Why Are My Blueberry Plants Losing Their Leaves in Spring?

Written by tarah damask
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Why Are My Blueberry Plants Losing Their Leaves in Spring?
Blueberry bushes lose leaves in spring due to disease problems. (Blueberries image by MAXFX from Fotolia.com)

Home gardeners often choose blueberry bushes for the home garden both for the berries and visual interest. Blooming in spring with white flowers and green leaves that become red during fall, a bush that suddenly loses its leaves during spring indicates a problem. Maintain a close watch on plants and contact your local county extension agent to determine if your region has any major concerns.

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Preventive Care

The best way to avoid problems is to provide consistent care to your plants. Vigorous bushes are more likely to remain unaffected by disease than weakened or stressed plants. Grow blueberries in the home garden in locations with full sunlight. Although blueberries tolerate partial shade, the shadier the conditions, the poorer the flower and fruit development, according to the University of Minnesota Extension. Keeping blueberries in their ideal soil pH is essential and difficult. Blueberries thrive in extremely acidic soil at a pH range of 4.0 to 5.0. Have your soil tested by a lab to determine the exact pH and how to amend your soil to attain the ideal conditions.

Problems

If your blueberry plant is losing its leaves during the spring, you may notice other problems before harvest in the summer. A fungal disease that causes root rot is one potential problem regarding the loss of your bush's leaves. Root rot, caused by the pathogen Phytophthora cinnamomi, occurs in most severe form during spring and fall when disease activity peaks. A bacterial disease called bacterial leaf scorch is another potential culprit. The bacterium Xylella fastidiosa infects blueberry plants, commonly transmitted by insect feeding.

Effects

Blueberry bushes infected with phytophthora root rot experience decaying roots and yellowing leaves that drop from the blueberry plant, according to the North Carolina State University. Damage includes destroyed root systems, stunted growth and plant death. With bacterial leaf scorch infections, as new growth begins in spring, twigs discolour to a yellow hue, leaves drop from the plant and subsequently, the bush dies.

Solution

As these diseases begin with leaf drop and can lead to the death of your plant, management methods are essential. To save blueberry plants from phytophthora root rot, ensure consistently well-drained soil to prevent infection. In addition, lay organic mulch like bark on shallow beds before planting blueberries, suggests the North Carolina State University. Apply a chemical fungicide with a phosphorous acid as the active ingredient. As of 2010, bacterial leaf scorch is still a new blueberry disease with ongoing studies. Although no effective chemical controls exist to eradicate the disease, control is possible. Avoid stress and drought to minimise infection. Apply a pesticide with the active ingredient imidacloprid at spring flush to control the insects that spread this disease, according to the University of Georgia. Contact your local county extension agent or a licensed professional for further assistance.

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