Pollination is not what most people think about when they are growing fruit bushes but it can mean the difference between plump sweet berries and a bush with no fruit at all.
For those not familiar with the process, pollination is just the transfer of pollen from a flower on one plant to the flower on another plant. In the case of blueberries, it is done by bees (both honey bees and bumble bees). As they fly from one plant to the next, looking for flower nectar, they pick up the fine yellow pollen powder on their legs, which then gets knocked off at the next flower. It’s a nice natural process.
The pollen fertilizes the flower, which then starts to develop into fruit. Without the pollen, all the flowers on your blueberry bushes will eventually drop off without creating any berries.
The difficult thing about blueberries is that some varieties are not even compatible within their own group, and you will get very poor fruit production if all your plants are the same type. It does depend on what varieties you are growing, so always check with the nursery before you make your purchase.
Having 2 or 3 different types of berries will result in a larger harvest for all your plants, as long as you have varieties that bloom at the same time .
The simpler route is to plant blueberries that are classed as “self-fertile”, which means they are capable of setting fruit even if pollinated by one of their own. These are a great option if you don’t have the space or the climate to manage too many different varieties at once. They do tend to have a lower production level compared to a cross-pollinated bush though.
These types of plants will improve their production if you do choose to use other varieties nearby. Oneal, Tophat and Patriot are all good examples of self-fertile berries, so there are some very popular ones to choose from.
Basically, you will get the best berry crop if you have at least 2 different types of berries growing within 100 feet of each other, regardless of what varieties you are actually growing.
Bees can be scarce in some areas and though the fragrant flowers of the blueberries are great attractors, you may need to add a few more flowers to your berry patch if you find that your bushes are not developing fruit as well as they should.
To bring bees to your berry patch, you should also grow some purple coneflower, lupine, black-eyed Susan, aster or sage. These are all very popular with bees and can help boost your berry pollination levels.