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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.

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

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Thursday - April 30, 2009

From: Dayton, OH
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Non-Natives
Title: Failure to bloom of non-native viburnum in Dayton, Ohio
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have a 3 year old Marie's Doublefire Viburnum that has healthy, abundant foliage but never blooms. I do not prune it. What am I doing wrong? Thanks

ANSWER:

There are thirteen members of the Viburnum genus native to Ohio; yours is not one of them. There was even some disagreement on the common name of your shrub. Some authorities referred to it as Double FILE Viburnum and others to Double FIRE. However, in the Ohio State Pocket Gardener website, we learned that both refer to Viburnum plicatum tomentosum 'Mariesii."  This species is native to China and Japan, and has multiple hybrids. Both of these facts remove them from our area of expertise. At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, we are committed to the care and propagation of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which they are being grown.

One of the things we learned from the Ohio State website was that viburnums are not reliably hardy to Zone 5. It's a little hard to tell from the USDA Zone Hardiness maps, but it looks like Montgomery County might be in Zone 5. We learned that the viburnum only blooms for 2 weeks in the spring, so maybe you missed it somehow. Some blooming plants need to get to a certain maturity to bloom; how long has your viburnum been in the ground? Another fact is that viburnums prefer full sun to partial shade, bloom better in full sun, and like moist, well-drained acidic soils. We really only have two suggestions: 1. You definitely should be pruning the plant every year, right after blooming. It doesn't need to be drastic pruning, but pruning away the branches that have had blooms will hopefully encourage more blooms. 2. Watch it on the fertilizer. Too much fertilizer, especially nitrogen-rich lawn fertilizer, will discourage blooms. All plants need to bloom to reproduce-if they are getting too much fertilizer, lots of nitrogen, they will get lazy and not bother to bloom.

 

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