Why Is My Bulb Not Blooming Like It’s Supposed To?
by Brent Heath, Co-Owner, Brent & Becky’s
After a fantastic trip to Chicago—where I met 350 new people, collected 200 hugs, and made a whole lot of new friends—I’m glad to be back home in one of the best places in the world: Tidewater, Virginia. But, being away for 10 days means there’s lots of catching up to do in the garden and in the shop, too. At this time of year, it seems our people are always wondering why something isn’t blooming or isn’t blooming like it’s supposed to. And if you’re among these nervous folks anxiously awaiting a bloom that doesn’t seem to be appearing, I thought I’d jump on this week to offer you some peace of mind!
Reason #1: It’s Just Not Time Yet
Tuberoses are a beautiful heirloom plant native to Mexico that are probably one of the most incredibly sweet-smelling bulb flowers you can find. So, it’s no wonder that when their late-summer bloom time arrives, their gardeners are anxious to see them pop up. Well, the good news is that there’s no need to panic! All these bulbs are waiting on is a little extra summer warmth to get them going—so just give them another couple of weeks and watch the magic to happen.
Bessera elegans is another fun bulb native to Mexico, although much smaller than the tuberose—only about the size of a dime! With plenty of sun and excellent drainage, these little beauties shine in the garden with 2’ tall stems brandishing 10-15 bright scarlet red pendant-shaped flowers each with white centres that just dance in the wind. But, they don’t tend to emerge at all until at least September, so if you’re wondering where yours are, just be patient—the fiesta is on its way!
Dahlias are a great flower not just for their lovely looks, but also for pollinators. Plus, they’re a great way to get multiple seasons of color since they’re known for coming back again when things cool down! The trick to this second seasonal performance, though, is a full season of downtime when things heat up. Dahlias like to bloom when the nights are cool, so when planted in spring, they jump into action to produce lots of blooms in May and June. But, when the weather heats up again in July and August, they settle back in for a rest so they can jump to life again in the fall when the nights get cool once again! So, if you’re wondering where all your blooms went, just give the nights a chance to cool down some more—they’ll be back.
Reason #2: Fungus
Cannas are big, bold, colorful tropicals and it’s safe to say that they like it hot and wet. And while we certainly got enough rain in most of the country this year, our cool summer has made some of them pretty slow to emerge. While most of them should be making their appearances now that things are a little warmer (or close to it), the combination of cold and wet may have lead to the development of some fungal issues, which could be the underlying problem leaving you canna-less. To check if your cannas or any unexpectedly bloomless bulbs are in need of a little more than just patience, we recommend gently digging around where they were planted and feeling around with your hands. If you come across any mush or mold...it’s a shame to say, but there won’t be anything to see out of that bulb.
Reason #3: Your Garden Needs Editing
If it’s past time for your blooms to have appeared and there’s not a fungal problem in sight, it could just be that your bulb needs a change in environment to give it the enthusiasm it needs to grow. Here are some of the top edits your garden may need to get things blooming:
Weeding. The good lord has put a lot of seeds in the ground, including many of the plants we know and love as “weeds”. And, often, when we weed, we are disrupting the soil as we pull out those less desirable plants, pulling up even more weed seeds to germinate! So, instead of pulling, I recommend using a garden knife! All you need to do is hold the knife in one hand—like you would regularly hold a knife or a fork—and the weed in the other hand, take the serrated edge and just cut it right at the soil surface, without disrupting the soil. That way you’re less likely to get more weeds fighting for nutrients and resources with your bulbs!
Feeding the soil. Everyone who knows me knows how much I love making compost! It’s a great way to feed not just the soil, but also the microbes in the soil, giving the plants everything they need to perk up and grow. I make my own from wood waste, horse manure, and garden waste—so, leaves and weeds. Then, I combine it all in layers, turn it several times a week, and watch as the science takes place. And you know what I measured the temperature at today? 150 degrees! Those weed seeds can’t survive 150 degrees and by this fall, I’ll have plenty of black gold to put on my beds.
Feeding the plants. The last thing I look at when editing my garden is the plants themselves. If the plants just aren’t as robust and happy as they should be, I like to give them a boost of fish emulsion. Fish emulsion is basically fish waste that as been run through a careful enzyme process to create a liquid fertilizer that is packed with lots of minerals. They also add dried kelp in, as well, which contains something called cytokines. These initiate roots to grow and help plants stay healthy and strong.
When it comes to bulbs, sometimes it’s perfectly normal for the trains to run a little slower than we’re expecting, and all it takes is a little investigation to figure out why. But no matter what the cause may be, usually all it takes to get things back on track is a bit of patience and a whole lot more playing in the garden. Remember: it’s not work—it’s play! It can be a lot of fun, a great source of exercise, and an excellent way to take away the cares of daily life. Just go out, enjoy the peace and solitude, watch nature, and get back in touch with the earth. Your soul and your bulbs will thank you for it!
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