Whether it’s any herb, shrub or a tree, pruning can make all the difference in the world when it comes to overall health of the plant. Pruning is the yearly or, in some cases, seasonal practice of cutting down old, diseased stems and branches to induce new growth in the plant. It improves air circulation and sunlight penetration which helps the plant to maximize its potential for growth and yield. Same is true for the blueberry. Pruning your blueberries regularly and knowing how to prune blueberries properly, will increase productivity of your plant by inducing new growth of fruit bearing stems. By cutting the diseased or dead branches, the nutrients of the plant would be utilized more productively towards fruits. However, there’s a catch!
As good as pruning sounds, you can’t just pick up your pruning shears and go crazy out in your garden. Blueberries require a balance between light pruning and too aggressive pruning. Light pruning won’t serve the purpose for which you wanted to prune the plant in the first place and too aggressive pruning can lead to reduction in yield. The proper way of pruning ‘trains’ the blueberries to grow in a structured way which results in an increased yield of fruits.
How to tackle this problem? If only you had a complete step-by-step guide to learn how to prune blueberries!
I have compiled this simple guide just to address this very issue! Read on for simple yet practical tips on pruning blueberries
Stepwise Guidance On Pruning Blueberries
When To Prune?
For those of you who have their pruning shears in their hands, hold on a second! There is a proper time for everything. So is true for pruning. Pruning is most effective when done at the right time. If done otherwise, it can do more harm than good. It is generally agreed upon that pruning in the winter is most effective as the plant is in dormancy and no photosynthesis is taking place.
During winter, where the blueberry is dormant, you can clearly see and discern which branches are old or new. By examining the color and texture of the branches, you can see that the young branches still look light brown and while the old ones look like old wood and are hard. Now that you have discerned which branches are old or new, prune off the old ones to make way for new growth. Winter is the best time for them to be pruned since the plant is dormant and there is no activity within its system, which means that the plant won’t be harmed when pruned.
The places where blueberries grow well are places that have winter seasons from December to March. This plant is resilient to cold weather conditions and even some varieties can survive -35 degrees Fahrenheit. All blueberries need some cold hours in order to bear some fruit, without some cold hours the blueberries won’t produce some fruit. However, you could wait till early march to avoid the risk of cold injury due to severe weather and also since winter has just passed there might be some branches that are damaged which you should prune off to.
There is no one answer for How to prune blueberries. Pruning can differ based on the age and condition of the plant. Different methodology is followed for younger and maintained plants than a little older and less maintained plants. Both will be discussed in detail below.
What do You Need to Prune Blueberries?
When pruning blueberries, you will need a few basic tools to get the job done. Here are the tools you will need:
- Pruning shears: A good pair of pruning shears is essential for trimming back the stems of your blueberry bushes. Look for a pair with sharp blades and a grip that is comfortable for you.
- Loppers: For thicker branches or stems, you may need a pair of loppers. These are like large pruning shears, but with longer handles and more leverage for cutting thicker branches.
- Hand saw: If you need to remove larger branches, you may need a hand saw. Look for one with a sharp blade and comfortable handle.
- Mini Chainsaw: This is a great alternative to hand tools and can get the job done quicker and easier. Check out our Ultimate Guide to Mini Chainsaws, here.
- Gloves: Blueberry bushes can have scratchy branches, so wearing gloves is important to protect your hands from scratches and cuts.
- Safety glasses: When pruning branches above your head, it’s a good idea to wear safety glasses to protect your eyes from falling debris.
Young Blueberry Plants: Practical Tips for Pruning In First Year
When pruning blueberries, you should always ‘start them young’. First pruning comes at the time of plantation.
Here are some tips to consider before starting pruning off your blueberries. First of all, do not pluck branches as those can severely damage the stems of the plant, instead, use the tools we have recommended, when doing the pruning. Secondly, make sure to use some sanitized cleaned shears or scissors. This is particularly important as dirty tools can lead to the spread of diseases, especially so much more so when you are moving from branch to branch. You can use bleach or lysol to sanitize your shears or scissors. And finally, when pruning, be meticulous about the details. Follow each instruction carefully so that your blueberries will yield much more fruit when the fruiting season comes!
