New blueberry leaves reddish at this time of the year?

ashleysf(9 San Jose,CA)March 1, 2010

I have several newly planted blueberry shrubs. They are all in containers and will be there until the coming Fall when I can clear out some old landscaping shrubs to put these in ground. They are all Southern Highbrush variety (and recommended ones for my zone). They were bought with no leaves on them (looked like twigs and 1.5-2 ft tall), in 1 gallon pots in december '09. I planted them in 5 gallon pots in early january. I used a mixture of potting soil, peat moss, perlite and a little bit of garden sulphur (espoma brand) in each container. Half my blueberries are sprouting red leaves and the others are sprouting green leaves. The weather here is warm and feels like spring (though the rains have been soaking us for the past month). Why are the leaves reddish? I thought that the leaves turning red are a Fall phenomenon? Do my plants have diseases?

PS: I am waiting for the actual spring start date to apply any fertilize.

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Hi ashleysf, If they are putting on new growth and its warm there then it sounds like they need to be fertilized.

From your description it sounds like they are running short of Nitrogen or Iron or both.

Read your fertilizer descriptions carefully. The Nitrogen you give them MUST NOT BE FROM NITRATE. If it is from Nitrate it can kill them.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2010 at 8:46PM
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Southern Highbush blueberries are very closely related to rabbit-eye blueberries; in fact, if I am not totally mistaken, botanist are debating on whether to reclassify all highbush type blueberries as different cultivars of Vaccinium corymbosum. Most of the native blueberries we have here in NW Florida all begin putting out leaves and blooms this time of year. It's easy to drive along the highways and country roads here and figure out where all the wild blueberry patches are simply by looking for the bushes with the reddish leaves and white to light pink bell shaped flowers. This is perfectly normal for these plants at this time of year.

Thisisme is right on the money about the type of fertilizer needed. You want to use a fertilizer that is ammonium sulfate based rather than nitrate based. The plants will get the nitrogen they need from the ammonia component of the fertilizer and the sulfate component will keep the ph of the soil on the acid side, (blueberries like a soil down at a maximum ph of 6, but it shouldn't be much lower than 4.25. An azalea or camellia fertilizer would be a good one to look at.

Make sure you select a planting location that gets plenty of sun, but not necessarily the really hot afternoon sun. You also do not want use these plants as foundation plants; since most house foundations are concrete based, (this raises the ph of the adjacent soil).

    Bookmark   March 1, 2010 at 9:35PM
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ashleysf(9 San Jose,CA)

Thanks a lot for the help.
destin_gardener, as you said, "reddish leaves and white to light pink bell shaped flowers" -> this is exactly what is happening with half of my blueberry bushes.
I am off to fertilize them and maybe I'll add a little iron too.
thisisme, thanks for the Nitrate fertilizer warning. I was not aware of this and will watch the labels carefully.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2010 at 2:51PM
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ashleysf The reason I felt this was fertilizer relater is your warm temps. When its cold leaves change color because the cold prevents the absorption of certain nutrients. This is why they start out with red leaves in some parts of the country and why the leaves turn red in the Fall before leaf drop.
In warm weather its not likely a nutrient lockout unless its ph related and I think you have that covered. However is fertilizing them does not work you may want to buy a cheap ph meter and adjust your soils ph better to suit your plants.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2010 at 4:51PM
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So, based on the previous posts, not sure if these Toro blueberry starters I got in 4" pots. I've transplanted them once. The info I got with them says they'll be "fiery red in fall" but it is just the beginning of the season here--and very sunny all day.

Should I move them out of the sun? Fertilize with the ammonium sulphur talked about?


    Bookmark   April 27, 2013 at 11:50AM
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Bradybb WA-Zone8

Hi Lora,
What have your average nighttime or early morning temperatures been? Thanks,Brady

This post was edited by Bradybb on Sat, Apr 27, 13 at 19:21

    Bookmark   April 27, 2013 at 12:08PM
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