Can You Grow Strawberries With Blueberries?
Thinking of growing strawberries with blueberries in your garden this season? Companion planting is a common practice but can lead to stunted crops when you pair your plants incorrectly. In this article, gardening expert Liessa Bowen looks at if blueberries and strawberries make good companion plants in the garden.
If you like growing your own fruits, you may already grow strawberries or blueberries. If you don’t, perhaps you are considering adding these delicious fruits to your edible landscape. Both strawberries and blueberries are fairly easy to grow and yield some pretty impressive harvests. But you may be wondering, can you grow them together?
Strawberries are herbaceous perennials that typically produce fruits from late spring through early summer. They are low-growing plants that spread by above-ground runners. If allowed to grow freely, strawberries will make an effective ground cover. Their sweet red fruits are an early-season favorite.
Blueberries are woody perennial shrubs that range in size from 1 to 12 feet. They can be grown as a hedge, in a cluster, or as individual plantings. Blueberries typically bloom in spring and produce an abundance of sweet blue fruits by mid-summer. Blueberries are long-lived plants that can enjoy many productive fruit-bearing years.
Let’s take a closer look at both strawberries and blueberries and find out if these two fruits will make agreeable companion plants in your garden this season!
The Short Answer
Yes, strawberries and blueberries can grow together. Just make sure you pick the right varieties of each plant for your hardiness zone. If you have the ideal conditions to grow a blueberry plant, you can also easily incorporate strawberries into the planting area. Strawberries can help provide shade for the blueberry plant’s roots and also help reduce competition with weeds. Both plants can also be grown in a relatively small growing space.
The Long Answer
Strawberries and blueberries are both readily accessible fruit-bearing plants. You can easily grow both in the home garden. But while strawberries and blueberries don’t typically ripen at the same time, they can be grown together and make agreeable companion plants.
Companion planting has been practiced in gardening for centuries. The idea is that there are certain plants that, when grown together, can benefit each other. How? Companion plants can be used to help ward off pests, attract pollinators, provide shade, provide support, reduce weeds, or increase soil nutrients.
There are many good companion planting combinations for strawberries and blueberries. Growing these two fruits alongside one another may not offer as many benefits as some other combinations, but these two plants are certainly capable of growing together.
Strawberry plants can be grown as hardy perennials in USDA hardiness zones 5 through 8. They don’t like too much heat and humidity, however, and in warmer climates, zones 9 and 10, they are best grown as cool season annuals.
Strawberries are low-growing herbaceous plants that form a leafy rosette and make a pretty good ground cover. Plants typically bloom in the spring, and fruits ripen by early summer. A fresh ripe strawberry is a very tasty treat and well worth the effort of growing!
Strawberries do best in full sun, but will tolerate a small amount of shade. Plants grown in a sunny location will have deep green leaves, abundant spring blooms, and produce an abundance of sweet red fruits.
Strawberry plants do best in well-drained soil that is a bit sandy but also rich in organic matter. Strawberries develop deep roots so work the soil down a bit so the roots have a good depth to grow into. Strawberries do best with a slightly acidic soil, with a pH anywhere between 5.4 and 7.
Strawberries like to be kept moist, not too wet and not too dry. In ideal conditions, the soil around your strawberry plant should have a consistent “slightly moist” feel. Don’t allow strawberries to sit in wet soil or the roots and crowns may rot.
Blueberries are woody shrubs that range in size from 1-foot tall lowbush blueberry plants to 12-foot tall rabbiteye varieties. Depending on the variety, blueberry bushes are hardy from USDA hardiness zones 3 through 8.
This means you can grow blueberries just about anywhere! They are often used as landscape shrubs with ornamental value, and not only as a fruit-producing shrub.
A mature, healthy blueberry bush can produce an abundance of fruit. Tiny white flowers bloom in the spring and attract pollinators. Fruits ripen from mid to late summer and attract birds, as well as hungry humans.
