Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Sunday - April 25, 2010

From: Madison, MS
Region: Southeast
Topic: Trees
Title: Non-blooming parsley hawthorn in Madison MS
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have a parsley hawthorn that has never bloomed. It is thriving in a low area under tall pines. It gets filtered sun most of the day with more direct sun in late afternoon. I don't know the age but it is over six feet tall and still has some thorns. I have never fertilized it.

ANSWER:

We are also puzzled as to why your Crataegus marshallii (parsley hawthorn) is not blooming. We have some theories, but that's all they are- theories; we could find no indications of what would cause a parsley hawthorn to fail to bloom. 

Our first idea was sun exposure. The page on this plant in our Native Plant Database says it requires part shade, which we consider to be 2 to 6 hours of sun a day. It's a known fact that any flowering plant flowers better with more sunshine. Other websites said the tree grew well in sun (6 or more hours of sun a day) or part shade. In the shade of tall pines, it may not be getting enough sun, although we are surprised it doesn't at least try to put on a few blooms, because without blooms, it has no seed, and every plant wants to recreate itself.

Second thought, soil moisture. Several of the resources we consulted said it was a "swamp" plant, did well in very moist soil, and could even have its roots under water for a period without damage. 

Then, you mentioned fertilizer. Ordinarily, we don't recommend any fertilizer for native plants in their native locations. Parsley hawthorn appears to grow in or very near Madison County, and should have the kind of sandy, acidic soils it needs for best growth. If you are looking at fertilizer components, the N-P-K is nitrogen - phosphorus - potassium. The potassium in a fertilizer contributes to flowering and fruiting, including flower color and size. Since this tree blooms white March through May, it should not be fertilized now, but early next year, maybe in February, you might try some 10-10-20 or a similar ratio of one part nitrogen, one part phosphorus and 2 parts potassium to give the blooming a little boost. 

Finally, we come to age of the tree and when it was planted. If it was planted in the last year or so, particularly if it was planted in the summer, it may not yet have recovered from transplant shock. When a tree first goes into the ground, especially if it is planted in hot weather, the roots and indeed the whole tree system have to get organized and take first things first, like getting water to the leaves, so the leaves, through photosynthesis, can manufacture food for the whole plant. It takes a great deal of energy for a plant to bloom and set fruit, and it just may not have gotten to the point where it has that much energy. And that includes the question of age. Six feet tall is not very tall for a tree, and it may not yet have matured enough to bloom.

With the exception of sun exposure, all of these probabilities are easily addressed by a little patience, perhaps a little more water and a light application of fertilizer in the very early Spring. If it is not getting enough sun to bloom, you will have to decide if the lovely foliage is enough, or if you want to either transplant the tree (which will set it back still more) or trim up some of the trees that are shading it.

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Crataegus marshallii

Crataegus marshallii

Crataegus marshallii

Crataegus marshallii

 

 

More Trees Questions

Dwarf golden cypress outgrowing their space
December 28, 2008 - I planted two dwarf golden cypress on opposite sides of a dwarf alberta spruce in a small bed by the front door. After 4 years I have to severely prune back the dwarf cypress in spring as they will sp...
view the full question and answer

Cottage-style landscaping for Chesapeake VA
August 02, 2012 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plant staff, I recently moved into a cottage style home that has a poured concrete/paver patio. I am trying to come up with ideas for plantings that would 1. give me a bit of privacy,...
view the full question and answer

Thorny plant for fenceline security
December 23, 2009 - What kind of thorny plant or vine would you suggest to place along a fence for security purposes
view the full question and answer

Failure of smoke tree to bloom in Alburtis PA
September 07, 2009 - For whatever reason, my smoke tree did not bloom during its second season. Any ideas?
view the full question and answer

Removal of invasive horsetail in Shelby Township, MI
June 19, 2009 - Please help me or direct me to who may be able to help. I have horsetail (Equisetum) invading my Blue Rug Juniper. Please tell me what I can use to get rid of the horsetail (Equisetum) without killi...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.