Blueberries. No leaves. Lots of berries.?

I have several varieties of blueberries, all in pots, all under similar conditions. My Blue Crop is covered in blueberries, but has almost no leaves. This is the second year of this. It used to be healthy. The other plants don’t look like this.

In a previous post I mentioned that the bark of all my blueberries is “peeling”. I thought that was a sign that the rest of my plants would soon suffer the same fate. The bark on all plants has been peeling for at least 2 years. (I didn’t notice until one plant had no leaves left to hide it.) But it turns out the bark thing is normal. So other than that, the other plants seem fine.

Last year, I tried feeding it high nitrogen fertilizer. No change. I re-potted it in the fall in case I had accidentally introduced standard fertilizer. When I got loads of berries and no leaves again this spring, I started adding high nitrogen fertilizer again. Still no leaves.

What’s wrong with this blueberry?


That’s usually an indication of lack of sufficient chilling. Where do you live and where do you keep the potted plants during winter? If I’m right try to get more hrs in the 35-50F range next winter.

Thanks for the idea. But probably not. Should have included that I live in zone 5, Northern Ohio. The pots are outside all winter, On the south side, next to an unheated garage. I bury the pots in leaves. It’s not a particularly warm micro climate.

Although now that you mention it… Could extreme cold have done permanent damage? Not this winter, but the previous 2 winters were bitter cold with several trips down to -20F. The other plants survived. but most of my cherry and plum crops were lost. And this plant had the same problem last summer, following a brutally cold winter.

I have one blueberry bush that has done this for the last five years. I have tried removing the berries one year, I have given it high doses of ammonia sulfate, and also applied additional sulfur. Through all this it remains about 3’ and puts on a decent crop of berries for it’s size. The berries tend to be a little milder than my my others and the grands like them. It is one of nine so I’m not going to sweat it any more.

I almost killed my blueberry bush and needed to remove almost all of the canes, it responded with explosive growth.

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No not to stop it leafing out. If it killed the canes they would grow back and fruit normally the next yr. If cold killed the roots the plant is dead.

Lack of chilling in blueberries results in canes that flower and set fruit but the foliage is delayed. If delayed enough the berries are of poor quality. NHB blueberries have the highest chilling requirement of anything I’ve tried to grow. And they are not forgiving at all. Lack of chilling results in late foliage. I need 1200 Utah hrs in the greenhouse Oct to Jan and then all I can get outside after that. Left outside all winter our typical 700 hrs below 45 results in several months delay in foliage.

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I’ve had a lot of fruit this year without a lot of leaves. I’m blaming bugs on it. I gave my blueberry a massive pruning and found 20-30 glassy winged sharpshooters all over my blueberries. I’ve been spraying for the nymphs and squishing the adults. The bluebberries are now putting out a massive amount of new leaf growth.

OK, so it wasn’t the cold temps.

Except for a handful, leaves never came at all last year, not even late. (Frankly, I don’t know how a plant can live this long without leaves.) And that was following a long, brutally cold winter. The cherry and plum buds across the entire region didn’t open last spring. Winter killed them. The same plant was fine before that, producing lots of berries after much more mild winters. Not enough chill doesn’t fit.

I just mixed up fresh potting soil for this blueberry last fall. (I tried re-potting it.) It’s 14 gallons. I’d like to re-use the soil for a new blueberry. But I’m concerned that whatever might be wrong with this plant might have infected the soil. Can I reuse this soil safely? Thanks.

That sounds like cold damage. In your climate lack of chilling shouldn’t be an issue. However remember that the time below freezing does not count as chilling. Only hrs between 32 and about 50 actually chill the plant. So in your climate a mild winter could well have more chilling than a cold winter.

Thanks Fruitnut. I have always assumed that the below freezing hours added to the chill time. Learn something new every day.

I have a similar issue with one of my Darrow plants, it is planted with the rest of my berries and everything else is really leafed out and healthy, This particular plant is about 75% berries with a few leaves here and there, I think i may just need to hard prune after harvest and see if i can stimulate new basal growth.

Maybe I’ll give it a shot of 21-0-0 I have lying around.

Thanks all.

I didn’t know that about chill hours either. I was thinking cold is cold.

This happens on old cane with too many bloom buds. After a cane is about 4 years old, it should be cut out to encourage new canes which is where the bulk of your leaves grow. Also the small fruiting branches need to be thinned out some on older plants to prevent over production. Eventually you get an eye for when a bush has too many bloom buds and some need to removed through thinning our some of the small lateral branches. This pruning should be done in late winter. But I find cutting off some of the small, nearly leafless branches after the fruit is picked stimulates summer growth which helps the plants rejuvenate some from a heavy season of production. God bless.