En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
4 ratings

Monday - March 03, 2008

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Pruning, Shrubs
Title: Improving blooming on mock orange
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have a now 6 yr. old mock orange shrub in the garden which has never bloomed, darn it. I have fed, not fed, mulched, not mulched, sheared, not sheared. What gives? Will it ever bloom, or shall I just dig it up? (It's in full sun, by the way)

ANSWER:

Ordinarily, we make comments about the expertise of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is in plants native to North America. We find, however, that plants referred to as "mock orange" not only are native to North America, but Asia and parts of Europe. So, we'll just single out one that appears in our Native Plant Database, and use it as an example.

We will assume that possibly your shrub is Philadelphus microphyllus (littleleaf mock orange) which is native to the Southwest from Texas to California. It blooms with white flowers in March, April and May. The problem with flowering shrubs that are not flowering, native or not, is often too little sunshine or too much lawn fertilizer. Obviously, if you have it in full sun in Austin, that is not the problem. Lawn fertilizer, which possibly is being spread a little farther than the lawn, is high in nitrogen for green leaves (or blades) of grass. A plant you wish to flower but give too much nitrogen will get lazy and fail to bloom. A plant has just one goal in life and that is to reproduce itself. To make seed, it must make flowers, but if it doesn't feel just a little bit insecure about its future, it won't expend the considerable energy to create the flowers. Another suggestion is about the way you are pruning your mock orange bushes. The best time to prune most flowering shrubs is right after flowering. Cut back the outer stems that have flowered; each cut should be made just above a strong outer facing bud or new shoot. Next year's blooms will appear from these buds.

So, you say, how can I prune it right after it blooms if it never blooms? We are now in the bloom season for your mock orange. Hopefully, unless it's bloated on nitrogen, it will make some bloom attempts so you can locate the spots to prune. If that still doesn't work, and you get no satisfactory blooming next year, we'd vote for dig it up.

 

More Diseases and Disorders Questions

Bark splitting in old tulip tree in Red Creek, NY.
May 18, 2013 - Hello, We have a tulip tree that has some bark splitting I guess I would call it. The tree is older and very tall. On the north side of it starting at the bottom of the trunk to about 8-9 feet up i...
view the full question and answer

Red spider mites in native bluebonnets in Austin
April 02, 2008 - What would you do if the WFC bluebonnets developed a bad case of red spider mites? That is what has happened to many of mine here in Austin. I noticed them the other day and I must have been asleep be...
view the full question and answer

Further question on sprouts from holly tree in Surprise AZ
November 16, 2010 - Thank you Barbara Medford for your response to my question about the sprouting holly tree in Surprise AZ. I took for granted that the tree I was talking about was a holly tree. I looked at pictures of...
view the full question and answer

Newly planted anacacho leaf browning
October 15, 2007 - I have just put my anacacho orchid into the ground and its leaves are turning brown and falling off. Is that normal for this time of year, or have I shocked it? What can I do to ensure its health?
view the full question and answer

Failure to thrive of Esperanza in Houston
July 07, 2009 - Esperanza plant. I have 3 of these plant in my flower bed for the last 10 years. They get west sun. Over the last three years they have bloomed initially but then the new growth is deformed. The best...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center