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 Pruning Questions

Texas sage losing inner leaves
May 14, 2015 - I have a Texas Sage bush that on the outside is beautiful with green leaves. The inside branches (the middle) of the bush are bare of any leaves. Why?
view the full question and answer

Care for penstemons in South Jordan, UT
June 21, 2009 - I have Firecracker Penstemons and they bloomed beautifully this year. How do I trim them and when? Will they continue to bloom throughout the summer?
view the full question and answer

Northern Catalpa Tree Doing Poorly
July 02, 2014 - One of our Northern Catalpa trees appears to be dying. It is about 28 feet tall and this year only about 1/3 of it is producing leaves. It is next to our largest Catalpa tree (about 65 feet tall and a...
view the full question and answer

Cleaning up Adams Needle yucca in Vancouver Island BC
May 19, 2009 - We have Adam's needle yucca's in our the flower bed of our newly purchased home here on Vancouver Island BC. They thrive and produce impressive flowers. How do I clean them up in the spring time ...
view the full question and answer

Burning back Gulf Muhly instead of trimming from San Antonio
December 19, 2011 - A few years ago I noticed that the Center burned back its Gulf Muhly rather than cutting it back. Did that study result in any conclusions or recommendations?
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 | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center