When To Prune Blueberries



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When To Prune Blueberries

For those gardeners who grow blueberries, winter is the time to get out their pruning shears and folding saw!

It’s recommended that you prune blueberries every year when they are dormant.

Pruning has a major effect on the quality of the fruit, the health of the fruit, and crop production so it’s important not to be too gentle or too aggressive when pruning your blueberries.

But when is the optimal time to prune blueberries? How do you do it, even? Read on to find out!

Why Should You Prune Blueberries?

There are a few reasons why pruning blueberries is an important chore. Adequate pruning encourages an open growth habitat.

This in turn decreases the risk of disease, boosts air circulation, and exposes the center of the plant to the sun.

Pruning blueberries annually ensures productivity by boosting the growth of new stems that produce fruit, and pruning improves the overall quality of the fruit because the shrub can focus its attention on producing fruit, rather than producing more leaves.

The aim of proper blueberry pruning is to get rid of enough old growth to boost new growth, and to not negatively affect the production of berries come spring.

When Should You Prune Blueberries?

Just like other shrubs and trees that produce fruit, you should prune your blueberries in mid or late winter. You can better see the structure of the plant and determine which brands you should remove.

Old branches are very distinct from new branches in winter, with different textures and colors. Pruning in the dormant season also reduces the stress faced by the plant.

The bush isn’t actively growing, and you’re not removing foliage that produced carbohydrates. 

Blueberries grow successfully in regions whose dormant seasons run from December to March. Blueberry shrubs are very durable plants, and some can withstand temperatures of -35 degrees Fahrenheit.

Blueberries even need to be kept at temperatures under 45 degrees Fahrenheit. These are known as chill hours, and blueberries need chill hours in order to open up and produce berries.

If blueberries do not experience enough cold weather, they won’t produce fruit. 

Each variety and type of blueberry has different chill hour requirements. Blueberry varieties that are ‘low-chill’ need 200-800 chill hours to thrive and are best grown in southern regions.

Meanwhile, high-chill varieties require 800-1,000 hours of chill time and are best grown in northern regions, so when you buy blueberry pants, make sure you choose a variety best suited to your region.

You can start pruning as early as the end of December, but we recommend waiting until the end of February or the beginning of March, as it gives you the chance to prune stems that have faced winter damage. 

When To Prune Blueberries

Steps For Pruning Blueberries

Step 1

Take a good look at each of your blueberry bushes and start cutting off any damaged or dead branches.

Cut these stems from where they meet the thicker branch, and make sure not to leave a stump behind as it encourages disease. If the whole branch is dead, cut it off from the ground.

Step 2

Once all damaged stems are removed, you can now cut out the crossed branches, especially those that rub together.

Once you’ve completed pruning, you should have an open structure and no crossed branches. Remove the crossed branches from the plant’s base.

Step 3

For fledgling blueberry bushes or bushes that have previously been adequately pruned, cut one-third of the branches left all the way down to the ground, removing the thickest and oldest branches.This will promote new, productive canes to grow.

While this means cutting 1 out of every 3 branches, if you do this every winter you should get amazing blueberry production every year!

If your blueberry plants are mature, overgrown, and un-pruned, then you need to prune carefully to promote new stem production.

This means cutting half of the branches back all the way to the ground. You should always remove the thickest, oldest branches as this allows new canes to emerge from the roots.

If a branch is around 8 years old, then the production massively decreases. If you don’t get rid of the old branches, then the plant will not be able to create new, productive stems. 

Over the next 2–3 years, get rid of the remaining old branches until you only have branches left. The plant will continue to grow a decent crop while the bush is gradually being rejuvenated.

Bushes that are overgrown and heavily pruned will take a couple of years to bounce back, but you’ll be rewarded for your efforts with years of fabulous production when the plants are subject to regular pruning. 

Blueberry Pruning Tips

The best way to prune blueberries will depend on how old the plant is, and how overgrown it is. 

You shouldn’t shear blueberries and distort them into a meatball-like shape. The fruiting buds of blueberries can be found in the outermost two to three inches of stem growth, and shearing the plants gets rid of all the flower buds.

If you don’t prune blueberry bushes properly, the remaining blueberries will grow old while the new, productive branches will not develop.

Un-pruned, older blueberry bushes often produce more leaves and fewer berries, and the berries it does produce will be small and grow on the outermost stems. 

Always make sure to prune your berries with sharp, clean equipment. So you can avoid disease spreading, disinfect your pruning equipment between every bush you work on.

There are specific spray pruning disinfectants you can buy that don’t congeal or cause your equipment to rust, but you can also use a Lysol spray or 10% bleach solution to clean your tools. 

Blueberries grow followers on old wood, so the buds on the yearly crop form during the summer and Fall of the season before. 

It’s also important to guard your blueberries from deer during the winter months as they may gobble up all the buds! 

Final Thoughts

We hope our article has shown you just how important it is to prune your blueberries, and when the optimal time to do this is! As long as you keep up regular pruning every year, you’re sure to have productive, delicious blueberries annually!

Further Recommendations:

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