How to Propagate Blueberry Bushes (Complete Guide)

Blueberry bushes are one of the most popular edible plants because of their wide availability and familiarity with gardeners.

Thus, once it gets going, many people start to wonder how to propagate it to get MORE yield every season.

And that’s what we’ll cover in this guide!

You’ll find that getting your blueberry bushes to spawn more is super simple and can be done in different ways.

Find which one is easiest for you and do it!

I suggest skimming them over quickly and seeing what’s available to you at this instance. Then picking the technique that works best for your unique situation.

Without further ado, let’s get started and dive right in.

Here are the most common techniques you can try at home to divide these bushes.

How to propagate blueberry

If you have established bushes, you may want to opt for layering or cuttings.

Soil

Blueberries like acidic soil that have a pH of 4.5-5.5. This is critical for growing abundant, delicious fruit and will be a necessity.

For this reason, you should measure the pH if you have no idea what it is.

You can lower the pH using soil amendments if it’s too alkaline.

Watering

No matter which method of propagating you’re starting with, you should always keep your blueberry moist, but never wet.

These plants are thirsty and will drink a ton of water when they’re growing, especially during the summertime. Keep the soil moist at all times to get more yield.

Fertilizer

Use some plant food with a balanced NPK of 1-1-1 to provide the necessary fertilizer blueberry needs to grow. Use as directed. Slow release or liquid fertilizer both work well.;

Buying from a nursery vs. growing it yourself

A lot of people will take the easy way and just buy a grown bush from their local nursery.

This is a lot easier than trying to DIY it.

It also saves a ton of time if you don’t have the time/energy to mess around with plants.

But if you’re looking for a rewarding experience, there’s nothing wrong with growing these bushes yourself.

Different ways to propagate blueberry

Blueberry bush in the garden.
Grow these gorgeous blues.

Here are the most popular ways to grow your blueberry bush.

Propagating from cuttings

Starting from cuttings is the easiest way if you already have an established plant.

This allows you to propagate your blueberry easily as you have everything you need on the current bush. It has a high rate of success and is one the quickest ways to get a lot of blueberries each harvest.

Use a sterile pair of pruners and find one of your largest plants. Choose a bush that’s vigorous and producing a good yield.

You can choose from either hard or softwood variants, as it doesn’t matter for cuttings. However, the process slightly differs.

Let’s start with hardwood.

Starting from hardwood cuttings

Blueberry hardwood can be snipped after the winter. Take cuttings in early summer or late spring.

They need to have a period of cold exposure first before they can be trimmed or else they may not root. The time needed varies depending on the blueberry type you’re growing.

But give it sufficient time to chill for best success. Take cuttings in April or may after the temperatures have remained cool and are beginning to rise due to the summer heat.

This can also be done in late winter before the spring. The bush should be dormant when you cut.

Grab your favorite pair of pruners and sterilize them using some rubbing alcohol.

Cut anywhere from 12-24 inch whips. Look for healthy, established shoots that are well developed and are about 0.25 inches in diameter.

Don’t cut off new shoots or rotting/damaged shoots, which should be removed anyway.

Find a large stem and at least a year old. You’re using last season’s stems, not this season.

When the shoot is trimmed, make another cut at the growing tip. Then cut the entire shoot into equal parts, with each section being about 4-5 inches.

You should now have a stack of freshly cut shoots, each ready to plant. For those that aren’t familiar with what’s going on: You cut a “branch” of your blueberry off and then divide it up into equal parts.

Take each piece and stick it into your growing medium. Direction matters. Note the direction that it was growing “out” on the original bush.

Keep it moist, but never wet. The growing medium can be as basic as perlite and potting soil. Keep it warm and moist at all times.

Each piece should be inserted so that only about half of its original stem remains above the soil surface.

You can insert it as far as ⅔ of the way, but be sure that you don’t cover up all the buds. There should be at least a few that are exposed above hate the soil line. These should be facing “up” when inserted into the substrate.

If you mixed it up, just look at the direction the buds are growing on the whip. They should be pointed upwards- away from the soil. If you plant the shoot upside down, it won’t root.

Place the containers outside in a shady area so they have time to root. If your bushes were already growing in the sun or partial shade, it doesn’t matter too much.

They should already be acclimated to the outdoors. Keep the temperatures above 65F and be patient until it roots. Keep it moist, but not wet. Expect roots to form by late fall or earlier.

