Blueberry plants are stunted and not developing

Asked September 23, 2020, 8:31 AM EDT

My BLueberry plants are stunted and are not developing. I bought a home PH tester and it shows the Ph at around 4-5. Is this the reason how do I lower the PH level of the soil- quickly?

Wake County North Carolina

3 Responses

There are 2 main species of blueberries that can be grown in the Piedmont: highbush (Vaccinium corymbosum), and rabbiteye (V. ashei). Rabbiteye is more drought and heat tolerant than highbush, but they require cross-pollination by a different rabbiteye variety in order to maximize yield.
For optimum growth, blueberries require a pH of 4.8 to 5.0. A pH outside that range is usually indicated by stunted growth. Blueberries require full sun; less than full sun will manifest in spindly growth and will reduce harvest. Blueberries must have excellent soil drainage; if the water remains in the soil too long, the chances of a root rot infection quickly increase. Sandy soil with organic matter greater than 2% leads to optimum growth. To modify soil where a blueberry plant is already planted, do not dig around the plant. Blueberries grow shallow roots that can be destroyed by disturbing the soil. Instead, on a heavy clay soil or a soil that sometimes remains too wet, apply a mix of peat moss with an equal amount of sand on the soil surface to the drip line of the plant. Yearly applications of peat moss, well-decayed pine sawdust, pine chips or pine bark will improve plant survival and growth; however, this mulch should never be more than 3 to 4 inches deep. Correctly mulched, blueberries will enjoy the results in more uniform soil moisture and reduction in soil temperature. Blueberries are easily damaged by excess fertilizer; apply only the recommended amount from a soil test report in 2 applications, allowing 4 inches of rain or irrigation water to fall between applications. The state provides free results to soils tests until November 1st.
A home pH tester isn't accurate enough to advise on what the pH actually is, but quick changes to pH are especially not good for blueberries. Based on the information provided, you should check your blueberry's growing environment, obtain the results of a soils test to more accurately assess the soil your plant is growing in and take measures as recommended therein. Above all, go slowly. Plants don't respond well to quick changes and our care of them should be equally gentle and patient.
Good luck,

Thank you that is very helpful. I am submitting a soil test. I just picked up the boxes. Do I have to mail them back? Man I drop them off and if so, where can I drop them off?

Physical drop-off is at the North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services Agronomic Lab in the Eaddy Building, 4300 Reedy Creek Road, Raleigh. To help limit the spread of COVID-19, public access to the Eaddy Building is restricted. Clients can drop off samples on the loading dock. If you have any questions about laboratory operations during the COVID-19 pandemic, you can call their office at 919-733-2655.