Burnt leaves on blueberry bush

angela3131(6)June 21, 2008

Purchased a blueberry bush in early spring and planted it in my flower bed next to raspberry bushes. I fertilized it and used the special low pH stuff for blueberry bushes. My bush has lots of berries on it.

In the last week I have noticed some changes in the bush.

1. The trunks coming out of the ground are turning from green to brown. Is this normal?

2. Many of the leaves are turning brown from the outside toward the center of the leaves. What is going on?

We recently had a lot of rain, but this looks more like sunburnt leaves.

Any suggestions are greatly appreciated.

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Sounds like you over fertilized it. If your ground drains well you can over water it to wash out more of the fertilizer but the damage may already be done. Hopefully it will recover.

Unless you bought a large plant with a rootball, take off all the berries, your bush needs to put its energy into get established this year. Even if it had a good rootball you should take off at least half the berries. If you planted bare root it needs to have them all off.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2008 at 11:39AM
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Trunks turning from green to brown over a short period of time indicates they are dying. How close is "next"? I wouldn't plant a blueberry very close to raspberry bushes because raspberries spread and you don't want to be digging around a blueberry plant to get them out.

The immediate cause of the death of your blueberry plant is most likely excess moisture. Blueberries have very fine roots that rot easily, and three or four days of waterlogged soil is enough to kill them. For this reason, good drainage is essential, and if you dug out and amended a nice hole in a low area, followed by heavy rains, the plant could easily have drowned. Leaves on a drowned plant look much the same as those that have been sunburned.

Although I doubt that over-fertilization is killing your plant, I agree with gardenmom that fertilizer is not necessary the first year after planting, although amendments to lower the Ph, particularly peat moss, are helpful.

Also agree with gardenmom that it is best to remove all blueberries the first year after planting, or better yet remove the blossoms before they even form berries. This is to allow your plant to put its energy into growth instead of struggling to produce berries the first year. You should be more specific about exactly what your "special low PH stuff" fertilizer is. Brand name would be helpful.

Don Yellman, Great Falls, VA

    Bookmark   June 22, 2008 at 2:50PM
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Thanks for the help. I really think it might be too much rain.

I bought the bush at a local garden center. There were four branches ~3 feet high each and the root ball was strong. I dug the hole quite deep added a good amount of rocks and then added the bush. It actually sits on a mound ~ 1 foot above the rest of the garden bed.

I fertilized the bush at the beginning of May with a slow release fertilizer called Scotts evergreen, flowering trees and bushes. And the problem just started last week.

We did have heavy rains and the soil is quite damp.

Do you really think I should move it away from the raspberries? Should I wait until the end of the summer to dig it up and tranplant it? Could I plant the bush in the shade?

Thanks for the help and suggestions! I think my 3 year old daughter is going to be heart-broken when I remove all of the berries.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2008 at 9:11PM
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How close to the raspberries is it? I have mine 8 feet from my raspberries. As long as you keep the raspberries from getting too close you are OK.

Blueberries prefer full sun, but they tolerate some shade. If you have summers with a lot of days over 90 degrees then it might like part shade, but the berries are sweeter with more sun.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2008 at 12:12AM
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Scott's Evergreen may not be an appropriate fertilizer for blueberries, even though it is slow release. I am unable to find the exact chemical composition online, but this fertilizer appears to be formulated for evergreens and flowering trees and shrubs. The source of its nitrogen may be nitrates, but you should check the label carefully to find out for sure. Only products containing ammonium sulfate as the nitrogen source should be used for blueberries, or a natural product such as blood or cottonseed meal. Many people use Holly Tone on blueberries, since it is specifically formulated for acid loving plants.

Nitrate based fertilizers can kill a blueberry bush, and that may be what is happening to yours. If you fertilized in May, the timing would be right. If you want to use a chemical fertilizer, choose one for azaleas, rhododendrons and other acid lovers.

You did the right thing by building a small mound for your plant to improve drainage. Now all you have to do is get the fertilizer right, and you will be good to go. But hold the fertilizer the first season after planting. Let the plant settle in first. Unfortunately, we may be talking about future plants here. The goose of your current plant may have already been cooked. If, BTW, the Evergreen fertilizer was in the form of spikes you could take them out promptly and possibly save the bush.

Don Yellman, Great Falls, VA

    Bookmark   June 24, 2008 at 12:41AM
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I am hoping the fertilizer is ok. It is low ph and says especially for azaleas and other acid lovers. In addition it is 11-7-7.

The fertilizer was in the form of pellets (like ice melt) and you were supposed to put it on the top of the soil.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2008 at 9:08PM
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If that's what the fertilizer says on the label, it's ok. There are apparently several different versions of Scott's Evergreen sold. So I guess we're back to excessive moisture.

And on the subject of the raspberries, if they are closer than about 6 feet to the blueberry, that's too close unless you are prepared to dig them up every year as they creep toward the blueberry.

Don Yellman, Great Falls, VA

    Bookmark   June 27, 2008 at 11:17PM
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I am thinking I might have to dig up the blueberry bush and move it somewhere else. Would this be possible? I am thinking I should probably wait until the fall to do this. So the plant is dormant.

I did not plan ahead when I planted the blueberry bush. The raspberries were not up when I planted the bush. Now they are touching the bush. The raspberries were well established in the garden bed when I moved into the house 2 years ago. They seem pretty hardy. Last fall I cut them down to nothing and they are back full force and spreading this year.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2008 at 11:34PM
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Your thinking is dead on target. Wait until the blueberry bush is fully dormant before trying to move it. Personally, I would wait until March or April, just before the plant begins to wake up. If you try to move it too early in fall, that might be enough to push it over the edge, since it doesn't sound too healthy anyway.

Don't let the raspberries become too thick in any one area. If they are crowded, take your pruning shears and cut off about half the canes at the base. The will improve berry size and may increase your overall harvest from the remaining canes.

Don Yellman, Great Falls, VA

    Bookmark   June 28, 2008 at 12:08AM
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I can't help but agree with Don, exsessive water.
I now have 42 Blueberry plants, and let me tell ya there is a learning curve that goes along with growing these..
I watered my plants yesterday....and we had a big storm come thru last night and dumped 3 inches of rain.,and today One of my Dukes has brown leafs starting..the whole leaf is turning brown at once...not on the whole bush though. (I have see this on newly a planted fruit tree that had too much water all the leafs fell off then new leaves sprouted//) Any way this is the only bush doing this so maybe it is just a little whimpy.
Rabbits ruined my first crop
ph problems soil preparation my second
and this is my third try...I am taking notes...as to what I am doing and when I am doing it...I think that helps
Thanks Don to all your info on the Net...you knowledge has been very helpful.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2008 at 11:00PM
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