Use fertilizer to help the plant grow after it’s become rooted. Liquid-based ones work perfectly.

Shoot for applying it every other week or as directed. This isn’t necessary if the plant grows fine and actually may lead to plant food buildup. Use a balanced fertilizer (NPK 1-1-1) to help your hardwood cuttings develop.

They don’t tolerate nitrate fertilizers. use other sources of nitrogen from sulfate, urea, or ammonia nitrate instead.

When your new cuttings have rooted, you can tell by pulling on the stems. They should be hard to pull. But don’t overdo it and rip it out of the soil.

When they’ve grown a bit, you can move them to wherever you wish. Avoid moving them after a year as this may shock them.

So choose where you’d like to plant them permanently and make the transition AFTER they’ve rooted but BEFORE they’ve become established.

You can pot the plants or plant them in your garden. Do this when they’re hardy and tough.

A note on rooting hormone: You can use rooting gel or powder if you wish.

However, rooting blueberry cuttings has a high success rate so it’s nothing to worry about. If you choose to use hormones, use as directed.

Starting from softwood cuttings

Take cuttings in the springtime with a sterile pair of pruners.

If you’ve waited too late into the season, consider going with hardwood cuttings instead which is done after the wintertime.

Don’t try to risk it because they can end up rotting or produce a low rate of rooting. Wait until after the winter if you think it’s too late.

Softwood cuttings should be done in the early spring if possible. Use a healthy shoot and cut off the last 5 inches.

Find a stem that’s large, healthy, and established. Use the new growth, not the old one. The cuttings will start to get woody but still have enough flex (this is why they’re a softwood).

Remove all leaves but the top 2. Keep each piece at least 4-5 inches. You can also find smaller stems and just cut 4-5 inches off each piece. No need to start with a giant one. Be sure that you keep them wet during this time.

You can dunk them into a bucket of water to preserve them. If they dry out, they may not root.

Water well and keep them moist. Don’t let them dry out

Grab at least a one-gallon container and fill it with high-quality potting soil and peat moss.

They should all be relatively equal in proportions. Perlite and peat moss also makes an excellent substrate as they provide good drainage for cheap.

Opt for natural or organic substrates with no additives since you’ll be eating the blueberries, right?

Similar to hardwood cuttings, you can add rooting hormone if you wish.

Gently put each cutting into the container.

They should be about 3 inches into the substrate if you have 5-inch cuttings. Keep the plant protected from sunlight and keep temperatures above 65F until they root.

You can keep them inside your garage or home during this period to protect them from the winter elements.

If you’re in a warmer hardiness zone, you should be OK if temperatures are stable throughout this period.

Continue to water to keep the soil moist, but never wet. Stick your finger into the substrate to check. It should be moist, but not dry.

Note that as the cuttings take root, blueberry requires more and more water.

So increase your water amount as you go. Fertilizer can help after its roots. Expect rooting within 2-3 months. Gently pull on the stem to see if it sticks to check if it is rooted.

After the roots are grown, you can transfer them to wherever you wish by hardening them off.

To avoid shock, slowly transition them to the outdoors by hardening them off (acclimating).

Take them outside and get them some sunlight for a few hours each day over a week.

Yes, it may seem crazy. But it works.

Then, you can move them into larger pots or the dirt. The choice is yours.

Note that if you choose to plant into your soil, this should permanent.

Blueberry bushes are immobile and don’t take well to being relocated.

So don’t do it. If you think you may have to move them later on, use a big pot for their home.

Congrats, you did it!

Propagating blueberry using suckers

Blueberry macro shot.
Suckers are easy to grow, but take time.

Suckers are small shoots that stem from the original plant.

They have tiny root systems and will grow outwards from the parent. These shoot up several inches from the base.

The suckers can be used for growing more blueberry bushes.

For those that are not familiar, these are those small shoots that jut out from the crown.

When they’ve been growing for at least a few seasons, you can cut them off from the original plant and separate it.

Do this in the fall before the winter approaches, or else it may be hard if the soil becomes hard from the temperature.

Use a garden spade or shovel and cut it off from the host plant.

You’ll have to unearth the soil around it because it’ll be hard to remove it if there’s a ton of debris in the way. Water it to help loosen the dirt.

Dig them up with the roots. Leave the roots intact and leaves as well.

