When to prune blueberries - the perfect time to ensure a bumper blueberry crop

If your blueberry bush is over two years old, you’ll want to read this

Blueberry bush
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you’re lucky enough to have a blueberry bush in your garden, you probably want to maintain this constant supply of delicious fruit. That’s why it’s important to know when to prune blueberries. 

Prune at the wrong time, and you risk putting your garden ideas in jeopardy and ruining the integrity of this fruitful bush. But prune at the right time and in the right way, and you’ll be able to reap the rewards of your blueberry bush year after year. 

To help you figure out how to grow blueberries to the best of your abilities, which includes pruning them, we’ve asked the experts to share their tips and tricks on the best time to prune blueberries - and what parts you should be pruning when you come to do it. 

When to prune blueberries

The way how to prune blueberries needn’t be complicated, but it’s important to understand that blueberry bushes only require this TLC when they reach a certain age. In fact, if you’ve recently added a blueberry bush to your winter garden or your blueberry bush is under two years old, you don’t need to prune it just yet. 

Young blueberry bushes will still thrive without any pruning, but you can still give them a bit of attention if you feel as though they’re getting unruly or growing too big - especially if you’re growing your blueberry bush in a pot as part of a container garden idea. Prune sparingly, though, and focus mainly on crossing branches that could affect the growth of the bush later down the line. 

Blueberry bush

(Image credit: Getty Images)

When your blueberry bush is over two years old, you can then start thinking about properly pruning your blueberries. Thankfully, the window to do this is fairly large, and it’s possible to prune blueberries any time from November to March. So this isn't just a gardening job to do in November. 

Steve Chilton, garden expert at LeisureBench, says ‘Here in the UK, blueberry bushes should be pruned in late winter - early spring, whenever the last frost has passed.’

Headshot of gardening expert Steve Chilton
Steve Chilton

Steve is a passionate and knowledgeable garden expert with several years of experience within the field and has developed strong expertise for all things nature and plants. Steve is a keen educator and loves to share this knowledge with others. He strives to simplify complex garden practices and encourage eco-friendly gardening.

He suggests waiting until February or early March, though, as this will help you prune in a way that will help your blueberry bush rather than hinder it. By waiting until late winter, when the plant is dormant, you should be able to easily distinguish the leaf buds (which are flatter) from the fruit buds (which are rounder). 

The aim when pruning is to focus on removing branches that have more leaf buds on them while keeping branches with lots of fruit buds. This will ultimately provide you with a more fruitful harvest when the berries start to ripen from mid-summer.

But while blueberries thrive on wood that’s around 1-2 years old, they’ll slowly but surely stop growing on wood that’s around 4 years old. Because of this, it’s a good idea to keep on top of pruning every year and remove as many of the older branches as possible to encourage new growth. 

Blueberry bush

(Image credit: Getty Images)

These older branches are easily identifiable, as they look grey and woody in contrast to new growth, which is red in colour. Harry Bodell, gardening expert at PriceYourJob.co.uk, says, ‘Old branches should be removed to make way for a healthy proportion of new growth. Remove these older canes at the base of the bush to encourage new stems.’ 

He also adds that ‘A mature blueberry bush should have a third each of one-year, two-year and three-year or older stems.’

In essence, this means that each year, you should prune your blueberry bush to have one-third old wood, one-third middle-aged growth, and one-third new shoots. 

Of course, you can also focus on pruning for aesthetic reasons each year, as well. ‘Blueberry bushes should have an open, vase-like shape,’ explains Steve. ‘Avoid excessive pruning or cutting into the centre of the bush, as this can reduce fruiting potential. Instead, focus on shaping the outer branches.’

Blueberry bush

(Image credit: Getty Images)


When should I prune blueberries UK?

The window to prune blueberries in the UK is fairly large, and you can prune anytime between November and March. However, if you’re new to gardening or just want to make sure that you’re pruning the right part of your blueberry bush, it’s best to wait until February or early March to undertake this gardening task.

By waiting until early winter, you should be able to distinguish fruit buds from leaf buds easier. This will allow you to focus on pruning the branches with leaf buds, leaving the fruit buds to work their magic and fill your blueberry bush with fruit. 

Do blueberries need to be cut back?

Yes, it’s always a good idea to cut back your blueberry bush - but only if the blueberry bush is older than 2 years old. If it’s younger than that, it’s best to wait until it reaches this milestone. 

When it’s reached this mature stage, you can then cut back your blueberry bush every year between November and March. To do this, cut back any crossing branches, any diseased branches, and ⅓ of the old wood. This will promote new growth and result in a healthy and fruitful plant. 

Do blueberries fruit on old or new wood?

Blueberries fruit on wood that’s around 1-2 years old, but will stop growing on wood when it gets to around 4 years old. That’s why it’s always a good idea to keep on top of pruning and remove some old wood every single year. 

The aim of each prune is to be left with a blueberry bush that consists of one-third old wood, one-third middle-aged growth, and one-third new shoots. 

So, will you be adding pruning blueberries to your list of jobs to tackle this weekend or will you be waiting until later in the winter? 

Lauren Bradbury

Lauren Bradbury is a freelance writer and major homes enthusiast. She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in English and Creative Writing from the University of Chichester in 2016, before dipping her toe into the world of content writing. After years of agency work, writing everything from real-life stories to holiday round-ups, she decided to take the plunge and become a full-time freelancer in the online magazine world. Since then, she has become a regular contributor for Real Homes and Ideal Home, and become even more obsessed with everything interior and garden related. As a result, she’s in the process of transforming her old Victorian terraced house into an eclectic and modern home that hits visitors with personality as soon as they walk through the door.