What do I cut out in old blueberry bushes

Asked February 27, 2016, 8:08 PM EST

My BB bushes are 30 years old. I cut them all low about 8 years ago. They bear lots of small berries. I have about 20 different big branches out of ground which have about 4 or more bright green shoots on each one of the ones out of the ground ground. I am not sure how much to cut because they are so healthy looking with those big bright green shoots.

Harnett County North Carolina

1 Response

The goal of pruning blueberries is to remove older less productive wood and replace it with younger more fruitful wood. You should be getting new shoots from the base of the plant every year unless the bush is dense and shading the base. We generally recommend removing two of the older canes every year and leaving two of the best shoots from the shoots at the base of the plant. I sounds like you have been pruning off all the new shoots if you only have eight large shoots.
Blueberries only bear fruit on last years wood so the amount of fruit is pretty much determined by how much the plant grew last year. The shoots flower at the tip and form new branches below. As the shoot ages, it has more and more shoots which are shorter and shorter as the number of shoots increase. These short shoots often have only one flower bud at the tip and only a few small leaves, so the fruit is small. The most productive shoots are 3 to 6 years old.
I suggest you cut out the 2 or 3 largest shoots to open up the bush. If you have any shoots from the base of the plant leave the largest 3. Continue this for the next seven years and you will have renewed the bush and have 2 to 4 branches of shoots with ages of from one to seven years. The fruit on younger wood should be larger than fruit off older wood. This does depend on variety some varieties just have small fruit.
You could just cut back several of the older canes to the bright green new shoots if you have no new shoots coming from the base of the plant.