Some people cut the leaves off. If you do this, don’t cut them all. Leaves at least 2-3 leaves and cut the shoots back to match the roots.

This is to support the plant. If the shoots aren’t prudent, the plant won’t be able to be sustained by the small root system.

Growing sucker plants can be potted with potting soil and peat moss in equal parts. This will keep the acidity low and provide them with what they need to grow.

Water plenty, but don’t drown.

Raise them the same as you would with cuttings. The suckers can be planted in containers or soil, whichever you prefer.

Do it before the winter. If you need to transplant, do it after one year so they develop strong root systems. If you move it when it’s still young, you can shock it.

Propagating blueberries by layering

Layering is very similar to taking cuttings but doesn’t require you to go crazy with the trimming and measurements.

You may want to try layering to propagate your blueberries if you want to keep it simple.

It works by using a stem that’s younger and malleable so you can bend it to grow in the substrate.

Start by searching for a younger branch that’s highly flexible. You can test it by trying to bend each branch until you find one that you can work with. In the fall, cut it off with your favorite pruners.

Sterilize them with some rubbing alcohol first to keep things clean. The branch should be able to bend in a clear “U” without breaking or offering excessive resistance. If you can bend it, it should work.

Cut the young branch off and remove the leaves from the stem tip. Take off all the leaves in the first foot or so.

Get a knife and make 1” cuts on this first foots section. If you find any buds, cut through them to help encourage them to grow.

Find the home where you intend to plant the bush. Use a shovel and dig a spot for your new branch.

Put the cut portion into the soil, but not the tip end. The cuts are the small sections you made with the knife.

So basically, all those cuts are covered but the initial cut you made isn’t.

Water it generously the first time. Keep it moist, but not wet. The incisions you made will develop roots over time and the exposed end will develop new growth.

The small cuts turn into the root system and the exposed end above the soil turns into the “bush.” You can then transplant it to its permanent home or pot it.

Watch it grow. This will take up to a year for it to fully root. Be patient!

Starting from seeds

Using seeds isn’t for the impatient, but it is THE rewarding option. If starting from seed is your thing, then here’s how to do it.

You can extract the seeds from established blueberry bushes or start from a packet at your local hardware store.

Note that taking seeds from hybrids won’t produce exact clones as the original plant because it’s a hybrid. You’ll get a mix of both. So if you want a replica, you’re best off using layering or cuttings.

Growing from seed works only for lowbush blueberry plants.

You’ll also need to cold stratify your seeds. This is simply putting them into your freezer for a simulated winter.

When you first get your seeds, toss the packet into your freezer for 3 months. If you’re harvesting from your established plants, you can take them after they’ve been outside over the wintertime.

This is necessary for propagation and germination.

The seeds are small and hard to see, so next, we’ll separate them by using a blender.

Start by pulp and blend them for a few seconds until the pulp separates from the seeds. The jelly portion is the pulp and the hard portion is the seeds. Blend with water.

The seeds will collect on the bottom half of the blender. Separate them from the gel after some time. The more time you give it, the more they’ll separate. You can blend multiple times if needed.

Collect the seeds and lay them out to dry.

Get your seed starter and fill it up with some peat moss. Put the seeds on the surface and gently put 0.25 of the substrate above. Space them 1” apart.

The container should be at least 5 inches in depth and as wide as you can go without jamming them together.

Cover with a humidity dome. Keep the seeds somewhere dark until they germinate. When they do, move them to somewhere that has light.

Keep it around 60F at all times and humid. Keep it well watered, but never wet.

You should see the first sprouts around 3-4 weeks later. The seedlings can be placed near the sun to grow. Continue to water as usual.

When they grow their first true pair of leaves, you can thin and then bring to their pots or sow in the garden after all frost has passed. Use a mix of peat and soil. Mix in some sand for extra drainage.

Congrats. You’ve now grown blueberry from seed. Wasn’t that rewarding?

Further reading/references

Growing blueberries is easy!

Blueberry freshly collected from the garden.
Look at that dark hue and freshness. Tasty!

Now that you know how to propagate these bushes with ease, go forth and plant them to your mouth’s content.

If you’ve always had a poor yield, consider planting the new bushes somewhere that’s more ideal for them to grow.

Blueberries will thrive in acidic soil and minimal watering. That’s the core of what they require to grow.

Do you have any questions? Post a comment and ask away. If you have any tips for other readers, please post them as well!

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