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Blueberry Containers & Soil

February 18, 2006


Hi, I've been trying to get info on growing my blueberries in containers and found the link in one of the threads. Problem is... where do I get the stuff. Well, peat moss is easy. But Azalea mix is an arm and a leg for a container that size & I don't know of any nursery that sells pathway bark (and neither does Lowe's). Anyone have any suggestions or substitutes?

Comments (23)

  • khabibul35

    PS - Is Azalea mix organic... or is there an acid plant mix that's organic

  • gonebananas_gw

    I grow them in a mixture mainly of peat moss and ground pine or hardwood bark, but bark of the size smaller than mulch. Any big garden center (Lowes included) has this finer bark quite cheaply in big bags labeled "soil conditioner." A little manure or preferably acid fertilizer (I use cottonseed meal as it is slow acting and cheap from a feed and seed store where it is sold in big bags for feed). In both case by big I mean about 40 pounds.

  • ericwi

    Blueberry shrubs can be successfully grown, in the ground, in a 50/50 mix of dirt and peat moss. Is there some reason that the same ratio would not work in a container?

  • goodground

    You can get some plain soil from Wal-Mart. They have them in blue bags and should be under $1 per bag. That soil seems heavy for containers so you don't need much at all. Maybe just a bag or two. Mix it with peat and add perlite to make the container lighter and for better drainage. I'm sure some people grow it in peat alone, so you can grow it in peat and perlite if you don't want to add any dirt.

  • khabibul35

    OK, again I revisited my local lowes and there's no pathway bark or shredded park.

    Also, instead of peat the garden specialist recommended Humus for blueberries.

    Was that a mistake? Since I can't get the stuff recommended from the website... what do you guys think of doing this stuff.

    1/4 Organic Humus (It said it was forest byproduct)
    1/6 Azalea Mix (Nutrients and Acidifier)
    1/6 Perlite (Moisture retention/better drainage)
    1/6 Small Bark Mulch (Moisture retention/better drainage)
    1/4 Oragnic Soil

    Good enough? Would really appreciate any help you can give me.

  • thisbud4u

    That sounds about perfect to me.

  • jenny_in_se_pa

    I've been growing blueberries in containers for almost 10 years. As long as you can keep the pH of the mix in the 4.5 - 6.0 (5.5 is optimum) range, whatever mix you put together should be okay. I essentially have grown mine in 50/50 sphaghnum peat and soiless container mix. The better container mixes already have drainage material in them. I also try to pile on shredded oak leaves as a "mulch" that will eventually decompose over time and helps keep the acidity low. I fertilize with Hollytone (which is a natural fertilizer with acidifier).

  • karpes2

    I am about to plant blueberries in plastic barrels. I will cut 55 gallon barrels to a height that will give me approximately 40 gallons. My question is will they out grow this size container?

  • jenny_in_se_pa

    Karpes - that size should be fine for a substantial-sized bush when mature. I have mine in 12" (5 gallon equiv) containers and they are 5 - 6ft tall but not as thick and bushy as they could be if in a larger container or in the ground (and in my limited space, that's fine with me as I still get a good harvest). The bushes will only grow as much as it takes to fill that container with roots. Once that happens, it often starts to "sacrifice" a few of the oldest canes for you (ie., those that you can normally prune out to encourage new fruiting canes anyway). Basically, once mature and filling the container, the plant will balance itself out to maintain itself in that container. This isn't stopping you from potting it up to an even larger size container or placing in the ground to get further growth. But I've found that shrubs don't seem to "outgrow", they self-prune and do other things (dwarf) to adapt to whereever they are, provided they receive the nutrition, light, temperatures, and water they need.

  • karpes2

    My soil is ph 7 so I think the containers are my best bet. I would prefer tmem in the ground,but i understand that it's a pain. I am going to try username's recommendation of 70% peat. I read that they will do well in 100% peat.
    Thanks again Karl

  • mollybee

    Questions for those with experience with blueberries. I live at 10,000 feet in the mountains of Colorado. I want to grow blueberries. From the research I've done I'm starting to think containers are my best bet. But this creates more questions. I've read about containers like pots on a deck that are mobile and then some that sound like they get buried?? If you have mobile pots what do you do with them in the winter? My growing season up here is not very long but I have seen plants advertizedd for my zone so I'm assuming that I can grow them up here - anybody have some experience with growing them at this altitude? What would be the best type of blueberry for me to try?

  • angie83

    I use the rose dirt and add some hollytone these are in pots then placed in ground they love it they are Sunshine Blues and full of flowers .I use rain water to water they dont like city water and they hate it when I fert them they very picky.Good luck.

  • jenny_in_se_pa

    Molly - you know better what your winter lows are on average. I grow highbush blueberries that are rated hardy to Zone 4/5. So the rule of thumb of looking for plants rated 1 - 2 zones lower than your conditions, is your best bet for container-growing if you don't want to have to move them or do any major protection. For me, I do nothing to mine in winter as they are already bunched together and I let them get snowed on (a good insulator). Don't have a picture uploaded from last February of them but here's one from Jan. 2005 (the blues are the 5 smaller pots between the larger lilac containers):


    If you get less hardy ones for your area, then if you can, you could bury the pots or put them in a shed or garage that doesn't go as low as the outside temps.

