The main function of pruning blueberry bushes is to balance the plant between the vegetative and reproductive organs, that is, to seek a balance between productive and renewal branches, which are necessary every year to continue producing quality fruit.
But depending on the age of the plant, pruning will be different and more complex the older the plant is. In this article, we will explain everything you need to know about pruning blueberry bushes.
We also recommend our guide on how to grow blueberries.
Reasons for Pruning Blueberry Bushes
Pruning blueberry bushes is an essential task in the winter for several reasons.
- Proper pruning provides open growth, which improves air circulation, opens the center of the plant to sunlight, and reduces disease.
- Annual pruning maintains productivity by encouraging new fruiting stem growth.
- It also removes dead or damaged branches.
- Pruning increases fruit quality because the bush can put more energy into producing fruit, not more leaves.
The goal of good blueberry bush pruning is to remove enough old growth to encourage new production. And to do so without negatively affecting blueberry production for the next season.
When Should Blueberry Bushes Be Pruned?
The time for pruning blueberry bushes, like most fruit trees, is in winter during the vegetative rest of the plant, that is, from November to March.
In winter, old branches look very different from new ones in color and texture. In addition, pruning during the dormant season makes the plant less stressed.
Tools for Proper Pruning
For pruning blueberry bushes we must have the appropriate pruning tools because without them we could damage the plant and thus completely ruin it. Here are some tools that we have already tested in our garden and we recommend them to you.
Always remember before pruning blueberry bushes to properly disinfect your tools to avoid diseases in your blueberry.
Pruning small blueberry bushes, which are normally one year old, we must make sure to remove all the flower buds to favor that all the energy of the blueberry plant is focused on the growth of the root system and the development of new vigorous shoots that can produce quality fruit in the next seasons.
To do this we must prune the blueberry plant hard by cutting the vigorous branches about 4″- 6″ (10-15 cm) from the base of the stem and remove the rest of the weak branches.
For blueberry plants in the large format, we can already produce fruit immediately, but we must seek a balance between the aerial part and the root system.
To do this we are going to do a lighter pruning by removing all the flower buds from the weak branches close to the ground, leaving only the flower buds that are located on the most vigorous branches. In this way, we will achieve a good balance and the plant will be able to produce quality blueberries without affecting its growth.
How to Prune Blueberry Bushes
Next, we are going to show you how to prune an adult blueberry plant. To do this we are going to perform what is known as “renewal pruning”. As we said at the beginning, we must remove some of the oldest branches, in this way we will favor the emission of new vigorous shoots in which we will produce fruit in the coming years.
The easiest way to identify the branches to be cut is by color, these have gray tones, while the younger ones have reddish or green tones depending on the variety.
We will cut the oldest branches of the blueberry plant at a height from the ground of about 15″- 20″ (40-50 cm) because below that height we are not interested in producing fruit. Sometimes these old branches already have a new vigorous shoot, so instead of cutting at 20″ (50 cm), we will cut just above the new shoot to take advantage of it. It is in these cuts that the new shoots will be emitted.
At the same time, to favor the emission of these new shoots we must have the inside of the bush’s crown clean and clear of branches so that sunlight can enter. When the inside of the crown is not well aerated, the new shoots are weak and not vigorous and will not produce quality fruit.
Once all the old branches have been cut, we will continue with a more thorough pruning; first, we will remove all the twigs from the blueberry plant that is close to the ground, below 20″ (50 cm), since fruit close to the ground is of poorer quality.
Next, we continue with the pruning in the medium-high zone of the blueberry plant, eliminating all the dry or old twigs, where there are practically no flower buds. As before, to remove these twigs we can be guided by the color, these will have a grayish color while the younger ones will be reddish.
At the end of these young twigs, we can observe the flower buds, it is in these where we will produce quality fruit. Once the pruning is correctly completed, we can observe that the predominant tone of the medium-high part of the blueberry plant is reddish, which indicates that most of the twigs are young.