Growth Stages of a Blueberry Bush
Blueberries are a favorite fruit. Loaded with antioxidants, they are also gaining in popularity because of the health benefits they provide. Usually commercial growers and home gardeners choose to purchase established plants from reputable suppliers to shave time off the production process as growing blueberries from seed is a two-year process. If soil conditions are not suitable for blueberry plants, the process may take longer.
Seeds for blueberries are contained within the blueberry itself. Blueberry seeds need stratification, or freezing temperatures, for at least three months before they can be planted. Once planted, germination takes place approximately one month later when seedlings begin to emerge. If started indoors, they may be transplanted outdoors when all danger of frost has passed. They should be about 4 to 6 inches tall.
First Year Growth
Blueberry bush roots grow close to the surface. This is a dangerous time for young bushes, as they can easily be choked out during the first year of growth. Weed control is important so that roots have a good chance to develop and take hold. Bushes will grow to 70 percent of their mature size the first year. No fruit production occurs this first year. Any buds that develop should be pinched off so the bush can focus on establishing good roots and strong branches.
Second and Subsequent Years
Blueberries fruit on second-year wood. Last year’s growth will leaf out and begin to develop flower buds in late May to early June. Following pollination, the petals will fall and berries will begin to grow in their place. Blueberry bushes need a great deal of water during berry production, which can last well into July. New wood growth this year will produce fruit next year.
Berries ripen individually, with the first berries being ready toward the end of June and into early July. Blueberries continue to ripen and a second and usually larger harvest takes place one to two weeks following the first harvest. Late developers follow and the harvest is complete before the end of July.
Some berries can be harvested for seed. If collected, the blueberries must be frozen for 90 days to simulate stratification. Seeds can then be removed from the berries for future planting. If left on the branches, the blueberries will fall to the ground and repeat the process on their own.