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Blueberries with Yellowing Leaves

May 29, 2012 -
  Blueberries with Yellowing Leaves
Blueberry Iron Chlorosis

Blueberries are a wonderful fruit, tasty, healthy and the bushes make attractive landscape shrubs. They are easy to grow once you get the soil and water right, but if they have a problem they let you know! Some of my blueberries have begun to exhibit classic signs of iron chlorosis, that is iron deficiency. A blueberry with iron deficiency has yellowing leaves with dark green veins, the new growth will be affected by this first.

Now, before you run off and bury iron nails next to your blueberry bushes one of the biggest culprits of this problem isn’t that the soil doesn’t have enough iron, but that the plants can’t use the iron in the soil. Blueberries are unable to use the iron in soil when the soil pH is too high. Blueberries like their soil pH to be between 5.2 and 4.0 with the optimum being 4.5 to 4.8. Another problem that can cause iron chlorosis is too much water, this can happen with wet springs or irrigation that is set to water amounts that appropriate for the summer heat but not a cool spring.

The first step to address this problem is to do a pH test. This simple, inexpensive pH test kit is perfect for this type of monitoring. You’ll need to prepare a soil sample and the kit contains instructions, you can also watch a video of Tricia showing you how to prepare a soil sample. Once you’re sample is taken, dried, and crushed put a cap and a half full in in the test tube and 4ml of reagent, shake for 30 seconds and you’re in business.

Looks like a pH of 5.0

This is the soil test for my Reka blueberry which seems to be the most unhappy of my five bushes. It looks like the pH is about a 5.0 which is ok for blueberries, looks like my problem might be a bit of a wet spring!

Elemental Sulfur and a pH Test

If your test comes out with a high pH you can add iron sulfate or elemental sulfur in the recommended amounts. Other helps to lower the pH is a pine needle mulch and the addition of peat moss. You can also fertilize your blueberries with an acidic fertilizer like Cottonseed Meal or Acid Mix. If your blueberries are going into containers Dr. Earth has a potting soil specially formulated for acid loving plants.

Categories: Berry Plants, Blueberry Bush, Soil Test, pH Soil Test

PJ Beuerlein Says:
Jun 19th, 2013 at 8:01 am

Help, my blueberries are planted in a raised bed and mulched with pinestraw,  the berries seem stuck—they have been there for weeks and are not ripening!
Thank you, PJ

Charlotte from Peaceful Valley Says:
Jun 21st, 2013 at 10:06 am

PJ, It can take some time for them to ripen and when it does it will be rather quickly. Your plants are not doing anything unusual.  There is no way to hasten the ripening—the climatic conditions will rule here.

Nancy Hollingsworth Says:
Jun 27th, 2013 at 1:42 pm

I have 5 blueberry plants.  Each is a different variety.  Four look great but my Northland (planted 5/11) looks like your iron deficient plant.  If the problem is a wet spring will it correct itself?  Our water is high in iron so I’ve never had to address an iron problem.  Are there other causes of yellow leaves with green veins?  Thanks Nancy

Charlotte from Peaceful Valley Says:
Jul 9th, 2013 at 3:28 pm

Nancy, Yes, if the wet spring caused the problem it should resolve as the plant experiences drier soil in the summer. Sounds like a soil test would give you some helpful info about the soil around the Northland.

Sariah Says:
Jul 30th, 2013 at 3:56 pm

I have 2 blueberry bushes and I am brand new at this.  I just planted them a few months ago (in fact, they are the first fruit bush I have ever planted!) and, of course, the spring has been very wet.  My blueberry bushes have some yellowing leaves (which is how I found your site).  However, some of the veins aren’t green, they are red.  When I planted them, I mixed in miracle gro garden soil for flowers and veggies, and I’ve also given them espoma soil acidifier.  They’ve been sprayed 3x this summer with neem oil (what’s your thoughts on this?)  Have any ideas on the red veins?

Charlotte from Peaceful Valley Says:
Jul 31st, 2013 at 11:14 am

Sariah, This is an interesting set of symptoms and I have emailed you some follow-up questions.

heather Says:
Aug 20th, 2014 at 9:16 pm

I’ve never previously ad any problems with my blueberry, but we are just coming to the end of our winter, and my blueberries were covered in flowers. But 3 weeks on, the leaves are turning yellow with black (mould like) spots. There is also a lot of leaf fall. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Suzanne at Peaceful Valley Says:
Sep 4th, 2014 at 4:31 pm

Well usually something with black spots is infected with a fungus. But I cannot be sure without seeing the leaves. My suggestion is to visit your local Ag Advisor with a sample of the leaf or take it to a garden center for diagnosis.

Also if the plant is coming out of dormancy, then a good fertilizer would be in order. Use one labeled for blueberries or acid-loving plants.

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