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How to Treat Blueberries with Yellowing Leaves

By on May 29, 2012

Blueberry Iron Chlorosis

Blueberries are a wonderful fruit, tasty, healthy and the bushes make attractive landscape shrubs. They are easy to grow once you get the soil and water right, but if they have a problem they let you know! Some of my blueberries have begun to exhibit classic signs of iron chlorosis, that is iron deficiency. A blueberry with iron deficiency has yellowing leaves with dark green veins, the new growth will be affected by this first.

Now, before you run off and bury iron nails next to your blueberry bushes one of the biggest culprits of this problem isn’t that the soil doesn’t have enough iron, but that the plants can’t use the iron in the soil. Blueberries are unable to use the iron in soil when the soil pH is too high. Blueberries like their soil pH to be between 5.2 and 4.0 with the optimum being 4.5 to 4.8. Another problem that can cause iron chlorosis is too much water, this can happen with wet springs or irrigation that is set to water amounts that appropriate for the summer heat but not a cool spring.

The first step to address this problem is to do a pH test. This simple, inexpensive pH test kit is perfect for this type of monitoring. You’ll need to prepare a soil sample and the kit contains instructions, you can also watch a video of Tricia showing you how to prepare a soil sample. Once you’re sample is taken, dried, and crushed put a cap and a half full in in the test tube and 4ml of reagent, shake for 30 seconds and you’re in business.

Looks like a pH of 5.0

This is the soil test for my Reka blueberry which seems to be the most unhappy of my five bushes. It looks like the pH is about a 5.0 which is ok for blueberries, looks like my problem might be a bit of a wet spring!

Elemental Sulfur and a pH Test

If your test comes out with a high pH you can add iron sulfate or elemental sulfur in the recommended amounts. Other helps to lower the pH is a pine needle mulch and the addition of peat moss. You can also fertilize your blueberries with an acidic fertilizer like Cottonseed Meal or Acid Mix. If your blueberries are going into containers Dr. Earth has a potting soil specially formulated for acid loving plants.

  Comments (18)

P

Help, my blueberries are planted in a raised bed and mulched with pinestraw,  the berries seem stuck—they have been there for weeks and are not ripening!
Thank you, PJ

Posted by PJ Beuerlein on Jun. 19, 2013 at 8:01:15 AM

PJ, It can take some time for them to ripen and when it does it will be rather quickly. Your plants are not doing anything unusual.  There is no way to hasten the ripening—the climatic conditions will rule here.

Posted by GrowOrganic.com on Jun. 21, 2013 at 10:06:04 AM

N

I have 5 blueberry plants.  Each is a different variety.  Four look great but my Northland (planted 5/11) looks like your iron deficient plant.  If the problem is a wet spring will it correct itself?  Our water is high in iron so I’ve never had to address an iron problem.  Are there other causes of yellow leaves with green veins?  Thanks Nancy

Posted by Nancy Hollingsworth on Jun. 27, 2013 at 1:42:28 PM

Nancy, Yes, if the wet spring caused the problem it should resolve as the plant experiences drier soil in the summer. Sounds like a soil test would give you some helpful info about the soil around the Northland.

Posted by GrowOrganic.com on Jul. 09, 2013 at 3:28:24 PM

S

I have 2 blueberry bushes and I am brand new at this.  I just planted them a few months ago (in fact, they are the first fruit bush I have ever planted!) and, of course, the spring has been very wet.  My blueberry bushes have some yellowing leaves (which is how I found your site).  However, some of the veins aren’t green, they are red.  When I planted them, I mixed in miracle gro garden soil for flowers and veggies, and I’ve also given them espoma soil acidifier.  They’ve been sprayed 3x this summer with neem oil (what’s your thoughts on this?)  Have any ideas on the red veins?
thanks!

Posted by Sariah on Jul. 30, 2013 at 3:56:18 PM

Sariah, This is an interesting set of symptoms and I have emailed you some follow-up questions.

Posted by GrowOrganic.com on Jul. 31, 2013 at 11:14:57 AM

H

I’ve never previously ad any problems with my blueberry, but we are just coming to the end of our winter, and my blueberries were covered in flowers. But 3 weeks on, the leaves are turning yellow with black (mould like) spots. There is also a lot of leaf fall. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Posted by heather on Aug. 20, 2014 at 9:16:35 PM

Well usually something with black spots is infected with a fungus. But I cannot be sure without seeing the leaves. My suggestion is to visit your local Ag Advisor with a sample of the leaf or take it to a garden center for diagnosis.

Also if the plant is coming out of dormancy, then a good fertilizer would be in order. Use one labeled for blueberries or acid-loving plants.

