How to Prune Blueberry Bushes

Fresh blueberries are among our favorite summertime snacks. Blueberry bushes are easy to grow and don’t require much maintenance, but you’ll get the best crops if you prune them regularly. Learn how to prune blueberry bushes in this blog for better crops and delicious blueberries.

Best Selling Blueberry Bushes

Beautiful blueberries of summer… ready for picking! Blueberries are born on one-year-old side-shoots that grow off two- to four-year-old upright canes in the upper half of the bush. Three-year-old blueberry canes tend to be the most productive. Canes that are more than four-years-old begin declining in productivity, and after seven years are pretty much sterile.

Blueberry pruning is a constant process of renewal: Removing older canes and encouraging the growth of new, upright canes.

Pruning Blueberries First Year

These are the flowers from a two-year-old plant, you can leave about half of them to turn into berries. During a young blueberry bush’s first and second years you should be training it to create the proper structure. An open, vase-like shape that is narrow on the bottom, spreading on top, and allows sunlight to penetrate into the bush is the best growth habit. You can work on this throughout the year. Remove low hanging canes, those that are crossed, and any that are damaged or broken. Shorten overly long, fast-growing shoots. Check out our Basic Pruning for Trees and Shrubs for more information.

For blueberry bushes in their first year, you should cut off all the developing flower buds as they appear. It hurts, we know, but the young plants will be better producers in subsequent years if they can direct all their resources into vegetative growth in that critical first year. You should remove half of the fruiting buds in the second year for the best fruit production. This will help the root systems establish and allow the plant to grow. It is best to start training young blueberries early to perform the best pruning practices.

When to Prune Blueberry Bushes

The best time to prune blueberry bushes is in winter while they are dormant. The best time to prune established blueberry bushes is in late winter while they are still dormant. We recommend doing this every winter for an annual pruning. By early spring, berries have already started forming and it is too late to prune. Berries are produced on young canes which are generally more reddish in color and lack the shredded bark characteristic of older canes.

Every winter growing season, remove broken and crossing branches. Remove low spreading branches and any that would touch the ground under the weight of berries. Remove canes that are more than seven years old, and save strong, upright canes that are two to four-years-old. Head back the tallest canes to a manageable height.

A rule of thumb is to completely remove at least the two oldest canes each winter. Fruit bearing blueberry bushes should be pruned so that they are narrow at the bottom and have a spreading, open crown that lets the sun in.

How to Prune Overgrown Blueberry Bushes

If your mature blueberry bushes have not been pruned in several years, they should be rejuvenated. Productivity is greatly reduced on branches that are more than six years old. Cut off about one-third (no more) of the oldest canes to within a few inches of the ground each winter for two or three years until there are no canes older than seven years. Remove any dead wood, crossed or damaged branches, as well older than 6 year old wood.

A slow-release fertilizer at the base of the plant will encourage growth after such a hack on mature bushes.

That’s all there is to properly prune blueberry bushes! Do it right and you will get bumper crops instead of mediocre crops in your home garden.

Blueberry bush before pruning | Photo by Oregon State University Blueberry bush after pruning

Read more about growing blueberry plants in our Blueberry Grow Guide.

Want the perfect assortment of blueberry varieties? Purchase 3 Blueberry Bushes for Best Cross Pollination – the package deal! Our Blueberry Soil Mix will have your soil amended to the perfect pH and nutrient level to have your berry bushes growing healthy and strong!

Not getting fruit on your blueberry bushes or don’t have the best fruit quality? Find out why your blueberry plant is not producing fruit.

Are you growing blueberries? Let us know where you are growing them in the comments below. If you enjoyed this article please like, comment, and share.