Blueberries thrive in full sun, but will tolerate some light shade. Ideally, position your blueberry plants in a location that receives at least 6 hours of direct sunlight each day. Plants grown in full sun will be healthier and produce more fruits than those grown in a shadier location.
Blueberries are a bit picky about their soil. They need soil that is acidic, with a pH ideally somewhere between 4 and 5.5. Soil should be fertile and rich in organic matter. Soil needs to be well-drained but still able to retain moisture.
Blueberry plants develop a dense and fibrous but shallow root system, and they like their roots to stay moist. Dry roots during flowering and fruiting season can result in a loss of flowers and berries.
Growing Them Together
There are some benefits of growing strawberries and blueberries together. Strawberries will help reduce the need to mulch around your blueberries, and both plants will attract pollinators when they bloom.
These plants are also both perennials, so you will not need to uproot and replant every year, but there will naturally be some preparation and maintenance required.
Choose a location with plenty of direct sunlight, as both of these plants prefer full sun. Avoid planting too close to other existing trees and shrubs that can create too much shade or competition for water and nutrients.
Also, choose a location that you can reach easily from all directions because you will want full access to your plants during harvest time!
Strawberries and blueberries have slightly different soil pH preferences. Strawberries are probably more adaptable to soil properties, so prepare your soil with a pH of around 5.5. Use a soil pH test kit to verify your soil acidity is ideal.
This is at the upper end of their preferred range for blueberries and towards the lower end of the strawberry’s preferred soil pH. If you need to add any soil amendments, do this well in advance of planting to make sure the soil is well-mixed and matured.
Ideally, do your planting in either early spring or fall. Since the blueberry is the larger and longer-living of these two plants, it’s probably best to plant the blueberry first.
Prepare the soil and planting area for the blueberry while leaving enough space around it for a strawberry patch. Remember that strawberries will spread by runners, and neither strawberries nor blueberries appreciate competition from weeds, so allow plenty of space for your fruit plants.
You don’t need to plant the strawberries and blueberries at exactly the same time, but doing so will allow everything to establish together. If you get your blueberry plant settled first, you can easily add strawberries on the same day or shortly thereafter.
Blueberries are long-lived and develop a wide reaching but shallow root system. In order to minimize root disturbance for your blueberries, it would be best to plant the strawberries before the blueberry roots spread too much.
Weeding & Mulching
Keep the area around your plants free from weeds. Weeding around both plants will help reduce competition for light, nutrients, and soil moisture, therefore yield healthier fruiting plants.
Mulch is useful for both strawberries and blueberries because it helps reduce weeds and also helps keep the soil moist.
You can use straw, pine needles, wood chips, or wood bark as mulch. Some people may prefer a synthetic mulch material that can function well as weed control but makes it harder to effectively water your plants.
Since both strawberries and blueberries like to be kept moist, you can water them at the same time and not worry that one will be too wet or the other will be too dry.
Check the area regularly and verify that the soil is moist. It should never feel soggy and shouldn’t be allowed to dry completely for very long.
Pruning and Thinning
Blueberries will benefit from annual pruning. Each winter during the dormant season, remove the thinnest most scraggly branches of your blueberry plant. This will allow the strongest and healthiest branches to develop fruits and will give the best harvest.
Strawberries will spread quickly by runners. Keep enough plants growing to establish a healthy patch, but thin out extra plants when they become too crowded.
Strawberry plants can live for a few years, but older plants will die and be naturally replaced by new runners. Remove any plants that look dead or diseased, and just keep the healthiest plants in your strawberry patch.
Growing either blueberries or strawberries is a very rewarding gardening endeavor. Growing them together is twice as rewarding. If you’re ready to enjoy these colorful and sweet fruits, you can grow them together in a sunny garden location and enjoy many years of delicious snacking.
Take some time to plant your fruits in an ideal location and give them some regular care and attention, and your efforts will be rewarded as you enjoy your own home-grown goodies.