Friday, March 26th, 2010...12:00 am

Should Blueberries be Planted Near a Wall?

Ripening in the Sun by Isadore Berg

TheGardenLady received this question from Mui.

I have a flowerbed that is about a foot wide, 15 feet long and it is right next to the wall of my house. Can I plant blueberry shrub there? My concern is that as the plant grows bigger, the root will damage the wall and the foundation of the house.  Please advise.

There is a possibility of growing blueberries in your flower bed if it is a sunny spot – read to the end of the post for suggestions. However, TheGardenLady would recommend other plants than blueberries in the site you describe. Let me explain.

There are two main types of blueberries, high bush blueberries Vaccinium corymbosum and low bush blueberries Vaccinium angustifolium. High bush blueberries are the kind you buy in the stores. Low bush blueberries are the wild blueberries or the blueberries you buy in Maine or Canada. Both blueberries like sun, acid soil and good air circulation.

Blueberry bushes Lake Minnewaska by natureluv

Planting near a wall may have major problems for the plants. You might have shade. (Blueberries need a minimum of 6 hours of sun. They tolerate partial shade but won’t produce as many blueberries.) And you might not get good air circulation.

You definitely don’t have room enough in a 1 ft wide bed flower bed for high bush blueberries. A flower bed that is only one ft. wide, is really too narrow to plant the high bush blueberries especially if it is so close to a wall. I am more concerned about the shrub than the wall of your house when I say this. A high bush blueberry shrub at maturity can become 5 to 6 ft wide. A one foot wide area right next to a wall would not allow room for the plant or its roots to expand. And being this close to a wall will not allow good air circulation for the plant which will mean not only deformed plant growth on one side of the shrub, but can cause the plant to be more susceptible to plant problems. And with the wall, there might be shading of the plant part of the day. Blueberries do need full sun. Or the wall might bake the roots or one side of the shrub which can damage the plant.

But if you really must have blueberry bushes and if this is the only spot on your property where you can plant anything, you can try to plant low bush blueberries. Again, next to a wall is not the best place to put blueberries because of possible shade, lack of good air circulation or too much heat that could affect the roots. However, if you want to gamble on blueberries and you do have sun all day, this low bush blueberry could succeed. “Lowbush blueberries (Vaccinium angustifolium) generally reach no more than 18-inches in height. But even these can develop a root mat that spreads out 5 ft. Propagated from shoots spread through underground runners, lowbush blueberries form low mats of plants that produce best on a two-year cycle. The first year is the growth year and the second year is the fruiting year. The sweet, quarter-inch fruits of lowbush blueberries commonly are known as Wild Blueberries and are hardy in Zones 3 through 6.” See here.

TheGardenLady recommends creating a raised bed to grow your blueberries (see here). With a raised bed you can more accurately keep the soil to the high acidity level the plants need and can be sure that the plant gets enough water as well as get around a long list of gardening challenges. Planting a few lowbush blueberry plants gives you more of a yield than just planting one (see here). Don’t plant anything else in the bed because the blueberry shrubs don’t like to compete with other roots- which means the beds have to be well weeded and there should not be any trees in the area. Meanwhile, if there is any concern about the root affecting the wall, the raised bed will contain any roots that spread towards the wall.

The University of Maine gives instruction on growing lowbush blueberries from seed.

Dwarf Tophat blueberries by Cat Hoffman

Oh, and this might be your best choice, there are some dwarf blueberry bushes that have been developed. One that has been developed to grow in a pot was developed by the Michigan State Experiment station. It is called Dwarf Tophat Blueberry.  Another dwarf is Dwarf Northblue Blueberry.  Again you will have a better fruit yield if you plant more than one blueberry plant.

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