A relative of the wild blueberry, the bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) packs a flavour punch that outweighs its blueberry cousin. Bilberries are extremely challenging to find in cultivated form, so most gardeners will have to make do with propagating their own shrubs from seed. Growing your own bilberries requires patience -- it takes blueberry seedlings three years to mature and bear fruit, so expect their cousin to follow a similar time frame. Bilberries like an acidic soil environment.
Split bilberries in half and remove the seeds. Dry the bilberry seeds on a paper towel to prepare them for planting. When the seeds no longer feel wet, they're ready for planting.
Fill an 8-inch pot with lime-free potting soil. Place your bilberry seeds on the top of the soil, then cover them with 1/4 inch soil. Water the pot until the soil becomes moist, not saturated.
Cover the pot with a plastic bag, securing the bag with a rubber band. Place your pot in an area where it receives bright, indirect light and wait for the seeds to germinate. Monitor the pot's moisture level and water whenever it becomes dry, keeping the soil moist but not boggy.
Remove the plastic bag when your seeds sprout. Thereafter, continue to water the seedlings and wait until they are 2 inches tall to transplant them.
Fill individual 4-inch pots with lime-free potting soil, then transplant one bilberry seedling into each pot. To do this, stick a form into the container to get under the seedling's roots. Hold the bilberry seedling by its leaves and push up with the fork -- the seedling will come free. Dig a hole in the 4-inch pot with your finger and carefully place the seedling in the new pot, then push the soil around its base. Plant all seedlings this way.
Keep the pots indoors through the winter until the ground warms in spring. Continue to water them whenever the soil becomes dry.
Test your soil with a home pH test kit when spring arrives. Unless you have fairly acidic soil, add sulphur to lower your soil pH, since bilberries require an acidic soil. The plants grow best if kept near their optimal pH of 4.0 and will die if grown on a soil too alkaline.
Dig a hole for each bilberry plant that is 8 inches wide and 4 inches deep, after the last frost has passed. Remove rocks and weeds from the hole. Bilberries do best in full sun but can grow in dappled shade. They enjoy rich, peat and loam soils.
Remove your bilberry from the container and place the plant in the prepared hole. Fill in the hole with soil to finish planting your bilberry. Water the ground thoroughly to compress soil and remove air bubbles. Plant all bilberries in this manner.
Water your bilberry plants whenever the soil becomes dry, adding liquid until it gets saturated.
Mulch the soil around the plants with a 2- to 4-inch layer of organic material. As this slowly decomposes, it will add nutrients.
Wait for your shrubs to develop and bear fruit, then harvest the fruit when it is ripe
Things you need
- Paper towel
- 8-inch pot
- Lime-free potting soil
- Plastic bag
- Rubber band
- 4-inch pots
- pH test kit