Cut Poor producing blueberry bushes to the ground?

I bought these Tifblue bushes quite large and mature to start with and they were producing quite well at the beginning. But after a few years I’m getting almost no blueberries off of them, and much of the bush looks dead. Someone told me to cut them right down to the ground to stimulate new growth.
Soil may also be a bit of a problem, but not much I can do about that.

Blueberries are a difficult fruit to grow unless you’re fortunate to have ideal conditions to begin with.
Need sufficient water, but not waterlogged. Need pH below 6.5 (and lower is preferred).
Need organic matter in the soil…but disturbing the roots to till might do more harm than good.
Need fertilizer, but adding too much and you’ll burn the tender roots which are near the surface.
And, cutting back any limbs that aren’t producing that are more than one year old is helpful. I’m sure someone probably has a link to instructions…or you can access blueberry care info a number of nursery and university sources.

Your Tifblue should be one of the easier ones to grow unless your winters go below 0(F).
It needs another variety to pollinate properly.

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If possible,the pH of the soil and irrigating water should be checked.Sulfur can be used to bring it to a more favorable level,with around 5 being ideal.
Maybe adding one other variety of Rabbiteye could help production,like BlueBerry wrote.

Blueberries may have been the first fruit I started growing that got me down this path of home orchardry.

I started with a big 6 foot tall bush from the farmer’s market. It didn’t do well and gradually declined. I got a couple of other big ones, they all died.

I’ve had much better success with buying 1 gallon or smaller bushes and planting with a bale of peat moss. I think those big bushes lost too much roots, once they are large, probably not worth transplanting.


murky, I’ve had pretty fair luck moving them to a larger pot, using good/improved soil under and around the roots, and then locating the pot in partial shade.

{The partial shade to help the plant regain vigor, not produce abundant crops.}

I didn’t mean to imply it couldn’t be done, but maybe not the best thing for a beginner who has these questions.

I assume OP put it in ground with native soil - “Soil may also be a bit of a problem, but not much I can do about that.”

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I suppose I’d approach it like anything that I thought was important…I’d prepare a bit.
To deliver a speech, make some notes.
(At the least)

To grow something you don’t know anything about, read a book or watch a video or go to an agricultural college as a resource and the homework will pay off. (Even ‘Google’ it works sometimes.)

Like grafting, read a bit, look at ‘how to’ drawings or videos…then practice.

Blueberries are in one way a good plant for beginners in that you can do it on a upstairs balcony of an apartment building…or on a patio. They don’t have the space requirements of an orchard.

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Mr TheNiceGuy. We miss you on the citrus forum. You just disappeared. My blue berries aren’t doing anything either

I have read it is best to cut 1/3 of the canes back to the ground each year. That way you will still get some fruit but after 3 years you will have fresh canes that should be more productive. It would cause less stress on the bush also.


I am not a blueberry farmer, I have a half dozen-ish plants in the ground and in large pots… but here are my two cents.

If you are enamored of these particular bushes and want to save them or want potentially to grow others I would start as other suggested by testing the soil pH and what ever water you may be irrigating with. You will need acid soil in the root zone (< ~ pH 5.5) or you almost certainly have problems getting the plants to thrive. That said, if these plants went in as bare roots into your local soil and they produced well for a few years the pH should not be that bad. If they came in a big pot with their own soil and were put into the ground more or less like that then it might be that their new environment is finally catching up with them.

Also, I am meant to understand that blueberries don’t like nitrate fertilizers (nitrogen as ammonium for blueberries please) and don’t particularly like sodium and calcium in their water supply. These might be some of the other things that could be taxing their vigor.

You say some parts of the bushes appear dead. If they do not look diseased (some canker or stem blight or such) you could try acidifying the soil with maybe some sulfur or relocating/replanting them in new soil or in some large pots. Lots of people seem to happily grow blueberries in pots 18-24" deep and a couple of feet in diameter “New soil” would best have lots of things that look like peat and pine bark mulch and such and not things that look like good veg garden - cucumber-n-tomato growin’ soil. My poor aunt and uncle have a hand full of blueberry bushes in such soil for a ~ 4 years now and the bushes have done next to nothing… :frowning:

Hopefully this is not the problem but treating things like canker in blueberries I would ask someone else or search the web. Except for soil issues and a few aphids my bushes have not had too many problems.

In any case if you decide to try to recover these bushes taking out the older stems it probably a good idea. When my first blueberry went in my dog concluded that I had planted him a “stick bush” and immediately proceeded to prune the thing to the ground. The bush came back with a vengeance in the spring.


Peter thank you for mentioning the nitrate fertilizer tip! I just purchased a few bushes of my own and I wouldn’t have thought of that. I am planning to take out some evergreen shrubs and replace them with my blueberries so I think pH - wise I should be in good shape.

@TheNiceGuy have you considered taking cuttings from your existing bushes and trying to root new ones? That may be a viable solution along with a pruning regimen. It is amazing how much certain plants will rebound after being pruned.

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Blueberries require a misting system to root. One of the hardest plants to root.
If you can’t monitor pH you will probably fail. You can’t guess, you have to know the pH of the soil and water, test yearly as organic matter decomposes it becomes basic. Adding sulfur at this point is a must. Knowing when can only be achieved by constant monitoring. Unless you have soil with a low pH you need to be on top of pH.

Blueberries are also the slowest plants to respond to pruning. Extreme pruning never works that well with them. Regular maintenance pruning is the way to go. They are delicate plants. I love growing them! Not easy though.
It took me a few years to get it down.


This may seem like a silly question, but I have a small “humidifier” that I got my wife to put essential oils in the air. Do you think that in a semi enclosed system that something like that would provide sufficient mist to root blueberries? I just bought a book on propagation but I’ll take all the advice I can get from real world experience!

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Yes, It could work! Brady a member here used an aquarium fogger. It worked great! I know I have a rooted cutting he did. A Spartan cultivar. Here it is today, it’s doing great.


@disc4tw. Hey neighbor. I have rooted blueberry cutting using a pond fogger in a tote. They take months to root. Have patience. I can’t believe I didn’t think to use an essential oil diffuser like you said. Thanks for the idea.


A big thing for fertilizer is a acid fertilizer mix for blueberries. There are certain fertilizers for plants with specific needs. Acid fertilizer for things like blueberries and hydrangea or citrus fertilizer for citrus trees.

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Hey Stacy!! It is good to know there might be a long wait ahead. Do you use root hormone or score the cuttings to stimulate growth?

I saw that in another thread as well, using holly-tone or something similar along with nitrate.

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Where was that thread?Nitrate fertilizers don’t work too well for Blueberries.
Hollytone is okay or even straight Ammonium Sulfate in small amounts.

Basically the main thing is to keep your soil a super low PH. Here in Colorado we just grow blueberries in pots with pure peat moss. Pure peat moss has a PH of something like 3.5 to 5.5. Blueberries thrive in 4.5 to 5.5. Even watering with tap water can raise the PH over time so you need to constantly low the PH. That is the challenge I have found with blueberries and why certain people grow them in pots only or pure peat bales. You can easily control the PH. For reference most plants I have looked up the PH for thrive at around 6.0 PH.