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Common Blueberry Growing Questions and How To Solve Them

Common Blueberry Growing Questions and How To Solve Them

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Paul Brown

Blueberries are one of the hardest berries to grow. So many things can happen to your bush throughout a growing season.

Blueberries are native North American bushes that are primarily grown in the northern United States and Canada. They can be temperamental and difficult to raise in hot environments and will challenge growers (source).

If you’re wondering what’s wrong with your blueberry bush, read on as we answer the most common questions. 

Why Are My Blueberries Not Turning Blue?

If your blueberries aren’t turning blue, you may live somewhere where the temperature is too warm. Many varieties of blueberry bushes require colder temperatures to turn properly blue. This is the most common reason your blueberries aren’t ripening. Your plant might also not be getting enough sun.

Some varieties of blueberry are designed for colder climates. Their berries should ripen after the temperature drops below a certain amount or during a cold snap. They’ll take on the beautiful blue color with an almost frosty look.

However, in warmer climates, these berries might never entirely turn blue. That doesn’t mean they’re inedible; they’ll likely be more tart, but you can eat them. 

Something else is that your plant might not have enough sunlight. Blueberries require full sunlight to grow properly, but the berries might not change color if they don’t get the right amount. 

Sunlight is the key to the brilliant blue color and is essential for the ripening process. This should happen during the summer between June and August (source). 

Why Is My Blueberry Bush Turning Brown?

If your blueberry bush is turning brown, it’s typically because it isn’t getting enough water. The browning will start at the edges of leaves and then consume the whole plant. Other diseases can turn leaves brown too.

Pesticides that are too strong can burn your plant, and there are blights with similar symptoms. However, once you know what to look for, you can see the difference between drought symptoms and the other options (source). 

Is My Blueberry Bush Dead or Dormant?

Blueberry bushes can go dormant at certain times, and it can be hard to tell if it’s inactive or not.

Determining whether your blueberry bush is dead or dormant can be tricky, but you can usually look at the leaves, stems, and roots to see if they’re healthy or not. There are critical differences between a dead and a dormant blueberry bush. 

If you know what to look for, you can quickly figure out what situation you’re dealing with. This can save you heartbreak, headache, and time.

How To Tell if Blueberry Bush is Dormant

A blueberry bush is dormant if the rest of the bush looks altogether healthy, but the leaves have fallen off. This happens when the plant has naturally progressed through the growing season and is settling in before the winter. 

Look for any signs of damage or disease in the main stalks that might indicate death or injury. If you don’t see any of them, your blueberry bush could’ve gone dormant. 

It would be best if you looked at the time of year too. The most significant sign that your bush is dormant is that it has shown these signs after the growing season and going into winter. 

However, if your plant is showing these signs during the healthy growing season, you might have a dying plant on your hands. Any issues in the ordinarily productive months are significant signs that something is wrong.

How To Tell if Blueberry Bush Is Dead

If the blueberry bush is dead, the leaves will be completely brown during the primary growing season and berries will shrivel. The leaves might also stay attached to the plant and not fall. However, leaves dropping in large amounts show a massive shock to the system. 

The stem will look bad as well. The wood will become brittle and too hard. Twigs will snap too quickly, and the center of them will be dry. They might be easy to remove from the ground as well.

If you live in a warmer or more humid environment, the wood might rot as well. You’ll see discoloration and holes inside. The wood may even crumble under manipulation.

If bugs or some other pest killed the bush, you’d see other visible issues. These could be holes in the stems and leaves, apparent signs of mold or disease, and extra shriveling.

All of these point to a dead blueberry bush over a dormant one. 

How Do You Revive a Blueberry Bush?

You can revive a blueberry bush with some TLC. You should regularly prune the branches, change the pH of the soil, and give the plant plenty of water and sunlight. You can also spot-treat any other specific issues, like pests or blight. 

Blueberries need acidic soil to flourish: specifically in the 4.5 to 5.5 range. If your plant is dying, you should test the soil pH (link to Amazon) and then take steps to correct that.

Peat is one of the best and most effective ways to raise pH. Fresh coffee grounds can be a great way to increase acidity if you’re in a pinch. Take the material and mix it into the soil surrounding your bush before watering thoroughly.

Pruning might also revitalize your plant, especially if it’s older. It would be best if you didn’t over prune the blueberry bush while doing it. If you over prune, you might kill the bush in the process. This is especially true for young plants (source).

Sometimes, all your plant needs is a lot of water and sunlight to perk up. If your region has been going through a drought or dealing with many cloudy days, you should take steps to protect your plants. 

Why Are My Blueberry Leaves Curling Up?

Your blueberry leaves are curling up when the plant is stressed. It can be related to drought, a lack of sunlight, and incorrect soil pH. While you can’t fix the curled leaves, you can take steps to prevent the future of them.

