February Is a Great Time to Prune Blueberries!

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Blueberries at the farmers’ market. Photo by Debbie Roos.

Blueberries are a popular crop for commercial farmers as well as home gardeners in North Carolina. They are fairly easy to grow if provided the right conditions and don’t require pesticides to produce a good crop. This makes them a popular choice among organic growers.

Blueberries require annual pruning to reliably produce a high quality crop and maintain bush height to facilitate harvest. Pruning can sometimes intimidate new growers who call Cooperative Extension for help and advice. I have teamed up several times with NC State University Blueberry Specialist Bill Cline to conduct blueberry pruning demonstrations in Chatham County.

NCSU Blueberry Specialist Bill Cline demonstrates how to prune rabbiteye blueberry plants at Howard’s Farm in Chatham County for a Cooperative Extension workshop. Photo by Debbie Roos.

Blueberry pruning is done during the dormant season, usually between December-early March in the piedmont. Many people are reluctant to prune because it removes some of the flower buds and reduces berry production for the year, but if pruning is neglected berries get increasingly smaller and bush health declines. Consider pruning an investment in the long-term success of your plants!

graphic of pruned blueberry bushes

Pruning diagram. Graphic by Bill Cline.

Photo of before and after blueberry bushes were pruned.

Side-by-side comparison of blueberry bushes before and after pruning. Slide by Bill Cline.

Flower buds are formed in late summer and early fall. If fully pollinated, each flower bud can produce 3-7 berries. Photo by Debbie Roos.

Blueberry flower buds are formed in late summer and early fall. If fully pollinated, each flower bud can produce 3-7 berries. Photo by Debbie Roos.

NC State University has some excellent resources to help growers with blueberry pruning. Once you understand the why and how of pruning it all makes sense and you will be ready to prune your own bushes!

This video of Bill Cline narrating a Power Point presentation all about blueberry pruning is very helpful because he uses graphics and photos to explain how to prune blueberries. I highly recommend you start by watching this:

Blueberry Pruning Video with Bill Cline

Bill has put together other excellent guides full of helpful illustrations showing how to prune – these are linked below, along with some other resources I think are useful. Make sure to check them out!

Pruning Blueberries:

Blueberry Pruning Video with Bill Cline

Video of Bill Cline Conducting a Blueberry Puning Workshop and Demonstration

Blueberry Production and Pruning in North Carolina – North Carolina State University

Pruning Blueberries Fact Sheet – North Carolina State University

Principles of Pruning the Highbush Blueberry – North Carolina State University

General Blueberry Production:

Recordings of Blueberry Production Webinars from Fall 2021 – Growing Small Farms

Blueberry Growers Portal – NC State Extension

The NC Blueberry Journal (blog) – North Carolina State University

Blueberry Freeze Damage and Protection Measures – North Carolina State University

2019 Blueberry School – Southern Region Small Fruit Consortium

Blueberry Production for Local Sales and Small Pick-Your-Own Operators – North Carolina State University

Grower Resource List for Fruits – NC State Extension

Postharvest Cooling and Handling of Blueberries – North Carolina State University

Weather and Climate: Blueberries – NC State Extension

The Southern Region Small Fruit Consortium

Organic Blueberry Production – ATTRA

Blueberry Pollinators – NC State Extension

Lowering the Soil pH with Sulfur – Michigan State University

Blueberry Pest Management Resources

Blueberry Disease Notes – NC State Extension

Blueberry Insect Pests – NC State Extension

2022 Southeast Regional Blueberry IPM Guide – Southern Region Small Fruit Consortium

Preventing and Managing Spotted Wing Drosophila Infestation (with video for salt extraction method) – NC State Extension

Spotted Wing Drosophila Biology – NC State Extension

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