Ketzel's Garden

A Limit to Leafy Greens ... or ... Enough already!

Inevitably, many of you will write to Talking Plants with your gardening questions. I have good news. You may well find your answers in the Why Did My Plant Die archives.

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An entirely healthy but exceedingly exasperating E. coccineum Photo by Ketzel Levine hide caption

itoggle caption Photo by Ketzel Levine

If you don't, the even better news is that we've now got this lively community of folks who've killed so many plants they finally know how to grow them. So I hope you won't go away mad if I beg off doing the answering, and instead defer to dirtier hands and more reliably retentive minds.

Though I would like to ask a question of my own.

What the hell am I supposed to do with an eight year old Embothrium coccineum that absolutely will NOT flower? It's got a posture-perfect upright form and is just the right fit for my entry courtyard, but it's not like I'm hard up for plants with green leaves...

Not that I have any intention of killing it (we've been together too long for such a betrayal), but I will move it come spring if the community so adviseth.

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I suggest bringing someone over to talk about the plant right in front of it. You say how much you love it and how you wish you knew what it needed. The guest should suggest extreme pruning or ripping it out.

It worked with some orchids of mine--ones that hadn't bloomed in years bloomed this Spring. Unfortunately, the old reliables did not bloom. (Could this be a conspiracy?

Sent by Lazy Gardener | 6:44 PM | 6-27-2007

You could move it to my garden -- one more plant to add to the ever growing list of "plants I must have."

Sent by Jenn | 11:29 AM | 6-28-2007

Thought about adding some stress to it's life? Maybe if it thinks it might die it'll decide to attempt to reproduce via flowering.

Sent by Rachel | 8:30 PM | 6-28-2007

You're not alone. Many have found Embothrium to be a slow bloomer. It is a polymorphous plant in many ways: some are evergreen, some deciduous, some are trees, some are shrubs. Some bloom in a 1-gallon container, others need to put on some size first.
The danger of phosphorous toxicity rules out some of the usual bloom-stimulation therapies using fertilizer. Provided that it's getting enough sun exposure, I'd say just sit tight and give it a few more years. If you've been watering it on a consistent basis all summer, hold back and let it dry out for a few weeks between good soakings.
If you get really desperate and are contemplating its removal, you might first take a propane torch and try burning the leaves and twigs off when autumn comes (don't scorch the bark on major limbs). I know that sounds a bit absurd, but some plants respond to environmental adversity by blooming, and the fire trick has been known to work on some other proteaceous flora. From the plant's point of view, why expend the energy of going into a reproductive cycle when everything's fine and there's no threat to survival? Give 'em something to worry about.

Sent by Steve | 8:42 PM | 6-28-2007

Hey Rachel - I had thought about root pruning the recalcitrant beast, thanks for the reminder. Or maybe if I've gone that far, I'll just move it into a hotter spot altogether. I will mention your plan to her, and see how she responds...:)

Sent by Ketzel Levine | 8:47 PM | 6-28-2007

OUCH! STEVE! Talking about beasts!

Sent by Ketzel Levine | 8:49 PM | 6-28-2007

Correction to wht I posted yesterday. It was maleleuca that was planted to drain the everglades not Australian Pine. ... We're just so blessed in So. Florida with invasives ...

Sent by Aviva Buschbaum | 8:23 AM | 6-29-2007

This blog is just incredible. The photos are outstanding - I just love it! I have no photos or interesting information at this time, but I need help with a houseplant, a spider/air plant (?), that just looks awful! It's full of big, round, yellow, rust-looking spots with some holes. Even the new leaves eventually get this. What can I do for this poor thing?

Sent by elizabeth scott | 3:53 PM | 12-19-2007