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Fact file: Blueberries

Find out more about blueberries and how to grow them, in this Fact File.

Overview

Hailed as a ‘superfood’, blueberries are expensive to buy in the shops, but easy to grow yourself, producing delicious and nutritious berries packed with vitamins and antioxidants. They can easily be grown at home in containers of ericaceous compost, where they have fantastic ornamental value. Upright, compact shrubs, the white blossom in spring is followed by indigo blue fruits in summer. Plus, leaves develop incredible red and orange hues before falling in autumn.

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Blueberry leaves in autumn shades of red
Blueberry leaves in autumn shades of red
Upright, compact shrubs, the white blossom in spring is followed by indigo blue fruits in summer. Plus, leaves develop incredible red and orange hues before falling in autumn.

For full details on raising your own crop, take a look at our blueberries Grow Guide.

Did you know?

Although a lone blueberry bush will bear some fruit, growing two or more to pollinate each other will give you a heavier crop per plant. Different varieties tend to flower at around the same time, but crops mature at different speeds, so grow a mix of early, mid and late varieties to extend your harvest.

Nutrition

Blueberries are extremely high in antioxidents and vitamin C, hence their ‘superfood’ status.

How to grow

Blueberries must be given acidic growing conditions: not just lime-free (ericaceous) soil or compost, but ericaceous fertiliser too, plus rainwater for watering if possible. Grow in a sunny, sheltered site in deep moisture-retentive, yet free-draining, soil – add coarse grit to heavy soil.

Blueberries make attractive container plants (in pots up to 50cm wide). Keep moist at all times, although beware of over-watering, too. Apply an ericaceous mulch such as bark chippings, in spring, to help retain moisture and keep weeds at bay – if you have a shredder then chip your Christmas tree and use this as mulch. Start pruning when bushes are several years old, removing the oldest stems annually in late winter. Birds love the ripening fruits, so protect the crop with fleece or netting.

Gardener planting a blueberry bush in a pot
Gardener planting a blueberry bush in a pot

Harvest

Pick the berries when they’re blue-black and detach easily from the plant. The crop ripens over several weeks, so harvest every few days.

Harvesting ripe blueberries
Harvesting ripe blueberries

How to store

Freeze as soon as possible after picking.

Our choices

‘Duke’ AGM: Heavy and early cropper. Firm, mildly sweet berries.
‘Herbert’: Large and particularly well-flavoured fruits, late ripening.
‘Sunshine Blue’: Heavy-cropping mid-season variety, great for growing in pots. Attractive pink blossom.

Recipes to try

American blueberry pancakes

Blueberry muffins

Blueberry and coconut pudding

Blueberry and lime cheesecake

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Cinnamon and blueberry French toast