Why is my Olympia Blueberry plant losing all its leaves?

Asked August 28, 2017, 11:29 PM EDT

Hi there I purchased this Olympia blueberry plant this year and have followed all of the care instructions. It gets regular water and fertilizer. It is in a 3x3 bed with another blueberry plant and is in full sun. The other blueberry plant is healthy and green though it is a different variety. I am unsure why the leaves are all turning red/brown and falling off. Any advice is much appreciated!

Multnomah County Oregon

1 Response

Thank you for attaching the images to your inquiry. They reveal that your blueberry has been damaged by heat; excessively bright sunlight during several of this season’s heat waves; and a shortage of water.

The dark brown areas were the first to be damaged; those areas are dead. The bleached portions are where the green chlorophyll has died, thereby revealing the underlying yellow and red pigments. Even though the leaves are damaged, they are important to the plant’s survival.

At this time of year, survival is more important than new growth. So, don’t fertilize.

Your goal is to adjust your watering practices to ensure that the entire original rootball is adequately moist. Blueberries must have a constant source of moisture. Unfortunately, the soil and rootball are drying much more rapidly than you realize. (Take heart, though, because you are in good company. The unusual heat here in the northwest has taken many gardeners by surprise.)

Because this blueberry was planted this this year, it’s still developing its root system. And because blueberries grow into sizable shrubs, consider moving it to its own planting bed after it goes dormant, but before growth begins in spring. “Space plants 4 to 5 feet apart in the row. Spacing between the rows can be 8 to 10 feet.” (See “Growing Blueberries in Your Home Garden” https://catalog.extension.oregonstate.edu/sites/catalog/files/project/pdf/ec1304.pdf)