How to Start a Blueberry Bush From Cuttings

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Blueberry bushes (Vaccinium spp.) propagated or reproduced from stem cuttings are exact replicas of the parent bush. Softwood cuttings root more quickly and easily than hardwood cuttings; however, softwood cuttings also dry out more quickly, so extra attention must be given to keeping softwood cuttings moist.

New Planting Site Selection

Blueberry bushes are generally hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 to 9, although this varies slightly from species to species. Prepare the intended planting site for the new blueberry bushes in the fall prior to starting the cuttings. The new location must get at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight and the soil must drain quickly.

Soil pH and Drainage

Test the soil pH to ensure it is between 4.5 and 5.0. Soil pH can differ from place to place within the yard.

Check how quickly the soil drains by digging a 1-foot-deep by 1-foot-wide hole and filling it with water. Fill it a second time and check periodically to see how quickly it drains. Soil that absorbs the water within two to three hours is fine. If it takes four hours or more to drain, find a different planting site.

Organic Matter and pH Adjustments

Adjust the soil pH, if necessary:

  • To lower the soil pH, use sphagnum peat moss, a good source of
    organic matter for blueberry bushes. Spread 2 ½ pounds of
    peat per square yard of soil to lower the pH by one unit -- for example, from 6.0 to 5.0. Mix it into the top 6 to 10 inches. Use a
    rototiller to incorporate it thoroughly into the native soil.

  • To raise the pH of
    100 square feet of soil by one, or from 3.5 to 4.5, use 4.5 pounds of lime in
    sandy soil, 7.5 pounds in loamy soil and 10 pounds in clay soil. Sprinkle the
    lime over the soil and mix it in thoroughly.

Mix a 1- to 2-inch depth of organic matter like composted pine bark mulch, composted sawdust or peat moss into the soil, unless peat moss has already been used to lower the pH.

Parent Bush Preparation

Select a healthy blueberry bush to take the cuttings from and water it the day before taking the cuttings. Take cuttings in the morning. Use sharp, sterilized bypass hand pruners to take cuttings. Soak the pruners for a few minutes in household disinfectant, rinse and dry them. Be careful not to crush stems when taking the cuttings

Rooting Container

Prepare the rooting containers before taking cuttings. Pour a mix that is half sphagnum peat moss and half coarse sand into containers with drain holes. Clay or plastic pots or trays can be used. Moisten the rooting mix. Poke 2-inch-deep planting holes spaced about 4 inches apart in the rooting mix.

Softwood Cuttings

Take 4- to 6-inch-long, 1/8-inch-wide, softwood cuttings in spring or early summer while the fresh, new stems are still a little flexible. Make the cuts ¼ inch below a set of leaves. Snip the leaves off of the lower 2 to 4 inches, leaving only a few leaves at the top of each cutting. Trim the leaves at the top down to a length of 1 inch.

Hardwood Cuttings

Take hardwood cuttings in late winter or very early spring before the shrub leafs out. Cut 1- to 2-foot-long stems at the base. The stems should be the width of a pencil. Cut them into 4- to 6-inch-long pieces. Do not use the thin stem tips. Make each cut just below a growth bud which will be slightly thicker than the rest of the stem. Each cutting should have at least two growth buds. Keep track of which end of each cutting is the bottom. Use a sterilized knife to slice off any growth buds on the lower 2 inches of each cutting. Wound the bottom of each cutting by stripping off a 1-inch length of bark on two sides of the cutting to expose the green wood underneath.

Cutting Planting

Plant the cuttings in the rooting mix immediately and cover the container.

  • Option 1: Cut the bottom out of a 2-liter plastic pop bottle or milk jug, leave the screw cap on and set it over the cuttings. Press it down lightly into the rooting mix.

  • Option 2: Enclose the container in a clear plastic bag and seal it shut.

Put the container in a bright area out of direct sunlight. Maintain temperatures between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Water them if the rooting mix begins to dry. The rooting mix must stay moist at all times. Mist the cuttings each day.

Cutting Care

Check the cuttings for roots after one to two months by gently tugging on them. There will be some resistance if they have roots. If they pull up easily, replant them and check them every two weeks or so. Remove the screw cap on the bottle or leave the plastic bag open for air circulation after the cuttings develop roots. Pot them up in individual, 6- to 8-inch-diameter containers after one week. Use containers with drain holes and peat-based potting mix.

New Blueberry Bush Care

Move the potted blueberry cuttings to a brightly-lit area for a week or two then to a spot with direct morning sunlight. Set them outdoors in a shady, protected area after another week or two. Gradually, move them to an outdoor location with protection from drying winds where they will be exposed to direct morning sunlight. Grow them in containers until the following spring. Water the potting soil when the top begins to dry. Repot them when their containers become filled with roots; use a new container that is only one size larger with drain holes in the bottom. Move the blueberry cuttings indoors in the fall just prior to the first frost. Set them in a cool, bright location.

New Blueberry Bush Planting

Plant the new blueberry bushes outdoors after the last expected spring frost. Space them 4 feet apart. Dig the holes two to three times the width of the containers. Plant them at the same depth they were growing in their containers. Mix 1 gallon of sphagnum peat moss thoroughly into the backfill soil. Loosen the roots around the outside of the rootball gently with your fingers. Fill the hole in with the amended backfill soil. Water generously. Spread a 2- to 3-inch depth of mulch over the soil around the blueberry bushes. Leave 3 to 4 inches between the stems and the mulch to help prevent disease.

Care After Planting

Water the new blueberry bushes from below the foliage with a soaker hose or watering can when the top of the soil begins to dry. The soil must be kept lightly moist at all times. Sprinkle 2 1/2 to 4 ounces of 10-10-10 fertilizer per 25-foot long row of blueberry bushes one month after they are planted. Spread the fertilizer from 6 inches away from the base of the stems to 6 inches beyond the outer edge of the branches.

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