I have two blueberry bushes (Legacy Blueberry) purchased from a big box store last year (spring 2016). They are now each showing signs of red brittle leaves with a little die back. I'm curious if this is Scorch or a sign that my watering/pruning habits aren't sufficient? Would it be best to remove these two and replant in the autumn with better established bushes from a different nursery?
Marion County Oregon
Thanks for contacting Ask An Expert for help with your blueberries. The photos were very helpful. The leaves show signs of water stress/sun scald.
This summer has had some very hot stretches. A plant’s need for water during these spells may not be able to be met by the soil moisture in the root zone. In addition, all blueberries have shallow root systems, and these young plants and may not have developed the extensive root system, yet, to deal with this unusual weather.
It appears that you have applied some mulch, which is good. It keeps the roots cooler and conserves moisture. Keep a one- to two-inch mulch layer on your bushes.
The production of fruit is very taxing to a young plant, and it is generally recommended that the flowers be removed for the first year and limited the second year after planting. This way the blueberry can concentrate on building a strong root system and branches to support future fruit production. It may be that the production of berries this very hot year took more out of the plant than it could handle.
Legacy is a recommended home garden variety. Keep up with good fruit growing practices and your bushes should strengthen and provide many years of fruit.
For more information, check out this Oregon State University publication: Growing Blueberries in Your Home Garden.