ripe blueberries on a shrub
Updated: June 14, 2021

Pruning young blueberries

  • Prune back 50% to 60% of the wood immediately after planting.
  • Remove all flowers from two-year-old plants to encourage root growth and ensure good establishment.
  • Pruning invigorates the plant, forcing essential new growth from the base of the plant.
  • The guiding principle behind blueberry pruning is to constantly renew the older, decreasingly productive canes by cutting them out to force new canes.
  • This is known as renewal pruning and is also done with grapes, peaches, and currants. Pruning will also increase fruit size and improve quality.
  • Do not fertilize at this time.

Growing seasons 2-5

  • Plants may need light pruning in February or March.
  • Remove a few of the small branches or twigs in the center of the bush.
  • The fruit is produced on wood grown the previous season, and the largest berries are produced on moderately vigorous wood (branches 12- to 18-inches in length).
  • All weak growth should be removed.
  • Pruning twig dieback. Cut out any twigs that appear to be weak or begin to die; make cuts several inches below the affected area. Twigs heavily encrusted with scale insects should be removed and destroyed early in the spring before the buds start opening. 

4-year old blueberry shrub

pruning blueberry shrub illustration

                  (Left) Before pruning;                             (Right) After pruning. Pruning reduced the fruit buds by about 5%.                                                                                                           In very fertile soils a larger number of fruit buds might be left for a heavier crop.

Pruning mature blueberries (6 years and older)

  • A healthy plant should be 5- to 7-feet tall and produce 3 to 5 new canes several feet tall yearly.
  • Each spring, select the best two to three new canes to retain and remove some of the oldest canes. (Canes over 1 in. in diameter do not produce the best fruit.) When you fail to remove older branches, the new canes are likely to be willowy and produce only a few berries at the top.
  • Pruning will result in a plant with 12 to 18 canes of varying ages. This is an optimal scenario; many plants will deviate from this ideal.
  • Also, remove the lowest branches and thin out branches in the center.
  • The lower branches bear fruit that is dirty and difficult to pick; the center branches produce small, poorly colored, and late-ripening fruit.
  • Overly long canes with many flower buds may be headed back, but do not try to top canes to stimulate growth.