question on Wisteria and Blueberry shrubs

Lynn NevinsJune 14, 2014

I have Wisteria and Blueberry shrubs in large pots, on my 4th floor balcony which faces West and has no obstruction near the balcony (so it can get very windy). I only learned recently that being on an elevated balcony creates a different environment for plants, versus say the same potted plants sitting on the ground.

In any case, here in the Northeast we had a cold winter and lots of snow. So I'm not sure how much this affected my plants.

Last year the blueberries and wisteria did well. The Wisteria grew like a weed. The blueberries (which were only 1-2 years old at the time) had flowers in the spring and some berries in the summer.

This year is different. The Wisteria essentially appeared 'dead' (and mind you, I did follow pruning directions throughout the year) but then just a few weeks ago a 'sucker' of sorts appeared from inside the pot...where the branches all tend to coil up. The stems emerging from the pot (from last year) have zero new growth, but the sucker from within the pot is already taking off. Will this sucker become a new plant so to speak? Should I totally cut down the other 'dead' stems from last year and which have no growth?

For my blueberries, I periodically sprayed the leaves with a fish fertilizer solution and I also added diluted bloodmeal to the soil (as I did last year). And while both plants have healthy growth, neither developed flowers. Wouldn't any flowers have appeared by now? On one of the plants, I DID see the beginnings of what looked like flowers but....I seem to recall the flowers last year were all white. This year on the one plant, I was seeing little bud that appeared to be purple, but then they sort of became dried out, shriveled and just 'fell off' (note I've been watering my blueberries well).

So, what do you suggest I do to help my Wisteria thrive again?

And what do you think is happening with my blueberries...shouldn't they have flowers by now?

P.S. I've learned that even though these plants are hardy for my zone, that the fact that they are on a balcony means they need protection during the winter. So I will protect them better next winter with burlap, bubble wrap, leaves etc.

Thank you!!!

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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

diluted bloodmeal to the soil

==>>> what media are you using???

both plants are full sun plants.. do you think your west facing balcony gives sufficient light for these plants to thrive ... perhaps they went into winter already lacking vigor ..

how big is your balcony ... the thought of wisteria on a small balcony amuses me ...

the problem with pots in winter... is the freeze/thaw cycle.. and being too wet ... causing roots to rot off ...

it isnt necessarily.. winter itself .... in other words.. temps alone may or may not have been in issue in your z7

i wonder if there is a container forum ...


ps: i wouldnt consider either of them shrubs ... one a vine.. and one a fruit plant .... i dont care where you post.. but if you are researching shrubs.. and applying said knowledge to either.. you may or may not.. hit the nail on the head .... there is a rather active fruit forum ... and lots of peeps do blueberry in pots ... try the GW search engine ...

    Bookmark   June 14, 2014 at 4:26PM
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Lynn Nevins

If by 'what media you are using?" you mean soil, it's basic potting soil with perlite mixed in. Last year I also added on top of the soil, a particular type of mulch...can't remember the type right now...but it's a mulch that I'd read is best for blueberries...breaks down and nourishes the soil...

Indeed, my balcony gets FULL direct sun for a good 10 hours per day.

Not sure why the size of my balcony would matter for the wisteria versus the size of the pot and growing conditions. Last year this same wisteria did amazingly well on this same balcony.

Normally I have had no problem with potted plants in the winter. They almost always come back just fine...but this is only my second winter with plants on a BALCONY. In the past I've always had my potted plants sitting on the ground level...

I'll try the fruit and vine forums instead....

    Bookmark   June 14, 2014 at 9:18PM
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Wisteria is not well suited to container growth - it is just too big and too vigorous a vine to be content for long in a container that would suit most balconies. Blueberries are often grown in a container and can make a nice addition to a balcony.

