Pruning Blueberries

Proper Pruning Cut
Large Blueberry Cane
Remove large, old blueberry canes.

Gather your tools and safety equipment and head to your blueberry patch! Blueberries are best pruned in early winter, usually January in NE Kansas and SE Nebraska.  We start pruning our blueberries at Grimm’s Gardens after the first of the year, before we get into peaches, apples, raspberries, apricots, and cherries.  Our patch is large; it usually takes two of us about 5 days to prune the whole thing.

Blueberries will produce fruit on all living canes, but will produce better from a heavy pruning. Large older canes, dead wood, and canes falling into the paths are cut back to the ground.

Proper pruning cut
Proper pruning cut. Notice the difference in color in the stems.

Many of the canes will also have some partial die back and should be cut off above live buds. Leave 10 to 20 canes per bush, no larger than the diameter of your pinky finger (about ½”). Cut above live buds at about a 45° angle away from the bud.  Be sure to keep your fingers well away from the pruners. Use loppers or a pruning saw for larger branches, as close to the base of the bush as possible.

When you have finished pruning, remove all debris and either chip it or burn. Chipped branches can be used for mulch, but should not be used around blueberries or other fruit bushes as they may harbor diseases specific to berry bushes.

Clean your tools with alcohol and 3-in-1 oil after use to prevent spread of possible disease from the prunings and put away. Now your blueberries are ready!

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Drawing of shrub
Beginning blueberry bush. Dead stems may be gray or brown. Live branches are either red or reddish brown. Remove canes larger than 1/2”, if dead, or any leaning into the path.
Proper Pruning Cut
Proper pruning cut angle is 45 degrees away from the live bud.
Pruned Shrub
After pruning, shrubs should have 10 to 20 live canes no bigger than 1/2”. Canes should be upright and not leaning into path.




2 thoughts on “Pruning Blueberries

  1. New information came out just after I wrote this. It is better to leave older bigger canes and leave no fewer than 25 canes (if there are that many). Also, pruning small budding canes (less than 10″tall) out from the base will improve fruit set higher up. So, clean out the bottom, leave big canes(unless dead).

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