  • mollybee

    Thanks for the post.......but I don't think I can get blueberries rated for a lower zone. I'm already at Zone 4 and 10,400 feet! I can't seem to get an answer anywhere (including here - from another post) on how to find out about my "growing days". I'm just wondering if I could do the following: Plant them in containers and build a little mobile type green house just for temporary protection in the spring so they could get a head start on the short season. Then just after winter sets in move the containers in under the house.
    Another big question I can't seem to get answered is do they have to have light in the winter when they are domant or can I keep them under the house??

  • bjs496

    Does anyone growing blueberries in containers acidify their water. It was briefly mentioned in the article. I remember reading somewhere (perhaps in the forum) that water pH was as important (if not more so) than the growing medium pH. At home (Houston) not only is the soil alkaline, but the water also has a high pH. Since I travel so much, I need a sprinkler system connected to the tap. This would make growing blueberries impractical for me in Houston. Any thoughts?

    thanks in advance,

  • bfreeman_sunset20

    Mollybee, sounds like you need to experiment some. However I think you have a long enough season. Just plant the northern rabbiteye varieties which are used to the cold north. Blueberries like cool weather, I dont think an early cold spell will hurt them, even if they are fruiting. They fruit in winter in areas of california. They might be slow to grow, since dormancy will be most of the year.

  • akarinz

    Here's the recipe that I was given, that I am going to try:

    select the low chill Southern Highbush varieties such as South Moon, Sunshine Blue, Misty or OÂNeal. Plant blueberries in 15 gallon containers using 1/3 peat moss and 2/3 organic potting soil. Fertilize with 1 to 2 cups of cottonseed meal to help acidify the soil since blueberries like acidic soils.


  • angie83

    James you dont live far from me I use rain water all the ones I used tap water died so you can also get alumin sulfate in a box people use it to get there hydrangea to turn blue When I cant get rain water I mix some with water and let set over night and water nexted day with it.But tap water will kill your blueberry fast .

  • sdrone

    It was driving me nuts that I couldn't find the stuff mentioned in that link, so I poked around that website for 20m until I found an email address for the guy in the picture messing with the blueberry containers.

    He said he'd heard of the "can't find this stuff" issue before for people "out east"; I think he means east of California.

    Anyway, after a few emails, this is what we came up with:

    50% pine bark mulch
    30% potting soil
    20% medium bark

    He recommended adding Hollytone fertilizer to the container at the rate specified on the bag. He thinks that's the best blueberry fertilizer. I can't find this anywhere but a nursery. If you can't find that, just use azalea fertilizer.00

    The first 2 ingredients are anywhere. The 3rd wasn't easy to find. I found "large western bark" and "medium western bark" at Walmart. I found "bark nuggets" at Menard's.

  • tweedbunny

    I live in Southwestern Utah in the desert and I've had these sucessfully growing (cross my fingers) since February. One's a Sunshine Blue and the other is Misty. I originally had them in the ground with afternoon shade, but by the first of April it was already TOO HOT so I moved them to pots last month against the north side of the house. As I understand, very much dirt is too heavy to put into pots and usually results in suffocating the plant, especially my heavy 8+ PH clay stuff. I used ABOUT:

    40% peat moss from Lowes
    25% compost with bark pieces from the city reuse center
    15% sawdust litter and rabbit droppings
    10% dirt
    10% kitchen scraps (banana peels, eggshells, coffee, etc)

    I HOPE they continue to succeed, even when the temps are 110 here. The north side of the house provides a nice microclimate about 10 degrees coolers so...
    Wish me luck!



  • ErikC

    Replying here to bjs496 regarding water acidification... Yes, I use a method adapted from Bamboo Rabbit's formula. I mix 2 liters of 33% sulphuric acid to about 4.5 gallons of rain water which I keep in a 5 gallon jerry can. About 1/4 a cup makes about 5 gallons of my local water a pH of 6; a 1/2 cup is about 4.5. I use a pH strip to calibrate and a Kelway soil tester to monitor my soil. It's pretty easy once one gets used to it, and no more dangerous than working with laundry bleach, at least once the diluted solution is made. It works wonders - keeps my pH right at 5.0 (or wherever I want it - I'll lower it slightly if anticpating rain, etc). Sulphuric acid is better for the roots than any other kind of acid, including vinegar. Care must be taken when mixing the first, concentrated solution, but it's no more dangerous than adding acid to a car battery. The acid itself cost me about $9/liter, $18 dollars to fill up my jerry can. I use about $30 a year acidifying water for my 18 blueberries (14 northern highbush, three compact southern highbush and one half-high). In my first year, my blueberries have reached 3 1/2-5' tall each, extremely healthy and vigorous. I also use rain water, but I always run out of water in-between rains due to all the blueberries I've been adding to my plantings (I plan to buy a bigger rain barrel next spring). If you can solve the water problem, growing blueberries is a cinch - if one is relying on tap water and soil sulphur, it's a pain in the arse. My blues get the 1/4 cup treatment every time I water and the 1/2 cup treatment any time we've had heavy rains and the pH has crept up. On the last batch of solution I made, I also added a cup of iron sulphate - helps keep my iron level very high, while adding it in small increments.

  • Konrad..just outside of Edmonton Alberta

    I've seen these in Switzerland...thought I should add to this thread.

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