Be aware that growing anything in a container is much different from growing the same plant in the ground. The medium - potting soil - is critical as is routine fertilizing. Potting soil has little to no nutrient value so all nutrients must be provided by the grower. And it's important what kind of fertilizer you use. Organic fertilizers tend not be very effective in a container situation as they need to be processed by soil organisms to become available to the plant roots and there's just not many soil critters lurking about in potting soil.

I would assume you didn't get much flowering on your blueberry because of the blood meal - it is pretty heavy in nitrogen (12-0-0)and so encourages foliar growth at the expense of flowers and fruit. Same with the fish (5-1-1). Try a fertilizer with less N and more P&K to encourage flowering and fruiting. Blueberries also like rather acidic conditions so make sure you address that as well. Miracle Gro for Acid Lovers is a good choice.

It is also important to realize that plants grown in containers are far more vulnerable to winter cold than are those grown in the ground. Plant roots are very cold sensitive compared to top growth and without the insulating factor of all that soil mass around them, are easily damaged by cold weather. And as much of the eastern half of the country experienced a colder than normal winter cold damage with container plantings is not unexpected. Add to that the exposure of a balcony setting and it sounds like you are lucky to have then survive at all.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2014 at 2:45PM
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Lynn Nevins

Thanks for your info gardengal.

That is very strange what you say about what I should give my blueberries, as elsewhere I'd specifically read about adding bloodmeal as well as spraying the leaves with a fish fertilizer solution.

Yes, I've always known that plants in pots (their roots in particular) are more vulnerable to the cold. What did not occur to me before however, was that the mere fact of the pots being on an elevated balcony versus a ground level patio or yard, would also make a difference. I now know that my plants need protection on a balcony that these same potted plants may not if they were sitting on the ground level.

As for the wisteria not being happy in a pot, I thought you could pretty much grow anything in a pot but that certain things (like wisteria) just may need more ensure it doesn't get pot-bound? I know that last year my wisteria did very well growing all over my trellises and it even had one flower (which eventually fell apart, likely due to the windy balcony)...

    Bookmark   June 15, 2014 at 5:07PM
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Not sure where you read or heard the fertilizer information but it's inaccurate. Blood meal is almost entirely nitrogen - not a very well balanced fertilizer and certainly not one highly recommended for blueberries or any other flowering/fruiting plant. And plants absorb minimal nutrients through their foliage - foliar feeding is generally considered to be a waste of time except in some very specialized circumstances.

Containerized plants need a complete fertilizer - something that offers them not only nitrogen but all the other 30 some nutrients they require for healthy growth. Since I do nearly all my gardening in containers, I invest in a Dyna-Gro product (Liquid Grow, 7-9-5) that has all the trace elements included. Not all that many other ferts do, although seaweed emulsion comes close.

You can grow pretty much anything in a container but how well it will do long term will depend heavily on how well it may be scaled for its growing conditions. Obviously a Japanese maple that only wants to get to 15-20 feet or so will fare much better in a container on a balcony than a Leyland cypress that wants to get 60 feet or more. Same with the is unnatural to attempt to maintain a vine that wants to be 35 feet or more to a significantly smaller size. Sure it can be done but confining a BIG plant that usually develops a BIG root system to a small container is asking for a great deal of maintenance and a lot of needed attention. So no, wisteria is not the best choice for a balcony container ;-)

    Bookmark   June 15, 2014 at 6:02PM
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Lynn Nevins

Tx. It so happens that I will be moving to a new apartment with a smaller balcony so...I've decided I will likely give up my wisteria to a friend with real (dirt) yard. Ditto for my potted forsythia which, while it had beautiful green growth, never developed flowers for the past two years.

As for the fish and bloodmeal for blueberries, there are apparently many sites that mention both.

Anyway, since all my current plants are also in containers maybe I'll have to check out that Dyna-Gro. I will say though that thus far, all my other plants (herbs, Japanese maple, perennial flowers) have done well with just my giving the occasional fish fertilizer watering...

    Bookmark   June 15, 2014 at 6:54PM
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