Recently Planted Blueberries

Asked April 25, 2013, 5:29 PM EDT

I purchased some good sized (3-5 gallon) blueberry plants yesterday at costco. I was reading the OSU extension pub EC 1304, "Growing blueberries in your home garden" which emphasizes heavy pruning upon planting (and removing all fruit buds to prevent berries the first year). I really want to ignore this advice because the plants have nice flowers on them now and I'm eager to get fruit this year. I thought I could ignore the recs since the plants are so big already -- at least 2 ft tall and around. Unwise? Thanks Lester

Multnomah County Oregon fruits and vegetables blueberries horticulture

6 Responses

Hello,

I have seen the blueberry plants you refer to for sale at Costco. While it is best to follow the advice in my publication, many, like you, are very tempted to taste some fruit the first year. The reason we recommend pruning the plant back in the dormant period or during bloom (if you are buying in spring) when you first plant is that producing fruit on a young plant is such a drain on the plant's resources. We've shown dramatic reductions in plant and root growth when plants are allowed to fruit when they are young. I'm attaching picture of Bluecrop. These plants were dug up after two years of fruiting -- the plant on the right had all of the flower buds pruned off at planting and was allowed to produce very little fruit the following year also; the one on the left was allowed to produce all of the fruit present in the planting year and a full crop in the second year also; these plants were dug up in the winter after the second fruiting year). I think you can see the large differences in growth (root and above ground plant). We saw this in all the varieties we studied. If you prune to remove or greatly limit fruit in the planting year, the plant will put all its energy into new shoot and root growth. This will benefit the plant in the long term. If the soil is well prepared (including soil pH in the 4.5 to 5.5 range; see EC 1304) then the plants will live for over 35 years....you want to get them off to a good start. Even though the plants you bought look large enough to produce fruit, they will still greatly benefit from the pruning recommended in the publication.

Hi Dr Strick

Thanks so much for your assistance. You've convinced me. I'll (reluctantly) get out my shears. Any suggestion for how to prune, or just do a 30-40% reduction all over as #1304 recommends?

Hello,

It's hard to describe pruning in words for blueberry. The 30-40% removal is a good target. Once the flowers are removed, it's better to remove any twiggy wood left. Once the plant is pruned it is best if it has several strong "whips" (more unbranched or a cane with two long branches on it) than a plant with lots of small branches. I'm attaching another picture of a pruned plant

Thanks Prof. Strik -- helpful photo. If you know of any pruning videos you might have come across on YouTube or the like, please let me know.

Lester

Hi Sandy and Prof Strik

Thanks so much for your help. Great video!

Cheers
Lester