When Is The Best Time To Plant Blueberries In Michigan?

When Is The Best Time To Plant Blueberries In Michigan?

In Michigan, the best time to plant blueberry bushes is in the spring or fall. These seasons provide optimal conditions for establishment and root development, which will increase the chances of successful growth.

(Featured Image: Blueberry Cone by G. Fredricks)

This post contains affiliate links to our favorite blueberry supplier. We make a small commission on purchases made through these links, thank you for your support!

Spring Planting With Blueberries

Blueberries can be planted in early spring, typically between the months of April to early June. In Michigan, dormant or bare root blueberries plants are often best for spring planting as frost can occur well into May in many regions of the state.

Pros of Spring Planting:

  1. Active Growth Season: Spring is the time when plants, including blueberry bushes, are naturally in their active growth phase. Planting during this period allows the bushes to take advantage of the warmer temperatures and longer daylight hours, which promote rapid root development and establishment.
  2. Reduced Risk of Winter Injury: By planting in the spring, you avoid the risk of winter injury that can occur when planting in the fall. Young blueberry plants are more susceptible to cold damage during their first winter, and planting in the spring gives them ample time to establish stronger root systems before facing winter conditions.
  3. Access to Fresh Nursery Stock: Spring is a popular time for nurseries to stock up on fresh plants, including blueberries. You’re more likely to find a wide variety of healthy, high-quality blueberry bushes to choose from during this season.
  4. Better Soil Conditions: Spring usually brings more frequent rainfall, resulting in moist soil conditions that are ideal for planting. Adequate moisture in the soil helps blueberry bushes establish quickly and reduces the need for excessive watering.

Cons of Spring Planting:

  1. Competition with Weeds: Spring is also a time when weed growth is at its peak. Newly planted blueberry bushes can face competition for water and nutrients from invasive weeds, which may require more frequent weeding during the initial stages of growth.
  2. Vulnerability to Late Frosts: In some regions, late spring frosts can pose a risk to young blueberry plants. If frost occurs after the bushes have started to bud or flower, it can cause damage to the tender growth.
  3. Limited Fruit Harvest in the First Year: Blueberry bushes planted in the spring may not produce a significant fruit harvest in their first year. The focus during the initial season is on root development and plant establishment, with fruiting becoming more robust in subsequent years.
  4. Heat Stress: In some regions with hot summers, spring-planted blueberry bushes may face heat stress as they establish in warmer temperatures. Adequate irrigation and shade can help mitigate this issue.

In conclusion, spring planting offers several advantages for blueberry bushes due to the favorable growing conditions and the avoidance of winter injury. However, gardeners should be mindful of late frosts, weed competition, and the potential for limited fruit harvest in the first year. By providing proper care and attention, spring-planted blueberries are likely to thrive and provide a bountiful harvest in the following years.

Fall Planting With Blueberries

Fall planting typically takes place between late September through October in Michigan. Blueberries can be successfully planted in the fall with good outcomes the following spring. Fall planting for blueberry bushes also has its own set of advantages and disadvantages.

Pros of Fall Planting:

  1. Root Development: Planting blueberry bushes in the fall allows them to focus on root development during the cooler months. While the foliage may go dormant during winter, the roots continue to grow, establishing a strong foundation for the plant before the active growing season in spring.
  2. Soil Preparation: Fall planting gives you an opportunity to prepare the soil in advance. Amending the soil with organic matter and nutrients allows it to settle and provide a better environment for the blueberry roots to establish during winter.
  3. Reduced Watering: Fall typically brings cooler and more humid conditions, which means less evaporation and reduced water requirements for newly planted blueberry bushes. The plant’s water needs are generally lower during the fall, which can make establishment easier.
  4. No Immediate Fruiting Pressure: When you plant in the fall, there is no immediate pressure for the blueberry bushes to produce fruit. Instead, they can focus on root development and overall plant health. This can lead to stronger and more productive bushes in the long run.
  5. Spring Growth Advantage: Fall-planted blueberry bushes already have an established root system when the spring season arrives. This gives them a growth advantage, and they are more likely to put out new foliage and grow vigorously during the first growing season.

Cons of Fall Planting:

  1. Winter Vulnerability: One of the main risks of fall planting is that newly planted blueberry bushes can be vulnerable to winter injury, especially in regions with harsh winters. Without a fully established root system, they may struggle to survive freezing temperatures.
  2. Limited Plant Selection: While some nurseries may carry blueberry bushes in the fall, the selection can be more limited compared to the spring. If you have specific varieties in mind, it may be harder to find them during the fall planting season.
  3. Timing and Weather: Fall planting requires careful timing. Planting too late in the season may not give the blueberry bushes enough time to establish their roots before the ground freezes. Additionally, erratic weather patterns in the fall can make it challenging to predict the best time to plant.
  4. Soil Conditions: In some areas, the soil may be wetter in the fall due to increased rainfall. Excessively wet soil can hinder root development and increase the risk of root rot.

