How to Grow a Blueberry Tree

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Also known as Japanese blueberry, the blueberry tree (Elaeocarpus decipiens) is a medium-size evergreen that is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 through 11. Following its small, white flowers in summer, blue berries appear in winter, giving the tree its common name.

With regular water and good drainage, the blueberry tree can reach a height of 30 to 60 feet and a canopy spread 20 to 30 feet at maturity. It is a low-maintenance tree that can be grown as a specimen or accent, or as a shrub for a hedge.

Site Requirements

Choose a site that receives full-sun exposure, although a site with afternoon shade is beneficial for the blueberry tree in the hottest climates.

This tree may be planted as close as 4 feet from structures and 6 feet from pavement. Leave 4 to 5 feet between multiple blueberry trees in a hedge and at least 8 feet to provide more space between multiple trees.

Soil Conditions

The blueberry tree prefers neutral soil. Alkaline soil may cause an iron deficiency known as chlorosis, which makes leaves turn yellow. If you are in doubt about the location's soil, then have it tested. Soil test kits are available at garden centers, and county Cooperative Extension Service offices provide soil testing.

Because the blueberry tree does best in rich soil high in organic matter, mix compost with the site's soil before planting. According to Clemson Cooperative Extension, about 10 to 20 percent of soil's volume should be organic matter.

Planting Directions

Plant a blueberry tree in spring after the danger of frost has passed. If, however, you live in an area with extremely hot summers, then fall is the best time for planting.

Dig a planting hole as deep as the tree's nursery container and two to five times as wide as the container. Remove the tree from its container, and place the tree in the hole, taking care not to submerge the tree's trunk below the soil line. The tree should sit at the same soil depth as the soil depth at which it sat in its container; add soil to, or remove soil from, the hole to attain that depth for the tree. When the tree is at the correct depth, fill the hole with soil you removed to create the hole.

Mound soil to create a narrow water well, or soil ring, 3 inches high on the soil surface directly above the outer edge of the planted tree's root ball. The soil ring should surround the tree trunk but not touch it. Water the soil inside the soil ring until it is moist.

Ongoing Watering

The blueberry tree thrives with a steady supply of moisture from rainfall and/or irrigation. During hot spells, it may require more water than normal.

Tip

  • To ensure the tree's root ball is receiving sufficient moisture, check the soil several hours after watering. Carefully dig out the soil along the root ball to a depth of about one-half of the planting hole. Take out a handful of soil at that depth and squeeze it. If it is dripping wet, then the area is being overwatered. If the soil crumbles, it is too dry.

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