How to grow yummy blueberries
Blueberries belong the same family as the azalea (who knew!). With the right conditions they will give you lots of fruit that’s well-known for being packed with antioxidants – but the best part is, they’re delicious!
There are three basic varieties of blueberries: Lowbush, Highbush and Rabbiteye. The warm-climate Highbush and Rabbiteye varieties grow well in Perth.
Soil types and watering
Blueberries thrive in sandy acidic soil (pH 4.5 - 5.5). The soil needs to be well draining with plenty of organic matter (but not manure). Mulch well and if in a pot, position your pots so they get plenty of sun. Keep your plants moist and avoid bore water if possible as blueberries are sensitive to the dissolved salts. Blueberries will also benefit from an application of sulphate of potash each year in spring.
Blueberries are relatively shallow rooted, so maintain a good layer of mulch (kept clear from the trunk of the shrub), throughout the warmer months to keep the soil cool and moist.
It will take a couple of years before you can expect produce from your plant, but a mature plant can produce up to 7kg of fruit. Blueberries need to completely ripen on the bush, so leaving the berries on the bush for a week after they have turned blue will ensure maximum sweetness. Individual berries ripen at different times so you can harvest throughout the season rather than having to deal with a sudden glut.
Prune in late winter to remove any old wood and open out the centre of the bush. Each branch will be productive for about 6 years and should be removed after this. Blueberries should be left to grow for at least 3–4 years prior to pruning, to give the roots time to develop and the plant to establish.
Pop them in a pot!
Blueberries thrive when grown in pots. Choose a premium potting mix designed for azaleas and camellias. This will provide blueberries with the best possible start and the right root conditions.
It’s not unusual for some leaves to burn in very hot conditions. Blueberries are best grown in part sun with protection from the hot afternoon sun and winds. You might also want to cover your precious blueberries with netting to stop the birds getting their beaks on them!
Varieties commonly available in Perth include:
- Blue Rose – Produces large berries mid-season. Taller growing variety, up to 2m high. Prune well.
- Burst – Australian bred compact variety growing to 1 m high. Produces very large fruit early in the season. Suitable for coastal areas as well as the general Perth area. Heavy cropper.
- Climax – Medium sized fruit early in the season. Suitable for more coastal areas as well as the general Perth area.
- Legacy – Produces medium sized fruit, mid-season. Suitable for coastal areas. Vigorous and upright growing.
- Northland – Tolerant to extremes of heat and cold. Long harvest period from December – March.
- Sunshine Blue – Compact growing variety producing high yields early in the season. Suitable for coastal areas as well as the general Perth area.