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How to Grow Blueberry Plants in Zone 3

Zone 3 trails down the east coast of Canada, encompasses the northern half of central U.S. states such as Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota and Montana, then sweeps northwestward, back into Canada and Alaska. This zone reaches average minimum temperatures as low as -40 degrees F in the winter, limiting the types of plants able to grow in the zone. Some species of blueberry -- a plant valued not only for its sweet fruit but for its spring blossoms and red fall foliage -- can survive these extremes, but you should choose cultivars based on their cold hardiness. Lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium), oval-leaf blueberry (V. ovalifolium), highbush blueberry (V. corymbosum) and bog blueberry (V. uliginosum) tolerate extremely low temperatures and may be hardy in zone 3.

Things You'll Need

  • Soil test kit
  • Elemental sulfur or iron sulfate (optional)
  • Shovel
  • Fertilizer
  • Organic matter
  • Blueberry plant
  • Straw mulch
  • Soaker hose
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    • 1

      Select a site for your blueberry plant. Blueberries grow best in a full sun site, which will encourage them to produce abundant fruit. They prefer an acidic, well-drained soil high in organic matter, so you may need to amend your soil in order to meet their growing needs. Although growers have typically preferred growing blueberries on low sites, these sites also act as frost pockets. Instead, consider planting your shrub on a higher site and on the south side of your home or a tree screen, where the blueberry bush receives protection from cold north winds.

    • 2

      Test the pH of the soil. Blueberries prefer a soil pH of 4.0 to 5.0. For soils with a pH of 5.5 to 7.0, use elemental sulfur or iron sulfate to lower pH. If soils test above 7.0, the University of Minnesota Extension recommends not attempting to grow blueberries on that site.

    • 3

      Plant bushes in late April or early May, spacing them 3 to 4 feet apart. Dig a planting hole large enough that you can spread the roots around and cover the top layer of roots with 3 to 4 inches of soil. Mulch around the bushes to prevent water loss and weed growth.

    • 4

      Water frequently to keep the soil around the bushes moist but not saturated.

    • 5

      Fertilize plants before blooms emerge with an ammonium fertilizer intended for acid-loving plants. Fertilizing late in the season can encourage late growth that becomes susceptible to cold injury.

    • 6

      Prune plants to favor large-diameter branches, the blossoms of which open later than smaller branches. The early-opening blossoms become highly susceptible to late-season cold damage.

    • 7

      Mulch plants with straw before the arrival of winter. Straw mulch helps hold heat inside of the soil. Avoid cultivating or disturbing the soil until the risk of below-freezing temperatures has passed.