Propagating Blueberries and Preserving Past Memories

October 8, 2007

A recent comment posted here inquired into the possibility of relocating blueberry bushes that held special sentimental value for one Northern gardener and her family…

“My grandparents have recently passed away and they had 25 blueberry bushes. We would like to move some of these to our house as their property will be sold.”

“Could you recommend how we would do this? Do you think it will work? We live in Central Massachusetts. And we would have to do this as soon as possible. Thank you for your help.”

Moving Established Blueberry Bushes

Brenda, my sincere condolences regarding your loss. I can understand your desire to relocate the plants and preserve some of the memories that may be connected with the blueberries that were raised by your grandparents. Sure you can move the plants, but the ease or difficulty in doing so will depend on the age, variety, and size of the plants.

A young, small, blueberry plant, or one of the dwarfing blueberry varieties shouldn’t be too difficult to carefully dig up and relocate to a new location. Try to keep as much of the root system intact as possible and use a large container or wrap in burlap to transport. The ideal time for the move would be in the fall or spring when the plant is dormant.

Blueberry Plant Propagation and Multiplication

On the other hand, mature, full-grown, and established blueberry plants would be almost impossible to dig up and move with any degree of ease. In that case the best option would probably be to take cuttings or make a layering of the established plants to create new plants that will continue and be identical to the originals.

Spring would be the best season to attempt to propagate the blueberries by layering. There are many different forms of plant layering that all take advantage of a plant’s natural drives to heal itself and multiply.

Air Layering Propagation Techniques

Air layering can be accomplished by slicing away a thin inch-long strip of the bark from one side of an upright branch. Cut a piece of bark away and wrap the wound with moist sphagnum moss that is then covered with plastic to help maintain the moisture.

If successful, roots will eventually grow from the location where the plant was wounded and bandaged with the moss. After the roots have produced strong root growth the plant can be severed from the parent and is ready to be moved and replanted.

Other Plant Layering Methods

Layering can also be done by allowing the roots to form in the ground rather than in the “air.” Start by wounding a young, flexible branch just like before, but instead of wrapping the wound you will pin it to the ground and cover it with soil until the branch has a chance to respond and produce a new root system.

Here’s a link to a site that shows illustrations and provides more information on the various types and techniques for layering. When layering you can also purchase rooting hormones that can be applied to the wound to speed up the process and increase the probability of successful rooting. Some garden centers sell air layering kits and devices to hold and promote the new root system.

Using Cuttings to Create New Blueberry Plants

Look around the base of your blueberry plants as sometimes you can find shoots or new plants that are growing up from the soil. Use a sharp spade to sever and divide these shoots along with their root system from the mother plant.

Finally, I have never tried to propagate a blueberry plant from cuttings but Kerry shared an article last winter about her experiences with propagating blueberries from cuttings that were taken from the plants. I’m not sure of the ultimate outcome but she appeared to have some success with rooting the blueberry cuttings.

So you have a number of options to move or propagate your grandparent’s blueberry bushes. Whatever route you take, don’t forget that blueberries prefer to grow in an acidic soil type. Test the soil’s pH and amend it as necessary to increase the acidity before planting or relocating the blueberries.

Good luck with moving or propagating the blueberry plants, and if anyone has additional suggestions for Brenda feel free to chime in with your comments below.

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  • Just a comment on moving blueberry bushes: I moved a couple that were about 5 years old and had no problems. I had to move them at a very bad time (June) to make room for my new greenhouse. When I dug them up, I discovered that they had very shallow roots, and they didn’t seem to mind transplanting at all. They bore just as many berries as usual and showed no signs of ever having been disturbed.

  • joe Green

    Blueberry cuttings do work well.Dip the ends in root tone.Then use very wet potting soil make a whole with a nail.About 8-1o for a 1/2 gal pot.Then put a plastic bag over them,tie it around the pot.Put it in a place where it will get about 3-4 hours of sun for about 6 weeks Also put a wire or a stick to hold up the bag.

  • Hi!

    I purchased two blueberry plants today at Lowes (2/24/08). Both plants already has green growth showing. Is it OK to plant them now with our night time temperatures around freezing or should I wait until our frost free date which is usually between April 1st and the fifteenth due to the green growth? I have a mini greenhouse which I can keep them in if needed. I live just outside Memphis, TN. We are in Zone 7 but awful close to Zone 8.

    Tom tjmashour@aol,com

  • Kenny Point

    Hi Tom, since you have the mini greenhouse I would just keep the blueberry plants in there for a few weeks until the weather warms up a little bit more and then plant the blueberries out into their permanent location. Just make sure that the greenhouse is vented and doesn’t overheat if you have a few warm, sunny days, and water the blueberry plants as needed!

  • Cathy

    I moved 2 years ago. I dug up my two blueberry bushes. One was 10 years old & one was 15 years old. They had big root balls, took alot of digging but it was worth it. I did this in April with berries on it, probably the worst time. They made it, not problem at all. This year they were loaded with nice big blueberries. I now have 20 plants & I am going to try propagating for my daughter to grow some plants.

  • Steve

    We had a friend with very old established blueberry bushes that he wanted to get rid of. We transplanted them with no problem to the plants, but it was shocking to me. My friend backed up to them with a tractor and wrapped a chain around the bottom of the plant and just yanked it out. We brought them home with whatever roots survived and tossed them into a ditch where they would be watered until we planted them (weeks later). After we planted them they bore the following year and have born ever since – 8 years. I am by no means certain that these particular plants could be killed by anything other than burning.

  • Rachael

    Is it possible to grow blueberries from seed collected from fresh blueberries?

  • Pingback: Using Blueberry Plants in the Home Landscape — Veggie Gardening Tips()

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