Part of blueberry plant appears dead

bob_z6(6b/7a SW CT)March 7, 2013

Just in the last week, part of my Sweetcrisp blueberry plant appears to have died. All the leaves on one stem have shriveled and started to dry. The rest had appeared unaffected and I was planning to cut out the damaged section. But, today I noticed that one of the lower branches of the seemingly healthy part has started to droop. I checked and there still seems to be sufficient water- I've been watering it once to twice a week this winter. I've given the same treatment to another Sweetcrisp in a different room and it seems fine. I brought both plants into the house in December, after they had reached (and exceeded by a bit) their required chill hours, but before the weather got too cold.

Any ideas on what is killing this plant? Is the best course to just cut out the affected parts, or is there something else I can do?

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At first I thought stem blight, and it still might be but Sweetcrisp is suppost to be pretty resistant to stem blight. Then I saw the pic with the pan under it. That's not good for blues. They get root rot if left in standing water. If you have it in doors, at least bring it out side to water and let it drain completely before bringing back in. It would be a good idea to repot and remove the bottom half of the root ball where all the rotten roots are. You need to remove the dead branches at the base of the plant. If it is stem blight and it has traveled all the way down to crown of the plant it's probably going to die. Stem blight can kill a plant in a few months if its not completely prunned out. There are some good articles online about it. I hope this helps. Good luck.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 1:26PM
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gator_rider2(z8 Ga.)

Can you trick a probe thermometer in center of the 2 pots for 20 minutes and take reading what looking for hot center in that one pot just before you do a watering. the soil ca take on heating on its on when dry.Moving plant to other room where good plants may be just all need cool soil. Watering half amount 4 times week work. Your plant photo shows a lot foliage that transfer large amount water in heated home.In Ct.inside plant needs stay around 45 to 50 degrees this slow growth and water needs.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 1:37PM
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bob_z6(6b/7a SW CT)

That pan is just to keep the overflow from making a mess. It only contains water for very brief periods, right after I water. There are holes both on the bottom and on the sides of the bucket, near the bottom. I planted this over a year ago, before I started making better draining mixes- it is mostly peat, with some perlite (~15%) and leaf mulch. The top ~1" is sand, as last year I had a lot of small flies which were living in the mix. The sand took care of them very quickly. Now, I'm wondering if I should have removed it, rather than leaving it in place. It should drain pretty quick, but it does stay moist for a bit and holds water against the stem...

I wasn't able to get an internal temperature (wrong kind of thermometer for that...), but it was cool to the touch when I took it out. The room is often pretty warm- 75-80, the hottest room in the house. The other room I have a Sweetcrisp in is usually at 60-65. Both are in south facing windows, as I was hoping to grow them inside, like Fruitnut. Until recently, it had seemed that this one was growing quicker.

I checked into some online descriptions of stem blight and it seems like it could match. My initial search didn't find any clear photos, but I did see a description of the color of the wood (carmel) which I think matches the parts I've pruned out.

Assuming that the rest of the plant dies (and it seems likely from the speed of the spread), I take it that it would be unwise to use the peat mix for planting blueberries (even in the yard). What types of plants can I use the medium in the planting of, without endangering them? I have peach, apple, apricot, blackberry, pears, persimmon, honeyberry, sour cherry, mulberry, etc arriving soon, so there are lots of choices.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2013 at 12:33AM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)


I have 50 sweetcrisps and have never had a single twig fall to blight. That disease is very variety specific. I'm not saying it is impossible but I don't think it is blight. I have had plenty of blight hit other varieties some so badly I removed all of that variety from my beds.

What I think you have is Phytophthora. In your picture that branch to the left that is dead...dig down around the base where that cluster of stems meets the main plant. Rub your finger on the bark in that area and see what happens. Phytophthora can also cause flagging.

It is too much water and too dense of a mix. If you want to save the plant get it in better mix right now and start treating it.

This post was edited by bamboo_rabbit on Fri, Mar 8, 13 at 7:41

    Bookmark   March 8, 2013 at 7:38AM
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bob_z6(6b/7a SW CT)


When you say "get it in a better mix right now", are you saying I should bare root it to change the mix? It is in full leaf, so I'm guessing that would be pretty traumatic. Would it be enough to put it in a larger pot (maybe 7 gal fabric) and put well draining mix around the current rootball?

    Bookmark   March 8, 2013 at 2:58PM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)


Did you check the bark at the base? Is it mushy? If it is you have to get it in a lighter mix and water only when needed.

When that crud gets to the main trunk and gets well established the game is over. I would get as much of the old mix out as you can. The commercial folks here routinely plant leafed out bareroots so the plant will take it. If you have to you can prune the top back.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2013 at 3:42PM
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