Blueberry advice

My in-laws in NW Connecticut have some incredibly productive blueberry bushes (more like trees, at least 40 yrs old!), from which I’ve taken two air layers this fall. The air layers look good (good root growth through the summer), but I’m looking for advice on what do do with them over winter. They got two frosts (nighttime) before being cut from their parents, and have lost most of their leaves. The branches themselves look healthy (bendable, remaining leaves not dried out). They’re in 10" pots with bags over them to keep them from drying out. One is about 1’, the other is 2’ tall. I’ve kept them in my garage (dark) for the past week, but I’m not sure if they’re actually dormant.

Three options are to keep them in my 30-50F garage over winter, leave them outside, or keep them in my 60F basement under a moderate strength grow lamp (usually used for growing garden seedling in the spring).

Any thoughts? I’m open to other possible options as well.

I would not keep a bag over them. If in pots I don’t like to leave exposed to all the rains. If in fabric bags I would just leave them out. If in plastic pots, overhead protection is called for. The pot will crack. Keep moist not wet. They lost leaves because they lost their main root sytem and have to rely on the AL roots. Also they were moved. Different light, orientation, temps even, so the plant is in shock a little. Air layers many times lose leaves anyway. I never did them on blueberries, very cool it works as they are very hard to root cuttings.
I have two plants going on 2nd winter in root pouches. they are doing great. I also have one in plastic going on 3rd year. I kept it on my porch with overhead protection. Once dormant it’s going in a root pouch and left in the backyard with no protection. I’m using 20 gallon root pouches. I can still move those with a dolly. I don’t plan to move them anyway. I may go 30 gallons in the future. I also have 6 in raised beds. .

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Here are some photos. These plants are 2nd leaf. They are probably 3 or 4 years old.
What are your plans? To put them in ground eventually?

Photos taken today.


One of 6 in raised beds

Thinking about this more, I think I would leave outside till temps go down below freezing to make sure they go dormant. I would put in garage at that point to be safe, not to lose them. Although this may make them start growing early, and once they start growing will be sensitive to freezes. Maybe take back out late Febuary to make sure they don’t start growing early. Once dormant, they do not need light.

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Thanks for the pics, those look healthy! I was 2/4 with air layering these and 0/6 taking cuttings. Next year I’ll probably AL again since I want 3-4. I have no idea what variant these are but they’re fantastic. The leaf loss wasn’t from the transplant shock - the bushes had already dropped most of them - but I agree it’s in shock nonetheless.

I like bagging (I should clarify - clear plastic bags) in general because it lets me maintain the moisture better than trying to keep moist but not wet. I just make sure to keep them out of direct sunlight so they don’t bake and occasionally let them breathe to prevent CO2 buildup. I just rescued a Teramo fig cutting from the brink by bagging. What’s your reason for not bagging in this case? (not arguing, just curious)

The pots are just crappy plastic nursery ones, and I agree that I worry about hard freezing them this winter, although supposedly it’s going to be a mild winter. Do your pouched ones freeze solid in the winter?

Long term I want them in the ground. Will probably keep them potted/pouched for a couple of years to get them stronger before transplant. I have a nice spot by some evergreens that like to drop needles, so it’ll keep the soil naturally acidic. Very similar to the environment the parent bushes were in.

Giving the perfect environment for pathogenic fungi. Humidity outside is not your friend.
I use parafilm or buddy tape with figs. It maintains a constant humidity around the cutting. No need for bags, which make it hard as any foliage has to be weened off the humidity or die (with figs). The leaves do not need the humidity, the bark does. So the leaves development in native environment from the start.

Yes, but it has not killed them yet. It will thaw quicker if on soil. I also keep currants both black and red, honeyberries, Black raspberries, and gooseberries also in root pouches out all winter.

Sounds like a plan. I would all the same test the pH, if high, build a raised bed and control the pH. Trying to control pH in ground can be done, but is constant. Like throwing a few thousand gallons of salt water in Lake Superior is not going to turn it to salt water. Hydrogen ions mix with soil like salt with water. Soon the surrounding soil will strip it of hydrogen ions if you don’t constantly replenish it. If soil is acidic for sure, confirmed, well that’s very cool, and never mind! My soil is about 6.5 but that is not acidic enough, and I gave up after a year.

So you grow figs, just so you know blueberries will come out of dormancy way ahead of figs, it can be an issue.

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Blueberries have relatively cold resistant roots, which I discovered when leaving a potted plant out over winter and temps got to around -15F. Most species of fruit’s roots would be killed by that when exposed in an uninsulated pot with no roots growing into the ground.

I’ve never lost a blueberry to cold kill and I used to transplant them often in fall. I really don’t think you have much to worry about there- blueberries have other issues.

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