Questions related to flowering:
Why won't my bulbs flower?
I have a shrub that doesn't want to flower. Help!
Why won't my wisteria flower?
Your questions answered:
Q: Why won't my bulbs flower?
A: It’s so disappointing having waited through months of dull, grey winter for the arrival of brightly coloured clumps of spring bulbs and all you get is a clump of fresh green foliage. Like any other plant, bulbs need the right ‘stuff’ to produce those gorgeous blooms and bring the garden back to life.
Are your bulbs planted at the right time?
- Plant spring flowering bulbs in autumn. These are your daffs, tulips, crocus, bluebells and snowdrops.
- Plant tender summer flowering bulbs in spring. These are your dahlias and gladioli.
Are your bulbs planted at the right depth?
- The recommendation is 2-3 times the height of the bulb.
Is your soil too wet?
Next thing to check is the all-important soil. Like us in winter, bulbs need to keep their feet dry and hate sitting in wet, winter soil. If your soil is a bit on the wet side you can try digging the planting hole some 3-4” deeper and wider, place a layer of sharp horticulture grit in the base and back fill with new compost mixed with silver sand and the same grit. This will improve the drainage and may help.
Are the bulbs too old?
Age can be a problem as well. The bulbs might simply be old and exhausted. If this is the case, get your spade out, dig 'em up and discard any old withered or diseased looking bulbs. Only replant healthy, solid bulbs.
Have you overfed them?
Overfeeding could be the problem – a bulb has its own energy system and feeding them with too much nitrogen will cause the bulb to produce a jungle of foliage at the expense of flowers.
Hopefully these hints will help you enjoy your colourful spring garden!
Q: I have a shrub that doesn't want to flower. Help!
A: This can be so frustrating, especially when the shrub in question is a focal point in the garden. OK, there's a few possible reasons.
The first is that the shrub is planted in the wrong conditions. It's always worth researching whether a shrub likes the sun or shade; acidic or alkaline soil or wet or dry conditions. A happy plant will perform so much better than a sulky one.
Secondly, some shrubs have specific pruning times. Prune some at the incorrect time and you might just be pruning off the flower buds.
Thirdly, there could be a deficiency of particular nutrients in the soil starving the plant of essential food.
So, make sure the shrub is in the correct conditions and that you haven't pruned the very thing you want to see off the plant! Then, it can only be beneficial to get hold of some wood ash from a wood fire or wood burner. Once absolutely cold (this can take a few days after a good burn) store in bags for a minimum of a month. In April, lightly dust the wood ash around the base of the shy flowering shrub. The quick acting potash in the ash often encourages plants to flower. Be careful to only use ash from untreated wood and definitely no coal ash. If you can't get hold of wood ash, then use a fertilizer formulated for tomato plants. It will work just as well.
Q: Why won't my wisteria flower?
A: There is nothing more disappointing than planting your wisteria, waiting a whole year for it flower and then seeing a mass of leaves and no blooms. This is especially disappointing when, as we all do, you have pictured, or even promised, your pergola, archway or wall to be dripping with white, blue, purple or pale lilac chandeliers of flowers, with their delicious, delicate unmistakable perfume wafting around the garden.
So, what’s gone wrong and, more importantly, how do you put it right? Wisteria grown from seed take ages to get to flowering age - so your plant could just be too young. It can take two decades for a seed grown plant to produce its first flowers. Gardening can be a long wait. However, grafted wisteria (and we only supply such wisteria) should be flowering within a year; so, if that’s the case, there’s something else not quite right. You’d better read on.
Wisteria are sensitive souls and can take umbrage at being moved from the cosy confines of a snug pot to being released into the wild jungle of your garden soil. Be patient and all will settle down into the correct flowering pattern. A two or three year wait is normal if your plant is a sulker.
Many spring flowering plants, wisteria included, start to develop their flower buds in late summer (July-Sept) of the previous year so it’s important to ensure that plants don’t go short of water during that time. A good spring display indicates a previously wet September. Keep the watering can handy if we get a dry spell at that time of year. A few other factors that could be annoying your wisteria include:
- Sharp spring frosts: these can cause flower buds to drop before opening, or cause damage to the developing buds that never actually open correctly. There’s not much you can do other than cover susceptible plants with horticultural fleece on really cold nights.
- Too shady: Wisteria likes lots of sun and will not deliver its late spring awe-inspiring performance if in the shade. The only remedial action is to wait until late autumn and carefully dig up the plant and replace in a sunny position. Or you could move to a house with a sunny wall.
- Potassium deficiency - it’s no surprise that a plant capable of producing such an expensive display has a healthy appetite (expensive from the plant's point of view and not your wallet). Hungry soils are no good to wisteria. But don’t go slapping on high nitrogen feeds as this will only boost leaf growth. Go for a high potash feed - fertiliser formulated for your tomatoes is ideal - or, if you can get hold of wood ash from a woodburner, sprinkle a handful around the base of the plant in March and April. Job done.
- Pruning - regular and timely pruning can help to increase the flowering potential of the plant by producing a framework of flower spurs. And that will result in a magnificent display in late spring. Cut back the whippy green shoots of the current year's growth to five or six leaves after flowering in July or August and then, if you don’t mind getting up the ladders again, nip back any stragglers in February so that you end up with a tight knit, woody plant made with short, stubby shoots studded with flower buds. Each one waiting to burst into bloom as the weather warms up and the light levels increase.
That lot may look daunting but really, it isn’t. And to be honest, any amount of work on a wisteria is surely worth the rich rewards.