How To Plant Rabbiteye Blueberries

Overview

Pinkish-white unripe berries resembling the eyes of an albino rabbit give this American blueberry its name. Rabbiteye blueberries grow tall--as high as 15 feet in appropriate growing conditions. These bushes fare poorly in heavy clay soil, and in sandy soil would require drip irrigation. During planting, amend the soil to accommodate the plant's special needs.

Step 1

Take soil samples well before planting and consult with your county extension agent about necessary soil amendments. Blueberries grow best in soil pH from 4.0 to 5.0 and die in soil above pH 5.5. Sulfur powder acidifies the soil, while ammonium sulfate acidifies and fertilizes the soil. Because rabbiteye blueberries are especially sensitive to fertilizer, use sulfur powder to adjust soil pH. Test again 2 to 3 months later to be sure the site meets the plants' needs. Plant this southern blueberry in December to allow the maximum time for root regrowth.

Step 2

Plant rabbiteye blueberries in a row that runs north and south to ensure the bushes receive full sun. Plant individual bushes at least 6 feet apart, since the diameter of a mature rabbiteye blueberry could reach 10 feet. Allow at least 10 feet between rows for transporting mulch to the plants.

Step 3

Break up the root ball of rabbiteye blueberries grown in containers before planting in new ground. Use a knife to make three or four equally spaced vertical cuts in the matted roots, opening the growth pattern. Prune the tops back with pruning shears to between 6 and 12 inches in height, removing no more than half the top growth.

Step 4

Dig holes 2 feet across and 2 feet in depth for planting individual bushes. Mix the excavated soil with 1 to 2 gallons of peat. The amount of peat needed depends on the quality of the soil. Use more for heavy clay and less for sandy loam. Mound the peat and soil mix in the hole to make a base for the bush's roots. Spread the roots and set the plant at the same depth it grew in the container. Layer more soil mix in the hole and press firmly around the roots. Water thoroughly to eliminate air pockets.

Step 5

Mulch the rabbiteye blueberry bushes 4 to 6 inches deep with pine straw, hay or hardwood sawdust. Keep the mulch pulled back about 3 inches from the stem of the new plant. The mulch layer should be about 4 feet wide. When the depth of the mulch decreases to about 3 inches, add fresh mulch as a top layer. Mulch prevents heat stress and protects new roots, which grow at a very shallow depth.

Tips and Warnings

  • Don't overfertilize. Since new plants could be killed by fertilizer applications, use none in the first year. Ammonium sulfate both fertilizes and acidifies soil. Second-year plantings could benefit from two applications during the growing season. Since the right amount depends upon soil type and age of plants, consult your county extension agent for specialized advice.

Things You'll Need

  • Soil test kit
  • Ammonium sulfate or sulfur
  • Spade
  • Post-hole digger
  • Peat
  • Pruning shears
  • Knife
  • Rabbiteye blueberry plants
  • Sawdust or pine straw mulch
  • Rake

References

  • Rabbiteye Blueberries
  • Alabama Extension: Rabbiteye Blueberries
  • Establishment and Care of Blueberries

Who Can Help

  • Tips on Growing Blueberries
  • Rabbiteye Blueberry Varieties
Keywords: rabbiteye blueberries, plant fruit bushes, southern blueberry

About this Author

James Young began writing as a military journalist in Alaska and combat correspondent in Vietnam. His lifetime fascination with technical and manual arts yields decades of experience in electronics, turnery, blacksmithing, outdoor sports, woodcarving, joinery and sailing. Young's articles have been published in Tai Chi Magazine, Sonar 4 Ezine, The Marked Tree, Stars & Stripes, the SkinWalker Files and Fine Woodworking.