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Mr. Smarty Plants - Red buckeye not blooming in NY

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Monday - July 04, 2011

From: Niagara Falls, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Shrubs
Title: Red buckeye not blooming in NY
Answered by: Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

I planted my red buckeye in September 2007 and it was about 18 inches tall. It is now a few inches short of 5ft. tall. I have had it in the ground for nearly 4 yrs and it has never bloomed. I have friends who also purchased one and their trees started to bloom between 2 and 3 ft. tall. I was really counting on this tree for spring blooms for my hummingbird garden. Any help or suggestions?

ANSWER:

According to our Native Plant Database the most northern state that Aesculus pavia (Scarlet buckeye) is native to is Virginia.  Michael Dirr, in his Manual of Woody Landscape Plants: Their Identification, Ornamental Characteristics, Culture, Propagation and Uses states that it is native from Virginia to Florida and hardy in Zones 6 to 9.

So the real question is, why are your friends' plants blooming?  In Niagara Falls you are in Zone 6 which means that the plant will survive your winter, but you are definitely out of the native range of the plant.  There is something about the conditions in which the other plants are planted that are more favorable than yours and you will have to figure out what that difference is.

Ideal growing conditions for the plant are part shade and moist, loamy, somewhat acidic soil.

Look carefully at where your friends' plants are sited and try to figure out what sort of microclimate they have and see if you can mimic it.  It seems like what you are experiencing is something all northern gardeners do at some point ... when you take a plant out of it's "comfort zone" it may survive, but not thrive.  Because the plant flowers somewhat early in the season, the flower buds are set during the previous growing season.  The buds on your plant are not surviving the winter for some reason.  You can see a photo of a bud at this blogspot. Watch your freinds' plants closely through this growing season and let us know if you figure out what is going wrong. 

Some other hummingbird favorites for your area are:

Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine)

Ceanothus americanus (New jersey tea)

Lobelia cardinalis (Cardinal flower)

Lonicera sempervirens (Coral honeysuckle)

Monarda didyma (Scarlet beebalm)

Penstemon digitalis (Mississippi penstemon)

 

From the Image Gallery


Scarlet buckeye
Aesculus pavia

Eastern red columbine
Aquilegia canadensis

New jersey tea
Ceanothus americanus

Cardinal flower
Lobelia cardinalis

Coral honeysuckle
Lonicera sempervirens

Scarlet beebalm
Monarda didyma

Mississippi penstemon
Penstemon digitalis

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