Getting Blueberries from Blueberry Plants

blueberriesQuestion: I planted a blueberry bush last spring but it never bore fruit. It looked healthy otherwise. What might have been the problem and what should I do this year?

Answer: It’s possible that your blueberry plant produced and ripened berries, but that birds got to them before you did. Here’s an article on growing blueberries and protecting them from birds.

It could be that you planted a blueberry variety that is not self-pollinating, or that pollination was insufficient. For the best results, plant more than one blueberry plant, of more than one variety, within 100 feet of each other. This will make it easy for bees to cross-pollinate the blueberry plants. Planting more than one variety is essential for blueberry plants that are not self-pollinating. However, even blueberry plants that can self-pollinate benefit from companions of a different variety, producing larger and more plentiful blueberries.

Another cause may have been a lack of new growth on the blueberry plant. This is a common cause for mature blueberry plants not bearing blueberries; they may have one high-yield, “over-fruiting” year that stunts their new growth and results in poor fruiting the following year. Although your plant was young, it may have been putting down roots and not doing much in the way of top growth, putting it in a similar situation. It’s actually a best practice to not allow a one-year-old blueberry plant (typically sold in a one-gallon container) to set fruit its first year in the ground. Gardeners are advised to remove one-year-old blueberry plants’ flowers as they appear to prevent fruiting and allow the blueberry plants to concentrate their energy on becoming well established in the ground.

To ensure a good harvest next year, prune your blueberry plants in winter, removing low growth around the base of the plant and any dead, weak or discolored wood. Aim to remove one-half to one-third of the blueberry bush’s wood; if removing low growth and dead or weak wood doesn’t achieve this, continue trimming out small branches and fruiting stems. Follow this pruning regimen on your blueberry plants every winter, and watch out for birds in summer.

Read the difference between highbush and rabbiteye blueberry plants and which you should grow.

Read about lowbush blueberry, a great groundcover.

Image: public domain.

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Learn all about growing berries and other fruits with Success With Organic Fruit.

Grow fruits, vegetables and more in pots with McGee & Stuckey’s The Bountiful Container.

Blueberries are both ornamental and edible plants. Learn about more attractive edible plants in the All-In-One Garden: GrowVegetables, Fruit, Herbs and Flowers in the Same Space.

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5 thoughts on “Getting Blueberries from Blueberry Plants

  1. Whoever wrote this answer started my day with a laugh! “It’s possible that your blueberry plant produced and ripened fruit, but that the birds got to them before you did”. Seriously? Is there a gardener alive who would not have checked the bush at least half a dozen times before harvest season, and noticed if there was a fruit set of little green berries there or not? I agree that it is best to have at least two bushes, preferably of different varieties, but it’s likely the only problem here is time for the bush to mature a bit.

      • Sorry Meghan, I did not mean to be rude, I’m just one of those gardeners who checks berry bushes, and any other food producing plants in my garden, at least weekly, even if there is not the slightest chance the plant in question is anywhere near harvest. It must be the farmer in me, checking my crops!

        • Oh, I didn’t think you were being rude! I’m always happy to inspire a chuckle, even unintended. I am also known to “stalk” my plants, checking and checking and checking. Anyway, thanks for weighing in on this; we always appreciate comments.

          • Meghan, I have one mature blueberry bush that seems to bear fruit about every other year. Over the past three years there has been nothing. The trees around this bush have matured and I’m thinking the problem may be that the BB isn’t getting the needed light. Could it be moved to a better location without sacrificing the plant? I have another open area I could move it to and could also purchase another plant, which may help. Initially we had two plants but one died. The second has since produced fruit many, many times. Not large fruit but fruit nonetheless. Thanks for your help!

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