This is mid-season for Springtime flowers because my wife’s allergies tell her so. She wonders aloud why plants have to bloom with such gusto. Alternatively, there are those who ask the age-old question: “Why don’t my plants bloom?”
Has it ever flowered? How long has it been in the landscape? Is this the first year that it hasn’t bloomed? Has the floral display declined over the years?
Answers to my questions are clues that often enable the gardener to determine “what-dunit.” If a plant has never bloomed, the cause could be related to the age or maturity of the plant, climate, soils, light, or something else. You need to determine which one is missing or limiting and correct it. Let’s take a look at a few of these factors that may need to be corrected. By the way, more detailed information can be found in the Clemson Extension Home & Garden Information fact sheet titled “Why Plants Fail to Flower or Fruit” (HGIC 2361).
1. Plant maturity. Some trees do not flower until they reach a certain age. Seedling dogwoods generally do not flower until they are seven years old. Seed-grown southern magnolias may take 10 or 12 years before blooming.
2. Climate. Cold temperatures often kill flower buds while posing no harm to vegetative buds, leaves, and stems. Our temperature fluctuations in winter and spring plays havoc with our plants, especially our past winter’s bouts with the “polar vortex.” When a plant breaks dormancy and starts growing in response to warm temperatures, it is more susceptible to injury when an uninvited cold air mass suddenly rolls in.
3. Soils. inadequate soil preparation or overly wet or dry soils affect flowering. Could the soil pH was be too acidic or is a nutrient lacking or unavailable? Overfertilizing with nitrogen will keep newly planted shrubs and trees in the business of making lots of leaves at the expense of flowers.
4. Light. Inadequate light may prevent flower bud-set. If a plant had never flowered, it was probably planted in shade that was too dense at the start. If it used to flower, surrounding plants or new structures may have reduced sunlight to prevent it from flowering.
I hope this helps those readers who want to experience that rush of euphoria when their shrubs and trees burst into bloom. For those who wish that it would all go away—the flowers as well as the itchy eyes, runny noses, and scratchy throats–I share your pain. Or at least my wife does.