How to prune huckleberry plants

Asked August 31, 2020, 2:10 PM EDT

We have several different huckleberry plants in our yard. They are getting rangy and not producing much. How should they be pruned and when?

Jackson County Oregon

3 Responses

We may need some clarification here as there are native evergreen( do not shed leaves in winter) huckleberries, usually with dark blue berries and then there are many different varieties of cultivated berries commonly called blueberries. Both fruit on one year old wood. That means the part of a branch that grows this year will be the bearer of blossoms and hopefully fruit the following year. When you prune, you have to be selective in how much of the "new growth" you remove or you will be removing your entire next year's crop. Native huckleberries grow 2 to 3 feet tall on average in full sun; they grow up to 8 feet tall in shade. Cultivated blueberries come in 3 general categories: high bush (taller), low bush ( shortest) or half-high . Generally, low-bush and half-high are not grown in Oregon's climate. All fruit-bearing plants should be pruned in the winter when the plant is dormant or semi-dormant.First remove any dead, weak, or badly formed wood (usually crossing branches are removed). Then carefully shape the remainder of the plant, being careful to leave at least half of the previous year's growth intact. If there is an excess of flower buds, you may want to remove some entire branches as too much fruit slows growth and berries are often small. The native huckleberry can also be pruned in the same way, although some gardeners prefer to grow the plants as a hedge, using shearing techniques to even out the height of the separate plants. A general discussion of the care of cultivated blueberries can be found in EC1304, "Growing Blueberries in Your Home Garden" which can be downloaded at extension.oregonstate.edu/ publications. Please feel free to contact us if you have further questions and include information about what plant it is you are dealing with . Thank you for using Ask an Expert.

Here are images of the two different plants with their fruit. We don’t know what kind of huckleberries they are. Do you?

It's virtually impossible to tell from photos what you have. No indication is given of size, evergreen vs. deciduous, etc. Your second photo may indicate the bush is a native evergreen huckleberry (the main question is: does it stay green all year or lose its leaves in winter?) because it appears to have dark green, leathery, lustrous leaves and very dark fruit. Identification is not really what this is about: pruning carefully to stimulate larger crops is the main thrust of your previous question. Please read the first answer carefully to learn about pruning and /or seek out the publications on blueberries at extension.oregonstate.edu/publications. Thank you for using Ask an Expert.