). They did quite well in the containers. With them in pots, I could fairly easily position them so I could cover them all with netting when the berries started turning color. I'm not sure if the situation is the same in other parts of the country, but here in Kansas, robins are desperate to feed their growing young right about the time the blups ripen, so robins can be an aggressive problem. Two years ago, the bb plants were all transplanted into a 16'x32' raised bed. Now the soil is harder to keep acidified (our native soil is certainly not acidic enough (and I have used much Canadian peat) and the birds are still there! I resorted to building a fruit cage (fruit cages seem to be popular in England). I purchased connectors and other parts from Harrod Horticultural in England (harrodhorticultural.com) and used the correct sized aluminum tubing, obtained from a local aircraft surplus supplier. Has worked very well.


          • #6
            When I was a kid and we'd visit relatives in Indiana, my aunt and uncle had built a sturdy enclosure around their blueberry patch. it was wood and chicken wire and held about 20-30 in-ground plants. It was marvelous.
            SoCal, zone 10.
            www.ourfigs.com Invite your friends.


            • #7
              I grow all my blues in pots as well. Ive tried several different potting mediums and finally settled on a mix of 50-60% pinebark mulch, 30-40% Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss and 10-20% perlite. If using rain water you shouldn't have to mess with Ph for a couple years with this mix or if acidifying tap or well water. Ive also replaced the perlite in my mix for vermiculite and or coarse builders sand with no negative effects. Another thing Ive always done with my pots is to leave enough room for at least 3 inchs of pine bark nuggets as mulch. There's all kinds of ways and methods to pot blues but this is the one that's worked well for me.



              • PharmaChad
                PharmaChad commented
                Editing a comment
                I use the same mix as Blueboy with the exception of the perlite. Concrete sand is cheaper for me so I use that in its place. So far so good!

              • Darkman
                Darkman commented
                Editing a comment
                I use equal parts peat moss, builders sand and fine shredded pine bark fines to pot most everything and to root figs, muscadines and just about anything.

              • bahamadan
                bahamadan commented
                Editing a comment
                How big is that pine bark mulch? I bought some recently but not sure if you somehow make your pieces smaller or just mix the mix with the chunky bark pieces and the peat?

            • #8
              Pine bark and CSPM about 50:50 has worked for me. For my thinking sand would just add weight and little else but haven't tried that. I like a mix that doesn't settle much. Once roots fill the pot that won't be an issue. I've had blues in pots as long as 7 yrs without repotting. When pulled out there were almost no circling roots. Very much the opposite of figs in that regard.
              Alpine, Texas 4500ft elevation Zone 7


              • #9
                I'm just starting into blueberries and when I was looking in bagged soil I found that Kellogg made a mix for acid-loving plants called "Shade Mix". I could not find it anyplace in Tucson, AZ so I emailed the company and received this reply - Thank you for contacting us. Unfortunately, we do not have our Shade Mix available in Arizona. If you wanted to try to replicate it you can use our Kellogg Patio Plus, which is available at Home Depot and mix it 50:50 with peat moss. I hope this helps and please let us know if you have any further questions.
                Carter Tucson, AZ zone 9a


                • #10
                  All our blueberries are in pots. We use regular raised bed soil but I add bark mulch and sawdust on top. They’re pretty low maintenance.
                  Z8+ Oregon, willamette valley
                  Current listings (if any): https://www.figbid.com/Browse?Seller=Sod


                  • #11
                    There are also varieties available now specifically for container culture. Top Hat is a heavy producer even without a cross pollinator. There are severe others as well. The Brazzleberry line all have excellent fall color as an added bonus.
                    Angel #1 at 2 Angels Mushrooms & Figs-Chattanooga, TN Zone 7-B
                    Wishlist: Becane, Del Cor, Ravin de Calce
                    My annual Cutting Sale and give-a-way is now underway HERE


                    • #12
                      fruitnut , are you still growing blueberries? Is Sweet Crisp still a top variety for you?


                      • #13
                        Sweetcrisp is still tops for me. I've seen brix as high as 26 and very crisp.
                        Alpine, Texas 4500ft elevation Zone 7


                        • fruitnut
                          fruitnut commented
                          Editing a comment
                          Yield isn't great and needs pollination by another variety. But it should do well in warmer zones of PNW. The other supposedly crisp varieties don't come close IME.

                        • ramv
                          ramv commented
                          Editing a comment
                          Yes, I have Star and Misty as well as pollinators. There are some in my neighborhood growing southern high bush varieties. They don't lose leaves in winter and look quite pretty all winter long.

                        • fruitnut
                          fruitnut commented
                          Editing a comment
                          You'll like Sweetcrisp. Or at least I think you will. It's a big step up in blueberries IMO.

                      • #14
                        I purchased Powder Blue & Brightwell blueberry plants back in October. They are both self fertile but will do better together as pollinators. I have them in 15 gallon containers. I'll give it a try and see how it goes. These are considered rabbiteye variety for southern climates. More info here. https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/...ueberries.html
                        Zone 8B Lockhart, Texas - WL- Thermalito, I258, Del San Jaume Gran, White Madeira #1, Noire De Barbentane, Paratjal Rimada, Bordissot Negra Rimada & Robert's Golden Rainbow


                        • 2AngelsMushrooms
                          2AngelsMushrooms commented
                          Editing a comment
                          Good choices. Those should do well for you in TX.