I recently purchased a dwarf Northsky blueberry bush from a mail order company. When I recieved it, roughly 15-20% of its leaves had the appearance of being burned or scorched; the bad leaves were about 50% brown and curled, like they were burned or just dead.

I plucked those off and transplanted the bush to a larger container and I noticed the plant was also severely rootbound. I had to break off a lot of its roots to plant it. It has been about a week now, and I've noticed maybe two or three more leaves with those symptoms. Since then, the plant has bloomed about 5 really pretty looking flowers.

I want to know if the leaf symptoms were a sign of it suffocating in its original container or shock from being shipped, or maybe that of a more serious disease.

Currently the plant is being kept indoors while I try to nurse it back to health. I keep it in a room with good southern sun exposure.

3 Answers 3


The burnt/scorched looking leaves could mean a lot of things. My first guess would be over fertilization either at the nursery or by you. Blueberries need acidic soil at a pH level of about 4.5-5. If you used a regular high nitrogen fertilizer, it would be terrible for the plant and the leaves can get "burnt" from the fertilizer.

Secondly, blueberries like well drained soils. They have very shallow root systems and stagnant water can also lead to discoloration of the leaves, although this is usually deep reddish-brown (like fall colors), and seldom have a burnt appearance. However, I won't rule this out. Since you said that it was heavily rootbound, it is very likely that the water wasn't draining away fully. I explain a bit more about this and how to increase soil pH for blueberries in this answer

Unfortunately, reddish leaves are also a symptom for underwatering! From Mike Perry's answer to my question on boysenberries

Below quote comes from Growing Small Fruits for the Home Garden:


Lack of supplemental watering from June to August severely limits successful production of blueberries in the Pacific Northwest. Shallow-rooted plants require close attention to maintain a uniformly moist environment around their base. They require 1, or possibly 2 inches of water each week, in the absence of any rainfall. Be sure the entire root zone is wet after an irrigation. Drought symptoms include reddened foliage, weak, thin shoots, and reduced fruit set. Maintain a 2-inch mulch layer to preserve soil moisture.

Also see the scientific reason in Mike's answer, although I'm not sure if that applies to blueberries too.

Lastly, it could be something as simple as sun scorching. If the nursery was in a place that had long periods of direct, intense sunlight every day, it could have scorched the leaves. This happened to my raspberries and the advice there was to use a sun shading fabric.

In any case, from your description, the plant seems to be doing well in your garden, so you probably are doing things right. :)

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    thanks. how do you know if a plant is getting an inch or two inches of water? Commented Nov 17, 2011 at 15:36
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    To be honest, I don't measure it. I just kind of know, based on my soil drainage and watered area whether it is enough or excess. I guess a simple way to start gauging it would be to water the area around the roots completely, then wait a few minutes and insert a stick/finger into the soil about 1"-2" deep. If it's dry, it needs more water. If it isn't, then you're good. Once you estimate how much water (and how fast/slow) you'll need to use to soak it to that depth, you'll soon learn to do that by looking at the water flow. If you have a drip system, you can probably get more accurate Commented Nov 17, 2011 at 15:46

If you are hand or sprinkler watering, place some empty tuna fish cans in the area. The resulting water standing in the tins will tell you how much you have given. For container plants, check to see that water is draining out 15 minutes later. Never let containers dry out. Small containers may need water every 1-2 days. Use 2" of fine mulch on the top of the container. I use 2 year old hose manure composted with pine sawdust. It looks fine and crumbly and retains moisture but drains well. Bottom 1- 2" of pots do well with tree chips from an arborist ~ fir or pine is best.


While your plants are becoming established, it is very important that you supply them with adequate moisture. When you bring them home from the nursery and plant them, much of their root system dies off; the plants must replace those roots. This initial setback accounts for why leaves on young blueberry plants often turn brown and become scorched, as they lose water faster than roots can replace it. Keep the soil moist at all times, but provide good drainage -- blueberries sitting in waterlogged soil can develop root rot, which also makes leaves turn brown.

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