STEP#1: Get Rid of the Weak!
Look for any diseased or damaged branches. Cut them to the base. You shouldn’t let any diseased or damaged branches stick around since they can help spread the disease to the healthy branches. The signs that a branch is sick is when it looks shriveled and discolored. Don’t hesitate to cut whole stems if they are damaged. Better safe than sorry! When you prune off the dead or damaged branches, make sure that you are continually disinfecting the shears as you move on from branch to branch to avoid the spread of the diseases.
If you notice some soft twigs that are soft in texture and are frail looking, cut them off as well. You can typically see them under the plant where they can’t receive much sunlight. Cutting off will preserve some energy resources that will be needed when the fruiting season comes. Additionally, remove some fruit bearing branches that are touching to the ground. The fruits should not touch the ground when they are bearing.
STEP#2: Keep your Plant Open!
Cut the crisscrossing branches since we don’t want suffocation and shading. Cut them to the ground for maximum light to reach the center of the plant.
STEP#3: The Fewer the better!
When pruning the blueberries first year, cut about one third of the remaining branches to the ground. Painful as it may be, it would help stimulate new growth and make sure that you continue to get new growth each season.
STEP#4: A Hard Pill to Swallow!
When pruning blueberries first year, don’t let the blueberries bloom in the first year. Cut all the flowers as you want the plant to focus on growing rather than bearing fruit. Hence, you won’t be having your blueberries in the breakfast any time soon! It’s better to continue to remove flowers for the next year as well to ensure that the plant grows to its potential.
Step#1 all the way to Step#3, are equally applicable on older blueberry plants which have been regularly pruned!
Older Blueberry Plants: How to prune overgrown blueberry bushes?
Now that your blueberry plant has gone wild due to little or no pruning, it’s time to press the restart button. How to prune overgrown blueberry bushes will depend on how bad the situation is. For a bushy mess, you are required to at least cut half of the branches all the way to the ground. Choose oldest and thickest of the branches for pruning. This includes the damaged and diseased branches as well. This force-starts the growth of new fruit bearing canes. Branches older than 7 years usually have a very reduced potential for production and should be pruned. Also, remove any branches which show less production in subsequent years. This will help plant to focus its energy on more productive canes.
Continue to remove older branches for the next few years until you have gotten rid of the elderly. Now, you can shift towards the regimen for the properly pruned blueberries.
Should You be Pruning Blueberries in Summer?
There is such a thing as ‘overdoing it’. Same applies if you start pruning at every opportunity you get. Pruning blueberries in the summer can limit your future harvests as fruit buds for the next year’s growth are not visible. Also, there is always a risk of cold injury come winter, if you prune late in summer. Best time to prune is the late winter when the canes can be examined easily, and any flower buds can be identified.
Final Thoughts on How to Prune Blueberries
Proper pruning is the key to optimizing your blueberry plant for a bountiful yield. Pruning at the right time can save you the trouble of cutting down the whole bush for the survival of the bush. Pruning requires knowing you plant well. You must analyze the situation of your plant first and make decisions accordingly. At times, you will have to make tough decisions like giving up fruit for the growth, but it’ll pay dividends in the end. Trust me!
Pruning requires effort so does every worthwhile thing in the world. Effort of today will (literally) bear fruit in the long run. You will then be able to take advantage of all of the tasty benefits and health benefits this fruit has to offer. This simple ‘How to prune blueberries’ guide will help in every way to achieve a better growth the next year. All that’s required from you is a little persistence and you’re good to go!
Do you have any thoughts or tips you’d like to share? Or any questions perhaps? Comment below! Our website also offers other guides as well such as How To Grow Enoki Mushrooms and How to Grow Kale. There are a lot more tips, guides, and tutorials our website can offer, you simply have to browse them to look for more!