The Struggle with Japanese Blueberries

Howdy Ags! I got a story for you!

That’s an intro most A&M grads and present-day students know well. But, since we are all involved in freeze recovery, I figured it makes nearly EVERYONE an Ag today.

First, remember that it hasn’t yet been two full months since horticultural Armageddon Uri … the last freeze night was Feb. 19. So, some patience is still needed before we know which plants will recover and which won’t. It might take a couple of months.

Japanese Blueberry - Dead and Alive

I’ve noted often on the GardenLine radio show, on Facebook and during many Randy Lemmon Consulting sessions, that most viburnum, Japanese blueberry, oleander, and bottlebrush are likely dead. However, I’ve also said that a few might still have live roots. But do you really want to wait up to five years for them to come back to size? If you don’t, I recommend digging them out and starting over with nice-sized replacements. That would get you a few years ahead in growing them back to fence-high size.

So, back to the story, Ags. In recent weeks, I’ve had listeners and a couple of consulting clients show me pictures of Japanese blueberries exhibiting new growth near the top. I tried to warn them that the new growth might die back too, but they were more focused on the idea that theirs were showing signs of life. Some, however, wrote back about a week later sadly noting that the new growth had shriveled up and turned brown, too. I have observed the death rate to be around 90% for Japanese blueberries and viburnum and about 99% for bottle brush. Most oleanders are alive in the roots but toast everywhere else.

Here’s what I believe is happening with Japanese blueberries. While there may be a little bit of life here and there, and although many are very much alive in the roots and showing bits of growth from the ground level, the plant is having to push all kinds of energy up through the cambium layer of the bark. But there’s not enough green cambium up and down the trunk to support new growth for much longer than that day or two. More than 50% of cambium wood must be live for the plant to have a fighting chance of supporting a bunch of new growth up top. Just 1-2% won’t cut it.

Still, I contend that if you have patience for at least one more month, you might be pleasantly surprised by a plant or two. But, again, if you can’t wait 6-8 years for these plants to get back up to fence-high, you might as well cut them down, dig them out, and start anew.

Saturday GardenLine Appearance at Pearland Ace Hardware

I’ll be doing a GardenLine appearance and book-signing 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday at Pearland Ace Hardware, 2027 N. Main St. That’s Highway 35, just north of FM 518.

And, as with last week, I’ll be going for an hour longer than normal.


  1. Because two hours just isn’t enough since we are still talking about freeze recovery.
  2. Because we are smack in the middle of my fertilization schedule.
  3. Because I need to get my new book in as many hands as possible.
  4. Because I have lots of family and friends in Pearland I need to catch up with

Once again, the book will be on sale for only $9.99, and anyone who buys five or more copies gets a very special gift from me. Last week, it was a 44-pound bag of Azomite.

I will also be giving the first 10 people in line free fertilizer from Nelson Plant Food or Nitro-Phos. And I will be working on a VIP list 6-10 a.m. during the radio show.

The store will be selling Nitro-Phos Super Turf 19-4-10 for the super low price of $29.99. This is the #1 listed product on my schedule.

And don’t forget to let me be that “pair of eyes” on something you need looked at for a diagnosis or identification. Remember that anything you think may be diseased or insect ridden should be enclosed in a sealed plastic bag.

Finally, my good friend Clint Richardson has volunteered to serve up some FREE pulled-pork barbecue sliders. Regular GardenLine listeners have heard me, reporter Nikki Courtney and producer Calum Reed allude to Clint’s “food porn,” which he sends to us pretty much every Saturday morning. He is an incredible cook period, but a barbecue master, and his CRQ BBQ catering business is in high demand in Pearland.

By the way, that great old photo above of Pearland Lumber is from around 1958. It would eventually become the present-day Pearland Lumber & Ace Hardware.


PHOTOS: Randy Lemmon, Pearland Ace Hardware

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