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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Thursday - June 28, 2007

From: Morgantown, WV
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Transplants, Shrubs
Title: Transplant shock in Vacccinum corymbosum (highbush blueberry)
Answered by: Barbara Medford and Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

Blueberry plants - We planted Northland and Blue Crop, 2 of each. All 4 plants have some leaves that are turning brown. This starts at the tip of the leaf, eventually encompasses the entire leaf, and the leaf falls off. The soil pH is from 4.5 to 5. The plants get full sun. We make sure we water them regularly. What is happening to these beautiful shrubs?

ANSWER:

Vaccinium corymbosum (highbush blueberry) is indeed a beautiful native plant and the cultivars you selected are among the best. Two possibilities occur to me regarding the leaf fall you are experiencing. The first is, it sounds like you just recently planted your bushes. Any plant, no matter how tough the plant nor how delicate the handling, will suffer some leaf fall from being transplanted. Many of the tiny little rootlets that bring moisture into the plant are damaged or lost, and the plant is expressing its displeasure by dropping some leaves. Transplant shock is exacerbated by full sun conditions. While your blueberry needs to be in full sun for maximum fruitset, it is a tough location for newly transplanted plants. A good mulch for the plant, some judicious pruning to reduce the plants' water demand and continued good irrigation should help your plants get over the transplant hump. Once established your blueberry bushes should bear fruit for decades. You and your neighborhood birds will enjoy them for years to come.

West Virginia University and Ohio State University have each published nice articles on growing blueberries. There are numerous other webpages online with similar information.

 

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