Posted by Suzanne at Peaceful Valley on Sep. 04, 2014 at 4:31:05 PM

L

I have yellow leaves on one of my blueberry bushes (variety unknown, bought at nursery sale).  I see correction suggestions, but when and how much cottonseed meal, soil sulphur, etc,. do you add and when—anytime?  This is a containerized bush in a 50 gal. unit.

Posted by Lorraine Herman on May. 11, 2015 at 10:47:33 AM

Lorraine, Do you know what the soil pH is? Are the leaves all yellow or yellow with green veins? How long has the bush been in the pot? The best time to add fertilizer is when the plant is flowering and fruiting. I have started adding blood meal to my containerized blueberries since they are heavy feeders. But I have mine planted in a 50-50 mix of potting soil and peat. So far mine are very lush and green.

Posted by Suzanne at Peaceful Valley on May. 12, 2015 at 10:21:26 AM

D

I have 4 blueberry plants, all planted beside each other, and only one has the symptoms described here.  I’m guessing it’s because it gets sprayed somewhat by my neighbours sprinkler, and it stays too wet.  However, I wonder, because there are dandelions near by, which don’t get sprayed, which also have yellowing leaves (which is unusual for dandelion).  Any ideas?  Also, the blueberry at the opposite end of the row produces very few berries.  Any idea why that could be?

Posted by Debbie Longley on May. 25, 2015 at 8:56:14 PM

Cannot say exactly what the problem is but blueberries are heavy feeders and need a low pH soil. Have you done any soil testing on the pH? Are you feeding regularly during the growing season? How old are the plants? If they are fairly new in the ground you really do not want to encourage fruit development the first year or two. You really should be pulling off the flowers to encourage strong structural growth, especially the first year.

Posted by Suzanne at Peaceful Valley on May. 26, 2015 at 1:03:29 PM

A

I have two blueberry plants. One is doing pretty good. This is their first year bearing berries. My bluejay plant is not doing well at all. I can’t seem topper the ph enough or quick enough for the plant. Some of the leaves are brown and are crumbly and just fell of the others are yellow and red. What am I to do ?

Posted by Ayesha on Aug. 11, 2015 at 10:58:22 AM

Ayesha, I would be able to answer this better if I had more information on your location, growing conditions of your blueberry plants (in the ground vs. in a pot), are they in full sun vs. part shade…
Typically when leaves are crisp they may have gotten sun burned or may have undergone some water stress. My suggestion is to take some photos and email it to our .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) and we can have our garden experts take a look. Give as much detail on the growing conditions of the blueberries.

Posted by Suzanne at Peaceful Valley on Aug. 11, 2015 at 12:03:50 PM

L

Hi, today I removed two blueberry plants from the City Gardens in Cape Town, South Africa. The plants have been under a lot of stress, dried out and have not been receiving any water because of the extremely hot summer weather. The stem is about 1cm thick with a few leaves that are yellow with green veins. I transplanted both blueberry plants into one pot inside my home and watered it well. What I want to know is… will the blueberry plants survive? the plants have already been under a lot of stress because of the drought and transplanting it probably made their stress worse.

Posted by Levon on Jan. 21, 2016 at 11:59:55 AM

Levon, I really can’t say if they will live or not. You should give them some afternoon shade and make sure that they stay watered. You might consider heavily mulching the soil if you haven’t already. Sounds like they need some fertilizer.

Posted by Suzanne at Peaceful Valley on Feb. 01, 2016 at 11:05:22 AM

A

I have 5 blueberry plants that are now 3 years old.  I have 1 plant that has not grown much and the top leaves are turning yellow.  There are 2 plants on each side that are healthy looking.  They Are planted in a raised bed.  I filled the bed with organic soil that is about 8 inches deep.  Under the raised bed is clay.  We live in TN.  Someone suggested that I apply epson salt solution and water this plant with this solution.  I have put coffee grounds in soil in the spring.  My soil is acidic.  Would the Epson salt work?
Thanks

Posted by Anna HILL on May. 28, 2016 at 12:55:24 PM

Anna, what is the pH of your soil? I have had a lot of success with my blueberries planted in smart pots. I put them in a soil that is half peat and half potting soil. I make sure they get regular water and I cover the soil with a thick layer of straw mulch. I also fertilize once a month with a good fertilizer for acid loving plants, with some blood meal added. I also keep them in a location where they get some afternoon shade. You should hand pull any weeds as well so you don’t disturb the roots.

Posted by Suzanne at GrowOrganic.com on May. 31, 2016 at 4:17:53 PM

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