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Blueberry

Growing Blueberries in the Houston Area                                                                                        by: Deb Pavlosky

shrubSo, to answer your question, yes, you can grow blueberries in Houston and surrounding areas. They are relatively easy to grow and maintain with just a few simple requirements. First of all, blueberries need acidic soil (pH in the range of 4.2 to 5.5). The soil in our area is most often alkaline and can test as high as 8.0 on the pH scale. So, how do you overcome this seemingly large obstacle? There’s an easy solution, plant your blueberries in containers. A nice 20-30 gallon size container works very well for both rabbiteye and southern highbush varieties of blueberries that grow best in our area. For reference, I have included some pictures of the ½ whiskey barrels we sell at Maas, but any type of container will work. You can plant in the ground, but you will have to amend the soil with ground rock sulfur and peat moss and let it rest for a period of months before you can plant. Or, you can plant in a container today. Decision made, huh?

Ok, so once you have your containers (read on to find out why you are going to want to plant more than one blueberry variety) you need to locate them where they will get 8-10 hours of full sun daily. Less sun is ok, but you might not get as much fruit production if they get less sunlight.

Now, what kind of soil should you plant your blueberries in? Well, instead of using the word soil, I am going to call it a planting mix. A lot of folks online recommend using no soil at all (just a mixture of peat moss and mulch). So, if you are going to mix your own medium, you can (there are lots of recipes online). You just need to make sure the mix drains well and is acidic. Again, when it comes to choosing to plant today or having to wait to get the right mix, I am going to choose today. So, I prefer to use the Maas Nursery blueberry mix that is blended with compost, composted mulch, topsoil, washed sand, microlife, greensand and sulfur. This mix is ready to go for your blueberry bushes. Just fill your container and plant your blueberry bushes at the same level they were planted in the pot you bought them in. Don’t add any synthetic fertilizers to newly planted blueberry shrubs, their roots are fibrous, shallow and sensitive. Microlife that is already in the Maas planting mix is fine. You shouldn’t need to fertilize until the plants are acclimated to their environment. Even then, go organic and use Microlife.

Once you have your containers filled with soil and in the right sunny location, it’s time to pick your blueberries for planting. It is always best to plant three or more different varieties of blueberries together (6’ apart). Some blueberries are touted as being self-fruitful, but nearly all will be more productive if they are able to cross-pollinate with other blueberry varieties.

The following is a list of Rabbiteye* blueberry varieties that we carry at Maas Nursery:

Variety                                          Chill Hours**                                      Harvest Time***
Beckyblue                                         300 – 400 hours                                    May
Bountiful Blue                                 150 – 200 hours                                   June to July
Brightwell                                         350 – 400 hours                                  early June to early July
Climax                                               400 – 450 hours                                  late May to early June
Powderblue                                      550 to 600 hours                                 late June to late July
Premier                                             550 hours                                              late May to early June
Tifblue                                               600 – 700 hours                                  late June to July

* Rabbiteye varieties are named that because the berries turn pink before they turn blue (like a rabbits eye). These bushes can grow quite large, up to 10’ wide and 15’ tall when mature (7-8 years) if not pruned.

**Chill Hours are the number of hours required between 32-45 F

***Harvest Time varies by location and weather 

The following is a list of Southern Highbush* blueberry varieties that we carry at Maas Nursery:

Variety                                             Chill Hours                                          Harvest Time
Abundance                                          300 hours                                                  June to July
Emerald                                              200-300 hours                                          mid May
Gulf Coast                                          200 -300 hours                                          mid May
Jubilee                                                500 hours                                                    June
Misty                                                   200 hours                                                   late May to June
Oneal                                                  400 – 500 hours                                        late May to June
Springhigh                                         200 hours                                                   mid May to mid June
Sunshine                                             150 hours                                                   late June to July

**Though called southern highbush, these varieties only reach 6’ tall at most when mature (some even shorter).

**Chill Hours are the number of hours required between 32-45 F

***Harvest Time varies by location and weather 

There is a lot of information online about the pros and cons of so many different varieties of blueberries (flavor, size, when they ripen, etc), it is best that you do your own research to determine which ones will be best for your own situation. Any of the above will grow well and produce tasty blueberries in our area.

shrub

You can intermix varieties of blueberries between rabbiteye and southern highbush for your containers. If you don’t need a “bushel and a peck” of berries, it will be hard to limit your choices to just three varieties to grow. But, that’s the fun part, right?

Anyway, as with all new plantings – water regularly, but don’t allow standing water (the medium they are planted in must drain well). A good layer of mulch (you can use pine straw too if you would like) will definitely benefit these shrubs. After your plants are established you can further care for them by fertilizing with a good organic fertilizer, like Microlife, suggested times are late winter to early bud break and again after harvest, but you can’t go wrong with Microlife. Also, once your bushes are a few years old, rejuvenate them by pruning the oldest canes as they become unproductive.

Really, that’s it to good blueberry growing. It’s pretty easy. There are a few pest/disease issues that can pop up, but these varieties are pretty resistant. With good care (acid soil, regular watering, good drainage, 8-10 hours full sun, mulching, organic fertilizer and rejuvenation pruning once established,) you will be producing more blueberries than you can eat. Enjoy!