It’s Time to Prune Blueberries

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The flower buds on the red wood of blueberry bushes are beginning to swell. They will soon be open for pollination. Before these flowers open pruning should be done to open up the plant for better air circulation and light penetration. February and March are good months for home gardeners to get this task checked off the gardening to-do list.

Here are a few easy steps on what to do when pruning a blueberry bush.

  1. Decide how large you want the base of the plant to be. Mentally draw a circle that encompasses that area and then remove any suckers that are coming up outside of that area. For a full grown blueberry plant that area may be a circle about 18 to 24 inches in diameter.
  2. Look at the base of the plant for the oldest stems. These will be the ones that have bark-like stripes or cracks on them. Remove the oldest of these stems, but don’t remove any more than about 1/3 of the canes coming out of the ground. This step should really open up the center of the plant for better light and air penetration.
  3. Step back and look at the plant to see if there are any stems growing from the outside of the plant back into the middle of the plant. These stems will often rub against one of more other stems as they grow into the middle of the plant. Rubbing creates open wounds that are easy entry spots for disease pathogens. Remove these stems from the plant.
  4. Lastly look for any really tiny branches on the top or outside of the plant canopy. Most of these should have been removed with the old stems in step 2, but if there are a few left that are about the diameter of a match stick, remove these as well. The fruit on these branches will be super tiny. Removal of these tiny branches allows for bigger berries on the larger branches.

Dr. Bill Cline is the specialist at NC State University. He did a video on pruning blueberries. This video starts in the classroom and shows how the pruning is supposed to be done. Then the group go out into a blueberry patch and practice what they have learned.

Here is a link to a video with Dr. Bill Cline pruning blueberry bushes.