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Blueberry 'Chandler' growing on in a patio container

How to prune blueberries

With a little care, your blueberry plants will continue to produce abundant crops of delicious, healthy blueberries for many years. To get the most from your bushes, it's really important to give them a prune each year - do it in February or March, before the plant gets busy growing. Here's how.

Know your plants

Blueberries grow on year-old wood

Blueberries grow on wood that's at least a year old, with harvests peaking on two-year-old stems before fading as the canes get older. The more vigorous younger stems are easy to identify – they're a vibrant red colour as opposed to the grey "woodier" looking older stems.

Stems that are more than four years old cease to bear much fruit, so it's a good idea to prune them out and encourage new growth to replace it. A mature bush should contain around one third young shoots, one third prime growth and a third older growth.

Fruit grows off side shoots to the main stems which grew the previous year. You obviously don't want to prune the best fruiting stems, but thankfully it's easy to tell the difference between buds that will become fruit, and those destined to become foliage. Fruiting buds are much bigger than leaf buds, but thinning them out will result in larger fruit.

Pruning

White blueberry buds on bush
Images: shutterstock/ atiger

Using a pair of sharp secateurs, trim up to one quarter of the very oldest wood back to ground level, or to where a strong young shoot branches off vertically. Remove any horizontal stems growing close to ground level - you don't want fruit coming into contact with the soil.

Remembering to disinfect your secateurs to prevent the spread of infection from one cane to another, remove any dead, diseased or damaged stems, as well as any stems that rub together. Also remove any twiggy growth from the ends of canes which fruited last year.

Keep the fruiting branches from getting too tall by snipping off growth that's becoming a stretch too far. Cut these stems just above a side branch to encourage growth to spread out rather than up.

Pruning creates an open framework of healthy fruiting stems, ensuring a bumper harvest of blueberries each summer. Check out the video below for more information.