When the leaves of a blueberry plant don't fall

julia_scheidtAugust 2, 2014

We're in the middle of winter here in Brazil. I have this rabbiteye Climax blueberry plant and it hasn't dropped its leaves. Some of the leaves have changed color, kind of red, but others are still green... Does it mean this plant will not fruit well later on?

It's funny that my other rabbiteye plant, Bluegem variety, which I left in the shade, has already lost all of its leaves and its buds are slowly beginning to swell. So I guess the lack of sunlight has helped it go into dormancy?
The Climax one, on the other hand, is placed on a very sunny spot in the garden. Maybe I should put it in the shade with the Bluegem?

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My experience with blueberry shrubs is that they do best in full sun, but they will do OK in full sun-half day conditions. As far as I know, it is temperature that drives the change in leaf color, and eventually results in the leaf falling to the ground. You really need full sun conditions to get good growth in the leaves, and to get the metabolism going in the leaves, which supports the growth of flowers and fruit. It sounds like you are in the process of discovery, learning which cultivars will do well in your particular environment.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2014 at 2:46PM
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Don't know much about your area, how cold your Winters are, but in mild winter climates some blueberries do not drop leaves during dormancy the plant just stops growing, it may fruit just fine as long as you get correct chill for the variety you have, I have 3 varieties of blueberries that are evergreen in my area. Peoria, Az. the plant will most likely hold leaves well into the new growing season I thought something was wrong with all of my plants the first year midseason because the leaves started browning but it was all mature leaves from the previous season.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2014 at 12:23AM
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My winters are really mild, it's subtropical climate.
The blueberries that I left in the shade dropped all of their leaves, and now they're growing new leaves and showing flowers. It looks like the lack of sunlight did not harm them at all... I'm guessing the shade made up for our lack of cold temperatures and helped the plants achieve dormancy... they had only 30 minutes of direct sunlight per day! Now they look just fine and are back to growing.

This post was edited by julia.scheidt on Mon, Aug 4, 14 at 21:35

    Bookmark   August 4, 2014 at 9:33PM
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30 minutes of direct sunlight per day is not enough to get reasonably good fruit production from a blueberry shrub. You might get a handful of berries from a 5 year old shrub, maybe a pint. If you can get the shrub to a location with full-sun, half day, you might get a quart of fruit, and if you can get the shrub to a location with full-sun, all day, you might get two quarts of fruit. This is my experience growing blueberries in Madison, Wisconsin. We have long and cold winters here, so chilling is never a problem for us. I think you will be successful, but I think you will have to invest some time and effort finding the best varieties for your climate.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 9:42AM
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Dormancy is not necessary. Old leaves will be pushed off by new. You can pluck all the leaves off to simulate winter loss for a gain of about 2 days sooner fruiting and increased chills, but it likely is not necessary in your climate and with a rabbiteye. If you are going to then drop the leaves down to use for mulch. Removing the leaves rather than letting them fall off naturally deprives the plant of some nutrients it would normally remove from the leaf and the ability to pump wastes into the leaves before jettisoning them.

As was said, you need 6-8 hours of direct sunlight required daily for sugar formation and fruiting; depending upon your environment dappled/shade cloth can help in harsh solar conditions of say 14 hours creating the equivalent or 6-8 hours direct sun.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 12:34PM
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Well, it's 30 minutes of sunlight only during the winter. Now the days are becoming longer and I'm hoping the plants will get 6 hours of direct sunlight in the summer. Do you think this pattern is okay?

And it's more like a bright shade, not dark shade. The place is very bright and a lot of light is reflected from the surroundings into the plants.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 7:41PM
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6 hours of direct sunlight in the summer months is good. To get the maximum fruit production in a commercial orchard, you might want a full 12 hours of summertime sunlight, but I think that you will be successful with 6 hours of sun.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 7:45PM
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