How To Plant Bare Root Dormant Blueberries

How To Plant Bare Root Dormant Blueberries

What Is A Bare Root Plant?

A bare root plant is a plant that is sold and transported without soil around its roots. The roots are typically packed in moist material then wrapped in a plastic bag to prevent the roots from drying out. You should not remove the plant from this packaging until you are ready to put it in the ground.

Bare root plants are usually dormant, which means they have no leaves or very few leaves and are not actively growing when they are sold. They are commonly used for planting trees, shrubs, and perennials in the garden because they are less expensive than potted plants, easier to transport, and can establish quickly once planted in the ground.

(Featured Image: Dormant Blueberries by Bright Lane Gardens)

The Benefits Of Starting With Dormant Bare Root Plants

There are many benefits of starting with a dormant plant. This type of vegetation is less susceptible to outside factors, like frost or sunlight. This is because the plant has not yet started to grow for that season.

Dormant shrubs and perennials are able to be planted sooner due to their cold hardiness. In Michigan, it is ok to start planting bare root blueberries as soon as the ground is soft enough to dig a hole. The benefit of starting blueberries in early spring is the plant has more time to become established before its first winter.

Some trees and shrubs do better than others when starting from dormancy. Fruit trees and other young trees tend to do very well when started in the spring from dormancy. Do your research before buying any bare root tree, as there is a certain timeframe and method for planting bare root trees.

How To Plant A Bare Root Blueberry Bush

Planting a bare root blueberry plant is similar to planting any other bare root plant, but there are a few specific things you should keep in mind to ensure your blueberry plant grows and thrives. Here are the steps to follow:

1. Choose A Planting Location

Blueberry plants prefer acidic soil with a pH between 4.5 and 5.5. They also need full sun or partial shade, and well-draining soil that is rich in organic matter. We recommend using an actual pH soil meter for accurate pH measurements.

2. Prepare the Planting Hole

Dig a hole that is twice as wide and as deep as the root system of your blueberry plant. Mix some peat moss or other organic matter into the soil to improve its texture and acidity. We exclusively use Espoma’s Organic Peat Moss anytime we plant blueberries. We have had a lot of success with this specific peat moss because of it’s light, fluffy texture that greatly improves our soil here in Michigan. We sell Espoma’s full like of products in our brick and mortar shop here in Northern Michigan!

3. Soak The Roots

Place the plants that are dormant in a bucket of water and soak the roots for about an hour before planting. This will help rehydrate the roots and make them more pliable. Use a container that has no holes in the bottom, but one that is not so deep it will soak up the stem of your plant.

4. Plant The Dormant Blueberry Plant

Make sure you check the planting guide for any blueberry you are about to plant. Gently spread the roots out in the bottom of the planting hole, making sure they are not twisted or tangled. The crown of the plant (where the roots meet the stem) should be level with the soil surface. Fill in the hole with soil, firming it gently around the plant.

5. Water The Plant And Keep The Soil Moist

Give your blueberry plant a thorough watering after planting to settle the soil and help the roots establish. Set up an irrigation system to keep the soil moist during the first few years of growth. Drip lines are the most effective way of delivering continuous moisture to the plant. Drip lines are also the most efficient irrigation method for conserving water.

6. Mulch The Soil

Spread a layer of mulch around the base of the plant to help retain moisture in the soil and suppress weeds. Use organic mulch, such as wood chips or pine bark, which will also help maintain the soil acidity. Cedar mulch is the best mulch to use for any type of organic growing. Cedar takes longer to break down into the soil compared to other types of mulches.

7. Care For The Plant

Blueberry plants require regular watering, especially during their first year of growth. Fertilize with a balanced, acidic fertilizer in the spring and again in the summer. We highly recommend purchasing Espoma’s Berry-Tone fertilizer that is specifically balanced for blueberry plants. This fertilizer is difficult to find in stores, we have only been able to find it online. Prune the plant annually to remove dead wood and stimulate new growth.

When To Plant Dormant Blueberries

You can get your blueberry garden started as soon as the ground thaws. Dormant blueberry plants are not susceptible to frost damage in the early stages, so they can be planted much sooner than potted blueberry bushes.

It is important to get dormant plants in the ground within 1-2 weeks of receiving them. You’ll want to ensure the plant stays in a cool area without any sunlight, and it’s important to keep the roots moist.

Some blueberry varieties do better than others when starting from a dormant plant. Southern highbush, elliot, and rabbiteye blueberry varieties are commonly chosen for their success when starting from dormancy.

Where To Buy Bare Root Dormant Blueberry Plants

Look for a local source for dormant blueberry shrubs, as often times plants can become damaged or moldy when shipped. If you live in Northern Michigan, Bright Lane Gardens is an excellent source for bare root dormant blueberries.

Located just 20 minutes west of Traverse City, Bright Lane Gardens is a boutique plant nursery that focuses on fruit plants and native perennials. With a wide selection of fruit shrubs and trees, this nursery has what you’re looking for when it comes to bare root and dormant blueberries!

A cone of blueberries ready to be harvested from a bush that was planted as a bare root dormant plant in the appropriate climate.

Blueberry Cone by G. Fredricks