Yellow leafs turned to brown on my blackberry bush.

Asked June 10, 2019, 8:26 PM EDT

Yellow leafs turned to brown after purchasing my blackberry bush from Lowes a month ago in a pot. I have gotten over thirty berries off of the bush so far. I left it in the pot that I purchased it in until I could get a big pot. I watered it every other day. The water sat at the bottom of the saucer. I fertilized it a couple of times. I found some black bugs on some of the fruit and picked them off. I have not seen any more but the canes are turning brown and the leaves are totally dead except for a small few. I do not know what happened. I have the limp canes on a trellis.

Durham County North Carolina

1 Response

This question was answered by a Durham County Extension Master Gardener℠ volunteer.

Hello and thank you for your Ask the Expert question. I’m sorry you’ve run into difficulties with your blackberries, they generally do well in our area although there are a few things you should be aware of.

Blackberries put on new leaves and most of their growth occurs during our cooler spring months. By now they have typically set their fruit and will enter a more dormant stage. There are some everbearing varieties which can produce two crops in a season, typically in the spring and fall. It sounds like you were able to purchase a plant last month which already had fruit on it, which makes me think it must have come from a warmer climate—perhaps Georgia or Florida. You also mentioned that you kept your plant in its original container and I imagine it was a black plastic container. That would mean the roots of the plants were likely warmed by the sun, telling the plant to hurry up and go dormant because summer is here.

You mentioned there are small leaves on the plant, are they new leaves? Gently scratch the surface of the canes with your fingernail, if you see green under the outer layer they are still alive, if not they are dead and should be pruned off.

Generally blackberries are not raised in pots. They are typically big plants that need room to spread out and unless the container is very large they are prone to tipping over. There are some smaller / dwarf varieties on the market, I’ve heard ‘Baby Cakes’ is delicious. I do know there are smaller / dwarf varieties of blueberries that have been developed for container growing. I’ve had great success with these and particularly like ‘Peach Sorbet’, last year I got nearly 5 pints off of three plants. Sadly this year the birds discovered my plants before I got netting over them and we’ve only been able to enjoy a few handful of berries.

As for the bugs you found on your plant they are likely taking advantage of a stressed plant that can’t defend itself. A few bugs shouldn’t kill a healthy plant, but an infestation can do in one in a weakened condition.

I’m not sure I can tell you exactly what happened to your plant, I suspect our warm / cool / warm weather and living out of the ground in a black plastic pot combined to stress the plant beyond what it could tolerate. If you find signs of life (green under the outer layer on the canes) I’d suggest planting it and be patient.

In case it's beyond saving I’m sending along a link to a helpful Extension publication about raising blackberries. It provides step-by-step instructions for selection, planting, maintenance, and care.

I hope you are able to either save your current plant or try again this fall. Best of luck, thank you for your question.

Happy Gardening,

Dr. Lise Jenkins

Master Gardener℠ volunteer

NC Cooperative Extension

Durham County Center

721 Foster Street

Durham, NC 27701