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A Simple Way to Prune Blueberries

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There are many schools of thought when it comes to pruning blueberry bushes. Some say you should do yearly removal of the thickest canes after a plant reaches three years of age. Others like to take a simpler approach, especially when they’ve had their blueberry bushes for many years and suddenly they notice the shrubs are not as productive. After about six or seven years, highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) canes tend to slow their berry production, so that’s when you’ll need to start your yearly pruning regimen.

Identify, then remove the oldest canes

The oldest canes on a blueberry are going to be thicker than a thumb and have gray, peeling bark. Removing up to a third of these canes will allow the plant’s energy to be focused on the younger, more vigorous canes. Removing the old canes means simply cutting them all the way back to the ground.

Newer hybrid blueberries get the same pruning treatment

The same pruning technique is good for the new self-pollinating hybrids such as Jelly Bean® (Vaccinium ‘ZF06-179’, Zones 4–8) or Peach Sorbet® (Vaccinium ‘ZF06-043’, Zones 5–10). Simply wait a few years and then cut back the oldest canes. These canes will still be thick and have exfoliating bark as well.

Low-bush blueberries are pruned differently

If you have a true low-bush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium), the pruning is a little different. After it reaches a level of maturity—that is, six or seven years—cut the entire plant back to the ground about every other year.

So it’s pretty simple. Wait several years, then start removing the oldest canes when the plant is dormant, which means in mid to late winter. This will ensure that your shrub remains young, healthy, and vigorous. And most importantly, this treatment ensures that you’ll harvest the maximum amount of fruit each year.

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