Blueberry bushes do well in the long growing season of Mississippi, but pruning fruit-bearing bushes often seems to intimidate new gardeners. But the pruning really isn't complicated, and with a few special considerations for your southern location, you'll be prepared and confident to do the job and establish a healthy, well-shaped and productive grove of blueberry bushes. Sharp clippers or pruning shears will make your pruning job much easier.
Planting and First Year
Identify any branches that are dead, diseased, weak or broken for removal. Do not prune back for size or shape at this time; merely remove unhealthy branches from the plant. The first pruning should be done at the time of planting; don't wait until hot Mississippi weather sets in. This will cause additional stress to the young blueberry bush.
Use sharp clippers and cut at the base of each branch you are removing. Work your way around the bush, firmly holding the branch to be removed in one hand and using clippers to snip it cleanly off. Take off any branches that look unhealthy: broken, mold or fungi present, no leaves or dead/dying leaves.
Remove all flower buds as well to encourage healthy plant growth rather than fruit production.
Water well after pruning. Pay close attention to watering needs during the Mississippi summer. The pruning is meant to encourage growth, but without adequate water the bush will not be able to grow.
Fertilize a month after the initial pruning.
Repeat the same process at the one-year mark after planting; again, it should be in the early spring, when the plant is budding out. You want to encourage growth again because the plant is still establishing itself. Remove any branches that are damaged or diseased.
Leave 20 to 30 flower buds if the plant is healthy and growing well. If the plant is slow in growth, remove all flower buds to encourage more plant growth rather than fruit production.
Two Years' Growth and Up
Identify and clip any unhealthy branches back every spring. Follow the same process of starting at one point and working your way around the bush, top to bottom, to find and remove any branches that are broken, have been damaged, have signs of disease or have no healthy leaves.
Leave the flower buds intact (except those attached to unhealthy branches) when pruning during this time, unless the plant is extremely slow growing. If the plant is growing slowly, fertilize three times: once in spring, once in mid-summer and once again in fall.
Water well after each pruning.