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How to Prune Blueberries

By on April 22, 2011

Proper care of your blueberries will really pay off with a bountiful crop

Want your blueberry bush to be strong and fruitful? Prune it according to these guidelines.

The best time to prune your blueberry is in late winter, before it sets blossoms.

New plant

* Snip off any old, spindly growth. You want all the energy to go into the new growth.
* Pick off blossoms the first spring, to conserve the plant’s energy.

Two years in your garden

Institute good, regular pruning practices:

* Cut off dead branches (as soon as you see them)
* Cut off and discard diseased branches (as soon as you see them)
* Cut off twiggy or weak growth

Third year in your garden

Continue your pruning practices and begin your long-term focus on regenerating the bush

* Cut off suckers at the base of the bush
* Cut off lower branches if the weight of fruit will push them to the ground
* Take out 1 or 2 of the oldest canes at ground level or a healthy side branch
* If the crown is producing new canes, cut off all but 2
* Cut off branches that cross others

Too much of a good thing?

*If your blueberry is fruiting like mad (overbearing) and sending up lots of new shoots, send the plant a message by cutting off some branch tips.

Is your blueberry in trouble?

* Once you have solved the problem (lack of fertilizer or adequate irrigation, overbearing, for instance) you can rejuvenate the bush by cutting off 1/3 of the canes each year for 3 years.

See good pruning practices put into action in this drawing

 

Thank you to Growing Blueberries in the Sacramento Region by Chuck Ingels, Sacramento County Farm Advisor, our source for the diagram and much good information.

For additional information on blueberry care see our video, blog posts on blueberries and our Growing Guide. Cornell University offers sound blueberry insight as well.

  Comments (13)

S

I have 12 blueberry plants 4 different varieties they have been in the ground for
3 years   going on 4. There is a pretty good crop on for this year and I had a good crop last year. Last year they only produced a minimal amount of new shoots this year they have not produced any.
Have any ideas as to what is going on or not going on ?????? 

Skip

Posted by Skip Landry on Apr. 23, 2011 at 8:52:55 PM

K

Hi Skip   If you had good crops this year and last you are doing a good job with your blueberries.  Be sure to give them the fertilizer recommended in the article.  As long as your bushes have enough nutrients but not too much they will continue to produce.  It is possible that a cold snap may have reduced the amount of new shoots this year.  Kalita

Posted by Kalita on Apr. 26, 2011 at 2:25:51 PM

J

Hi
I bought some new blueberries from you guys this year an have pinched off the flowers. Should I prune them so they get bushier. Right now they are leggy and thin.

Posted by janet214 on Apr. 27, 2011 at 10:11:17 AM

C

Janet University experts differ slightly. Cornell says just to pinch the flowers the first 2 years. UC Davis says to snip off old twiggy growth at the base of the plant in the first year.

Posted by Charlotte on May. 05, 2011 at 11:12:17 AM

H

[...] in the winter). Here is a blueberry growing guide (PDF) for additional information a great post on how to prune blueberries and more detailed instructions for pruning [...]

Posted by How To Plant Grow & Prune Blueberries | One on May. 06, 2011 at 1:02:54 AM

M

my plants are about 4 years old. I only have three plants, plenty for me. I have one shoot way above the rest. Could you tell me what to do with it. I’m in a wheelchhhair and can’t reach that high.

Posted by mark mastro on Nov. 11, 2012 at 10:33:37 AM

Mark, Have someone prune the too-tall bush down to an easy-to-reach level and then keep it that height with late winter pruning each year. If it slows production from that pruning, consider replacing it with one of the shorter blueberries:  Top Hat or Sunshine Blue. Hope this advice is helpful!

Posted by GrowOrganic.com on Jan. 18, 2013 at 5:21:25 PM

B

Is it too late to prune now?  We have had mostlt cold weather in Ohio, including snow as late as last week.  My husband says too late now though.  What do you think?

Posted by Becky C. on Apr. 01, 2013 at 6:14:25 AM

Becky, You can certainly prune if it has not set blossoms. If it has already set blossoms you can still prune off the dead growth without risk to the bush.

Posted by GrowOrganic.com on Apr. 01, 2013 at 1:49:12 PM

J

when cutting off the new growth at the base, will it hurt the plant if it already has berries growing and should I wait until after harvest. I only have 5 plants but they are growing better this spring than ever before, still only about 24” to 30” high, but looking nice.  My next question is, can I start new plants from these fresh cuttings?

Posted by joanne on Apr. 06, 2014 at 6:37:41 AM

Hello Joanne,

Thanks, yes we recommend pruning while the plants are still dormant. Yes you can propagate blueberries from softwood cuttings (taken in spring) or by layering.

Posted by GrowOrganic.com on Apr. 08, 2014 at 10:33:42 AM

E

Hi!  We had 4 blueberry bushes of the rabbit-eye variety.  We lost 2 to blight and still have 2 left.  We would like to replace the 2 we lost by propagating from the remaining ones we have, since one is a Premiere and the other is Tift Blue.

I’m wondering if we can prune a large older cane (our bushes are about 6 yrs old and we have never pruned the older canes)—now, in early January, since we’ve had a week of below freezing weather, and bring it indoors to give it a start.  Will it immediately die or will it come to life with warmer temperatures and fertilizer? 

I just can’t figure out how we can take an older cane late winter and propagate from that.

Thanks for any help!

Posted by Elizabeth on Jan. 10, 2015 at 6:30:33 AM

I looked up a few YouTube videos and they all talk about making cuttings in late summer on softwood. Here is a link that may be helpful. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JAZsLzapsPk

Posted by Suzanne at Peaceful Valley on Jan. 12, 2015 at 12:20:20 PM

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