Common Blueberry Problems: 5 Mistakes When Growing Blueberries

Blueberry Bush
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Blueberries are not only delicious but extremely nutritious as well. Once established, they will reliably produce buckets of yummy berries for years to come. Before you can expect large hauls of berries however, you need to avoid the 5 most common mistakes with blueberries. Learning about these common blueberry problems is the key to growing healthy, productive blueberries. 

Growing Blueberries

Blueberries need acidic soil with a pH of 4.5-4.8. They prefer a sunny area in well-draining soil and a consistently moist root system during the growing season. Provided they have enough sun and drainage, blueberries can not only be grown in the garden but in containers as well. 

These are blueberries basic requirements and if these needs aren't met, problems with disease and production will soon follow. 

 5 Common Blueberry Problems

One of the biggest mistakes with blueberries is discounting their need for acidic soil. While many plants can tolerate a little leeway when it comes to the pH of the soil, blueberries cannot. Test your soil before planting blueberries. If the soil is not acidic enough you can take steps to rectify the soil or opt to plant them in a container or raised bed. 

To raise the acidity of your soil, amend the soil with sulfur. Be careful. Too much sulfur can be toxic. You can also include pine needles and coffee grounds to amend the soil. 

The safest way to amend the soil is to incorporate peat moss. Dig up an area about 2.5 feet across and a foot deep per plant and remove ½ to 1/3rd of the soil. Add pre-moistened peat moss to make up for the amount of soil removed and mix well. 

Four More Common Mistakes with Blueberries

  • The second most common mistake with blueberries is planting only one blueberry bush. Most blueberry cultivars need a partner to pollinate with. Be sure to plant at least two bushes or you will end up with flowers but not fruit. 
  • One of the requirements mentioned above when growing blueberries is keeping the root system consistently moist. Blueberries have shallow root systems that tend to dry out quickly which will affect the quality of the berries. To prevent drying, mulch around the plants with 2-4 inches (5-10 cm.) of wood chips or pine needles in the spring and fall. Don't use leaves or sawdust as mulch; it limits how much water can reach the plant's roots. 
  • The fourth mistake with blueberries also has to do with irrigation. While blueberry roots should stay consistently moist during the growing season, the contrary plant also dislikes "wet feet". If you incorporate plenty of organic matter at planting and mulch accordingly, your blueberries should thrive without "wet feet". 
  • The last most common problem when growing blueberries is lack of pruning. Blueberries benefit from a heavy annual prune which will result in healthier, more robust plants with prodigious fruit production. To prune your blueberry bush, remove any dead, broken or diseased branches. Remove any low growth at the base of the bush. Prune out any stunted branches. Continue to prune the bush until you have removed about 1/3 to ½ of the wood. Annual aggressive pruning may be difficult because you feel like you are removing so much of the plant, but it is guaranteed to result in a healthier, more prolific bush.
Amy Grant

Amy Grant has been gardening for 30 years and writing for 15. A professional chef and caterer, Amy's area of expertise is culinary gardening.