Do Blueberry bushes lose their leaves? In a word, yes! As a deciduous shrub, blueberry bushes naturally lose their leaves in autumn to prepare for winter dormancy. But, if you notice your blueberry bush defoliating during its growing season, you may have a deeper problem on your hands.
Like many plants, a blueberry bush will lose its leaves if it feels stressed. In my experience, issues with watering, soil nutrients, fertilizing, and in some cases, the temperature can all stress out your plant and cause it to lose leaves.
If you suspect this to be the case with your blueberry bush, then don’t waste any time! Your blueberry bush’s life may very well depend on a quick intervention.
Blueberry bushes naturally lose their leaves at the end of their growing season in preparation for winter. The fact that blueberry bushes can survive freezing weather is nothing short of miraculous. I grow my highbush blueberries in zone 5, meaning that they need to be able to make it through sub-zero days!
Dropping their leaves come autumn helps them retain moisture and conserve energy for their essential organs. Typically, my blueberry bushes start to lose their leaves during the late summer or early fall. When spring comes, they gradually begin to leaf out again before blossoming and eventually bearing fruit later in the season.
If your blueberry bush is losing leaves outside of its seasonal cycle, you’ll want to consider the following factors:
Over- or Under-Watering
I’ve found that the primary culprit behind a defoliating blueberry bush is water. If you suspect this might be your problem, you’ll also likely be able to sense whether you under or overdo it. But if not, I’ll let you in on a tip: pay attention to curling leaves.
While both the leaves of over-watered and under-watered blueberry bushes will turn brown before falling off, typically only the leaves of an under-watered plant will curl. Overwatered blueberry bushes may also go yellow, and their young, green leaves will droop.
How Much Water Do Blueberry Bushes Need?
Blueberry bush care, including best watering practices, depends slightly on the type of blueberry that you’re growing. But as a general rule, you should water your blueberry bushes 1 inch a week early in the season and then up to 4 inches per week while the fruit is ripening.
Blueberry bushes like their soil just so. They don’t tolerate soggy soil well but can die when left to dry out.
Soil pH is one of the most critical elements of a healthy blueberry bush and a common reason that a blueberry bush might be losing leaves.
Blueberry bushes like their soil to be acidic, somewhere between 4 and 6 pH. This is necessary not only for healthy foliage but also for good fruit production. If you know that watering is not your problem, you might consider testing your soil acidity with a commercial pH tester.
If you take away one thing it should be that alkaline soil is not your friend! It can lead to your blueberry bush developing a host of issues. If your blueberry bush’s leaves turn yellow before dropping off, soil pH may be the key to your solution.
I like to test the soil acidity before planting, but don’t worry if you didn’t and are now dealing with the effects of alkaline soil. You can decrease the soil pH by supplementing the acidic compounds in the soil. To do this you can mulch with pine needles or add sphagnum peat or sulfur into the topsoil.
If you’re certain that soil pH is the reason your blueberry bush is losing leaves and need an urgent fix, once a week, dilute 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) of white vinegar per gallon of water to water your blueberry bush. Just note that this is not a permanent solution. It can help in a pinch, but the effects will wear off within a week.
If your blueberry bush is in acidic soil, you’re already well on your way to ensuring that your plant is receiving all of its essential nutrients. Acidic soil contains bacteria that help your plant break down and metabolize nutrients like zinc and iron. In addition to these key minerals, tilling organic matter into the soil will help your blueberry bush thrive.
Fertilize With Care
Just a little of a good quality fertilizer or compost will go a long way in helping your blueberry bush keep its leaves and produce high-quality fruit. Fertilization is a great way to supplement your plant’s nutrients and can even help correct the pH level of your soil.
But beware of over-fertilization! The roots of a blueberry bush are sensitive and can burn if exposed directly to too much fertilizer. Damaged roots are yet another cause of lost leaves, so fertilize with care. Ideally, you’d fertilize once every month or two with a high-quality fertilizer.
While blueberry bushes are pretty hardy, they aren’t indestructible. A few unseasonably hot or cold days may not kill your bush, but a stretch of them can lead to problems like defoliation. Luckily, there are steps you can take to minimize the impact that the weather has on your blueberries.
Too Much Heat
If the long summer days get too hot for too long, your blueberry bush may begin to drop its leaves. This typically happens because the roots struggle to get adequate moisture to the leaves. While you can’t will the heat away, you can take a few measures to help your plant better retain moisture.
Blueberry bushes love the sun. But if it’s too hot and they’re losing leaves, then providing them with some shade can help. You can also add mulch or compost since both help the soil remain moist and cool.
Depending on where you live and what kind of blueberry bush you grow, unseasonably cold weather can also cause defoliation. If the temperature dips for days or weeks on end, then your blueberry bush may mistakenly believe it’s time for winter and begin preparing to go dormant.
Unfortunately, there’s little you can do in this scenario beyond providing mulch or compost for added insulation.
Do Blueberry Leaves Grow Back?
Whether or not your blueberry bush’s leaves grow back depends on how serious the problem is. As a general rule of thumb, if only 20 percent or so of your plant’s leaves are struggling, then you have nothing to worry about.
That rule holds for yellowing, browning, drooping, or lost leaves. However, if the problem affects more than 20 percent of the bush, or you notice it rapidly progressing, then you may have a dying plant on your hands.
How do you revive a dying blueberry bush? The key is to act fast. If you respond quickly and ensure that your blueberry bush gets its water, soil, and temperature needs met, then your plant will likely survive.
Wait a few weeks, and you should notice the leaf loss slow, and new growth appear. And of course, if the defoliation was just seasonal, then your blueberry bush will leaf out come spring.
The best thing to do when you notice your blueberry bush’s leaves drop is to go back to the basics. If your blueberry isn’t losing its leaves due to seasonal defoliation, it’s almost always an issue with the water, soil, fertilization, or temperature.
While any of these factors can kill your blueberry bush, intervening is easy and effective. Just tweak your care, and your blueberry bush’s foliage should be back to normal in no time. And note that if you notice additional symptoms like blotchy leaves, you may have a disease or pest on your hands.