by Karen Weiland, Advanced Master Gardener
Flowering plants that don’t bloom as expected can be a big disappointment. There are a handful of reasons from which to choose, but a little detective work can usually pinpoint the cause.
Nutrition-Too much nitrogen can cause plants to produce a lot of leaves and stems and look very healthy, however it will have few or no flowers. Use a balanced fertilizer such as 12-12-12 to apply the right amount of nutrition. I like to use a bloom booster fertilizer for my hanging baskets in the summer. What a difference it makes!
Pruning-Improper pruning methods can cause a lack of flowering, especially in spring flowering plants. Many plants produce flower buds during the fall that will bloom the following spring. Pruning in late fall or very early spring may remove most or all of the flower buds. Always prune spring flowering plants right after the blooms have faded.
Light-Light requirements can differ between plants. Some plants, such as impatiens, are shade lovers and will not flower well when situated in a sunny area. Just the opposite can be said for marigolds. Know the light requirements for what you are planting. Keep in mind that light conditions can change drastically over time as landscape plants cast more shade as they grow or removal of a large plant suddenly leaves a formerly shaded area in full sun.
Age-Many woody plants will not flower when they are young or are in their juvenile stage. This phase of growth may last for two or three years for some plants and as much as five to ten years for others. Some plants need to reach a certain level of maturity before they begin to flower. Simple patience is required if this is the case.
Temperature-Cold temperatures, in particular, can play an important role in the flowering of many plants. If winter temperatures drop extremely low, flower buds can be killed off. Spring inspection of the plant will reveal brown, dead buds if unusually low temperatures are to blame. A cold period is required of fruit trees and spring flowering bulbs, or flowering will not occur.
Drought- Flowers or flower buds may dry and drop off when moisture levels dip too low.
Taking the time to know a plants requirements will ensure successful flowering.
As always, Happy Gardening!!
More information about gardening and related subjects is available online at Purdue University. Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service can be reached at 499-6334 in LaGrange Co., 636-2111 in Noble Co., 925-2562 in DeKalb Co. and 668-1000 in Steuben Co.
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