Curled leaves aren’t an immediate sign of disease or a dying plant, but they can clue you in with how your plant is feeling. Stressed blueberry plants react in specific ways. 

Like other issues with blueberry bushes, you should check to see if the stems and branches are hurt. You should also pH test the soil to make sure the acidity is correct. Too much shade can also make your bush’s leaves curl.

Curling leaves are a sign of stress, but they are not a reason for immediate concern. Curling alone doesn’t mean that your plant is dying, just that it’s stressed and needs aren’t being met. 

How Long Does a Blueberry Bush Last?

Blueberry bushes can live to be over 50 years old. Most bushes live to be 40 or 50 years old, but they can live even longer than that with the proper care and maintenance.

Some blueberry bushes can grow very large, and families can pass heritage bushes down from person to person. These particularly old bushes are truly impressive and a sight to behold. 

These plants can then be propagated as heritage varieties since they’ve been cultivated for so many years. They may have specific genetic benefits and resistance from certain diseases, like blights. 

Blueberry bushes reach maturity around eight years old and should produce consistently after that. This is also the age when you should begin pruning the canes back to encourage new growth (source).

How Often Should I Water My Blueberry Bush?

You should water your blueberry bush every week with about an inch (2.54 cm) of water if it’s planted in the ground. However, during the growing season, you should quadruple their water intake.

Source: Arbor Day Foundation

Blueberry bushes require a lot of water. It can be difficult to properly water a blueberry bush without automatic watering systems or other irrigation infrastructure. They need correct drainage and also a lot of water overall.

Droughts can also make it harder to keep your plants healthy. Check the weather reports to make sure you can plan for these days. You’ll need to adjust your plant’s water levels accordingly. 

It would help if you also kept an eye on the weather to know when to pull back on the water supply. Like any other bush, too much water can kill the plant and lead to other conditions. 

Namely, it can lead to root rot. See Signs of Overwatering Plants.

How Do You Treat Blueberry Root Rot?

You can treat root rot relatively quickly if you catch it early and remove the diseased roots. However, prevention is the best treatment for this disease. Give your bush proper drainage and avoid overwatering.

Root rot is a particularly nasty plant disease. It can quickly kill a plant or do irreversible damage. You need to catch it early so you can treat it as soon as possible.

Spot Root Rot

Root rot is easy to spot if you know what you’re looking for. 

First, your bush will look bad. Leaves turn red and yellow and get spots. The leaves might shrivel and start falling.

It may show signs of other stress symptoms, but fixing the issue won’t help the plant. Another thing that may indicate root rot is if water is failing to drain from the soil.

If the case has advanced far enough, you might see the rot on the canes and crowns of the plant. The canes are also known as branches, and the crowns are known as junctures. Sometimes, the branches themselves will fall off or become moldy (source).

To thoroughly verify the disease, you need to remove the bush from the earth. You don’t want to damage the roots more in the process of pulling them, so be gentle. Try to avoid tugging and ripping the roots.

Once you’ve removed the main root ball, take some water and start washing the dirt off the roots. Handle them delicately; the water shouldn’t be too hot or too cold, or it might shock the plant.

While this is going on, carefully examine the roots themselves. Discoloration and watery roots are telltale signs of root rot. If the roots are physically crumbling under the touch, that’s another sign.

Now that you have confirmation, you can treat it. 

Treat Root Rot

Once the root ball has been cleaned, you should start trimming the roots away with clean and sharp shears. Don’t trim too far into the roots. If you take too many of them off, you could kill the plant by choking its water supply.

You should remove all of the rotted roots and move the plant to a new location. The mold will likely still be in the soil and could contaminate the plant again (source). All your hard work will have been for nothing.

If the root rot has progressed too far, you may have to accept the loss of the plant itself. Sometimes, it has progressed too far to save it. Even if you go through the whole process, the plant may sicken and die.

Prevent Root Rot

Preventing root rot is crucial to make sure your plants stay healthy. You have to take steps to stop it before it even shows up. This starts as soon as you bring your plants home.

You need to examine all of your plants and make sure they’re healthy before buying or planting them. Look for any visible signs of disease or damage. While some of these young plants might recover, unless you’re an experienced grower, you probably won’t be able to save them.

Keeping the area well-irrigated will prevent the mold from taking root as well. You have to let the soil drain properly so no infection can set in. Too much water will fuel the rot even more and give it a chance to grow.

You should also take steps to watch your plants. While you don’t need to examine your plants every day, you should make a regular observation schedule. That way, you’ll know as soon as something happens.

Final Thoughts

Growing a blueberry bush can be very difficult to do. However, if you put the time and energy into caring for it, you’ll raise a healthy and productive berry bush that’ll pay you back many times over.