In conclusion, fall planting offers advantages such as focused root development, reduced watering, and no immediate fruiting pressure. However, gardeners need to consider the vulnerability to winter injury, limited plant selection, and potential challenges related to timing and weather. Proper site selection, soil preparation, and protective measures during winter can help improve the success rate of fall-planted blueberry bushes.

A pint of blueberries perched on a window sill in a teal blue cardboard container

Blueberry Pint

Photo by Mr.TinMD

The Best Blueberry Varieties For Fall Planting In Michigan

This blueberry bush is known for its large fruit size and very sweet berries. It is a hybrid of southern and northern highbush varieties, and is known to produce some of the best blueberries for fresh eating. The Sweetheart blueberry bush is a great choice for your home garden as it stays more compact than most highbush varieties.

To view purchasing options and photos of the Sweetheart Blueberry Bush, click here!

The aurora blueberry is widely used by commercial blueberry growers. The fruit is firm and sweet, commonly sought after for baking recipes. Aurora also has a very high fruit production once it reaches maturity. One unique feature of the Aurora blueberry bush is its beautiful fall foliage, which adds visual interest to any area of your yard.

To view purchasing options and photos of the Aurora Blueberry Bush, click here!

​This unique blueberry bush is among the most compact of any berry bushes. Maxing out at just 2ft tall, the Top Hat blueberry is the perfect choice for planting in containers. If you do not have a lot of space, this blueberry bush can easily be grown in a large pot on a patio or deck. Top Hat produces small fruit that packs a lot of flavor!

To view purchasing options and photos for the Top Hat Blueberry Bush, click here!

​If you want something different that your neighbors can be jealous of, this is it! The Pink Lemonade blueberry bush features beautiful PINK fruit that has a slightly tart and citrus taste to it. These unique berries are highly sought after for both fresh eating and baking. The bush itself is one of the smaller plants that can also be planted in a large pot or raised bed.

To view purchasing options and photos for the Pink Lemonade Blueberry Bush, click here!

The lowbush blueberry plant is one of the most cold-hardy blueberry varieties available.

Tips For Successfully Planting Blueberries In Michigan

Planting blueberries in Michigan requires careful consideration of the climate, soil conditions, and variety selection. Here are some top tips to ensure successful blueberry planting in Michigan:

  1. Choose the Right Variety: Select blueberry varieties that are well-suited for Michigan’s climate. The highbush blueberry is the most common type grown in Michigan, and they come in various cultivars with different ripening times, flavors, and sizes. Make sure to choose varieties that are winter-hardy and adapted to your specific location in the state.
  2. Soil pH and Drainage: Blueberries prefer an acidic soil type with a pH between 4.5 and 5.5. Before planting, conduct a soil test to determine the pH of the soil and make any necessary adjustments. Adding elemental sulfur can help lower the pH if needed. Additionally, blueberries require well-drained soil to prevent root rot, which can be detrimental to blueberry roots.
  3. Sunlight Requirements: Blueberries thrive in full sun. Select a sunny location that receives at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight daily for optimal fruit production. Partial shade will impact the productivity of your blueberry bush.
  4. Planting Time: As previously discussed, spring and late fall are the best times to plant blueberries in Michigan. Aim to plant in late April to early June for spring planting or in late September to October for fall planting. Avoid planting in the middle of summer, such as early July or late July, as the heat can impact the root ball of your plant.
  5. Spacing: Give blueberry bushes adequate space for proper air circulation and growth. Space plants at least 4 to 6 feet apart in rows, and leave 8 to 10 feet between rows to allow for easy maintenance and harvesting.
  6. Mulch: Apply a 3 to 4-inch layer of organic material around the base of the plant to help retain soil moisture, suppress weeds, and maintain soil acidity. Pine needles, wood chips, or pine bark are good choices for mulch.
  7. Watering: Blueberries need consistent moisture, especially during the first year after planting. Ensure they receive 1 to 2 inches of water per week, either through rainfall or supplemental irrigation. Ensure the soil has good drainage, as blueberries are sensitive to waterlogged conditions.
  8. Fertilization: Blueberries have specific nutrient requirements. Before planting, amend the soil with organic matter and a balanced fertilizer formulated for acid-loving plants. After the first year, apply a specialized blueberry fertilizer according to the package instructions.
  9. Winter Protection: In Michigan’s cold winters, blueberry bushes can benefit from winter protection. Add a layer of mulch around the base of the plants (after the ground freezes) to insulate the roots and prevent winter damage.
  10. Pest and Disease Management: Be vigilant for common pests and diseases that affect blueberries, such as birds, deer, Japanese beetles, mummy berry, and anthracnose. Implement appropriate preventive measures and consider using bird netting to protect the fruit.

By following these tips and providing proper care, you can establish healthy and productive blueberry bushes in your Michigan garden. Remember that blueberries are long-lived plants, and with good maintenance, they can provide blueberry fruit for many years.

Grow Your Own Michigan Blueberries

If you’re interested in starting your own blueberry patch, we have all the resources you need! Our blog is specific to gardening in Michigan. Check out these related articles for more information on growing blueberries in Michigan!

Our bag of Espoma organic Berry Tone sitting in a raised bed of home-grown berries!