Blueberries are a fantastic choice for a low maintenance, non-invasive, and easy to harvest plant that thrives in most North American climates. As a perennial, blueberries are permanent bushes that offer the benefits of being both beautiful decoration and a source of delicious nutrition. Although caring for and pruning blueberries is simple, they do require transplanting when the plants have become too large for a particular area, or are growing into each other. Side shoots of blueberry plants can also be planted in new areas to multiply your blueberry patch, or start one from a generous friend or neighbor’s established plants. Learn how to successfully transplant blueberries with our 7 step guide!
Blueberry bushes should be transplanted during their dormant season, which spans from early November to mid-March, dependent on climate. Transplanting during a hard frost is never advisable, so aim for early fall or spring if you live in a harsher climate. During this time the roots of the plant will have regulated to a temperature at which they can maintain enough heat to stay alive underground. The plant will also not be sending energy to its leaf buds at that point yet.
1. The initial step in transplanting involves choosing a site for your blueberry bushes. Different blueberry varieties enjoy different amounts of sunlight, but the general rule with these berries is approximately 6-8 hours of sun for most of the summer season. A relatively isolated transplanting site that is not too close to trees or other large plants is also beneficial, as the new berry bushes wont have to compete for water and nutrients.
2. You can test the soil in the planting site with a soil testing kit, and augment it for acidity if necessary. Blueberries like soil with pH levels between 4.0 and 5.0. Wood chips, and oak leaves can be used as mulches once the bushes have been transplanted, or mix peat moss into the topsoil. Depending on the size of the bush you are transplanting, you will have to dig a hole slightly larger than the root wad and soil you will be transferring. Make an approximate measurement, as you will still be able to make the hole larger if necessary. If planting several plants, make sure to leave at least 5 to 6 feet in between each plant, and 8 to 10 feet between each row of plants for better yields and easier harvesting.
3. Blueberries have a shallow root system with no tap root, so you wont need to dig too far into the ground to release them–one foot deep at maximum. If transplanting an established plant, dig a trench with about a one-foot radius from the base of the plant with a flat garden shovel. You will have to slice the larger roots that spread further out with the tip of the shovel. Once you’ve made the trench and severed the ends of the larger roots, gently lift the plant by sliding the shovel underneath it. Repeat this around the entire plant until its roots are completely free of the ground. Gently drag or wheelbarrow the plant to the transplanting site.
If you are transplanting a side shoot, take a flat garden shovel and carefully cut the root approximately halfway between the base of the established plant and the base of the side shoot. Dig the side shoot out in the manner described above, making a smaller trench around the base. Carefully carry the transplant the new site, or pot in acidic soil until you are ready to plant it.
4. Once your transplants are in the ground, make sure to water the thoroughly if the soil is dry and you are not expecting rain. Mulch the base of the plant with oak leaves, wood chips or sawdust, as these help retain soil acidity and keep moisture close to the roots of the plants. Don’t tuck the mulch too close to the base of the plant, leaving a ring of bare earth approximately two inches in radius to allow air circulation.
6. Making sure that your new transplants receive enough water is key. If no rain is in the forecast, water you blueberry bushes once a week for about an hour, ideally using rainwater rather than tap water, which increases the soil’s alkalinity levels. Your yield may be set back for the first year after transplanting, but your plants will be happier with better air circulation and more sunlight. Small side shoots will take several years before they produce a proper yield, but will last for decades afterwards.
7. Once drier weather sets in, blueberry plants should be watered approximately every 3 days for about 2 hours straight. Blueberries take overhead watering well, so sprinkler system provides an easy set up. Taking care of your berry bushes and spreading them out will be well worth it when those delightful blue-purple morsels of sweetness appear on the delicate branches. Blueberry pizza anyone?
Images: David Christian