Do Blueberry Shrubs Need Full Sun, Partial Shade or Full Shade?
Confused on how much sunlight your blueberry shrubs need to grow properly? Getting an adequate amount of sunlight is essential for the growth of any plant. In this article, gardening expert Liessa Bowen examines how much sunlight blueberry shrubs need. You'll find out if they perform better in full sun, partial shade, or fully shaded garden areas.
Blueberries are versatile fruiting shrubs that are commonly grown for their delicious berries. They can be grown individually, in groups, as a hedgerow, and even in a large pot. Regardless of how you incorporate these fruiting plants into your landscape, blueberry plants thrive in acidic soil and full sun. But how much sunlight do they really need?
Blueberries are native to central and eastern North America. Wild blueberries can be found growing on mountaintops and in forests, from Canada south to Florida. There are several species of native blueberries and, over many years, these have been bred to produce many different cultivars.
Each cultivar has it’s own unique set of characteristics, and each tolerates different environmental conditions. Some varieties also bear fruit at different times in the season. This can make picking the right planting location a bit daunting! So, if you want to learn a bit more about blueberries and their sun requirements, keep reading. You’ll get the short and long versions to help you find the perfect planting space in your garden. Let’s dig in!
The Short Answer
Blueberry plants do best in full sun, at least 6 to 8 hours per day. This is true regardless of variety. The plants themselves are tolerant of partial shade and will continue to grow in a partially shaded location. Plants grown in full sun, however, will be healthier and more vigorous, and will produce more flowers and set more fruit. You are probably most interested in growing blueberries for their fruits, so give them a location with as much sun as you can.
The Long Answer
If you want to grow blueberries in your yard, you should take the time to learn about how these fruiting perennial shrubs will perform their best. Once you know their favored growing conditions, you can prepare an ideal site for planting.
Starting your plants in a well-planned site with their preferred conditions will help them get established quickly, stay healthy, and grow well.
You now know blueberries prefer full sun. But proper maintenance and care will also affect their health, and how they perform. Let’s take a closer look at each of these needs, and how it can impact your plant.
Blueberry plants grow best in full sun, at least 6 hours per day, but closer to 8 hours is ideal. Plants do tolerate partial shade but they won’t grow as well. They may be stunted or generally less vigorous. Plants grown in full sun will also have more energy to produce more fruits.
If blueberries are growing in a shaded area, they may be competing with larger trees for not only sunlight, but space, moisture, and nutrients. When choosing an ideal site for your blueberry bushes, choose a wide open sunny spot if you possibly can.
Blueberries are a bit picky about soil. For ideal growing conditions, they need acidic soil with a pH between 4 and 5. You can test your soil to find out the pH and use appropriate soil amendments to adjust it. This process takes some time.
Don’t rush the process to prepare your soil. For best results, you should probably start preparing the soil at your chosen site a year in advance of planting.
This gives your soil amendments time to fully incorporate, and gives you time to re-test the pH to be sure it’s correct, before putting your blueberries in the ground.
Blueberries also like a loose, well-drained soil. Blueberries have a shallow root system and they don’t like to be sitting in wet soggy conditions. They do like to be kept regularly moist, however, and mulching around the roots can help with this.
Blueberry plants like their soil to be moist, but not wet. A newly planted blueberry will need regular watering to help it get established. Once a plant is well-established, it may not need much extra watering.
But in dry conditions or times of drought, they will still benefit from regular watering. Mulching around the plants can help retain soil moisture and reduce the need to water.
In the first 3 years, a blueberry plant doesn’t really need any extra fertilizer. Once a plant starts to fruit, around year 3, you can add a light organic fertilizer.
You can add your own organic compost or commercially-available fertilizers specially formulated for blueberries. Blueberries are sensitive to over-fertilization, so be sure not to over-do it.
Pruning is very important for the fruiting success of your blueberry bushes. Pruning can be used to modify the shape and size of a shrub, but in the case of blueberries, it’s primarily a means of controlling fruit production. You may think, why remove branches when I want as many blueberries as I can get?
In short, fruiting takes a lot of energy. With proper pruning, you can focus your plant’s energy on the strongest and healthiest branches, and this will actually increase both berry production and berry quality.
Prune to remove all flower buds in the first two years to help the plant become well established. In years three and beyond, prune to remove the weakest branches and small twiggy clusters. Leave the branches that are straight and strong. Always do your pruning during the winter when plants are dormant.
Can I grow blueberries without a full sun location?
Yes, blueberries will grow in part-shade. They will probably not grow as fully or produce as much fruit as a plant grown in full sun, but they should do okay as long as they get some direct sunlight during the day. Just give them the sunniest spot you can, and be sure to meet their other needs with proper soil, water, and nutrients.
Can they grow in southern or northern climates?
There are blueberry varieties and cultivars that are specially adapted to a wide range of climate zones, from Canada south to Florida. If you live in a particularly arid location, you will need to provide them with regular watering. If you live in a particularly cold and windy location, you may need to plant your blueberries in a somewhat protected spot so they don’t receive extensive cold, harsh winds. Otherwise, yes, there are blueberry cultivars that will grow just about anywhere!
I’m not seeing any fruit this season – why?
There are several reasons why a blueberry might not have a good fruiting year. Young plants will set some fruit, but it tends to be sparse. Improper pruning (or lack of pruning) can reduce fruiting as well. Not having enough sunlight can also cause plants to be less productive. In addition to lack of sunlight, plants growing in other less-than-ideal conditions will not produce abundant fruit, so be sure to check the soil condition, especially soil pH; give them enough water; fertilize older plants to replenish nutrients in the soil.
If you have a sunny yard and you want to try growing a fruiting shrub, blueberries are an excellent choice. Blueberries come in many varieties and you can choose cultivars that are best suited to your local environmental conditions.
They do have some specific growing preferences, but if you are able to meet their needs, they will reward you with many years of abundant fruiting. Just to recap, you’ll need to provide the following:
- Full sun
- Acidic soil with pH between 4 and 5
- Loose, well-drained soil, with high organic matter
- Moist but not wet
- Light fertilizer
- Pruning to improve fruit production
Provide these basic blueberry growing requirements, and enjoy your sweet and delicious bounty this coming season!