Mock Orange-Philidelphus Virginal Won't Bloom!

Dave_Lisa(z7b WA)June 8, 2005

I have a Philidelphus Virginal mock orange. It gets morning sun and filtered shade in the afternoon. It is in a Western exposure, shaded by trees in the afternoon. I bought it from a local nursery. It's a really healthy plant, and it gets loads of new growth every season, but NO BLOOMS. I know it's not too young, because it was in bloom when I bought it! It's been in the ground for three years. It's about 5 feet tall and 4 feet wide. We have sandy soil, which I'm amending regularly with organic matter, trying to get it to a sandy loam.

I'm getting really frustrated, because I bought it for its wonderful fragrance!

Any ideas why it won't bloom? By the way, in a search of the Garden Web, I found another person who had a Philidelphus Virginal planted in a western exposure, and hers never bloomed either. Is it a problem with Virginal, maybe? Virginal and western exposures? Something else?

I'm open to suggestions... :) Thanks!

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Non-blooming mockoranges must be right up there with flowerless wisterias. Removal may be the ultimate solution.

Side note: organic matter will not change your soil into a loam. The term 'loam' refers to the proportions of sand, silt and clay in a soil. If you want to give your soil a coarser texture, you will have to incorporate sand - perhaps a great deal of it. Better to just keep it mulched.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2005 at 10:50PM
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Dave_Lisa(z7b WA)

Removal, huh? How depressing... :( I love the smell of mock orange blossoms.

I didn't know that adding organic matter to my soil would never make it a "loam". So, I'm stuck with sandy forever? Better prime the sprinkler...

    Bookmark   June 8, 2005 at 11:03PM
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There are many other kinds. The selection of smaller-growing ones may be increasing. At this time of the year you can buy in bloom (again!).

Before removing it, try letting in more light, if possible. Perhaps this may help - although you should have gotten at least a few flowers. And: I recently replaced a similarly sterile mockorange that was on an unshaded south-facing wall, next to a paved area. I got so hot planting the replacement specimen I had to take a dip in the customer's pool (at their insistence, of course).

    Bookmark   June 8, 2005 at 11:52PM
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Maybe it has that cultivar name because it can be reluctant to engage in reproductive activity.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2005 at 11:55PM
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Hey, I've got a non-blooming MO too! I was getting ready to write and here's the post already. Don't know what one mine is, from a plant sale but its 2.5ft and over 2 years old. Saw a teensy one at the farmers market, 1gal, barely above the rim of the pot and BLOOMING! What's the prob? Mine gets plenty of sun, decent soil. I think MO's can just be that way? DO I have to pitch it? I hate pitching anything.... Guess I could get the one at the farmers market this week if its still there.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2005 at 10:08AM
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christiemoreen(z8 Seattle)

I thought you had to have two of them in order for them to bloom--one male and one female...It's just hearsay--I have to mock oranges that bloom like crazy and my neighbor told me you had to have two of them...

    Bookmark   June 10, 2005 at 5:21PM
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greggb(z8 WSeattle)

Both my neighbor and I have Mock Oranges that bloom like its going out of style. Its located on the south side and has moderate midday and afternoon sun. The soil is a mix of heavy clay with some fresh topsoil around the root ball. It was transplanted a year ago close to an old pine tree stump so I would imagine the soil is fairly acidic. The soil is mounded and is mixed with old pine needles so even though its heavy, it drains well.
The scent at times is so strong its overpowering and can be smelled over the entire yard on calm days. Even the neighbor on the other side of me gets whiff when his allergies are down.

Hopefully you can use this info for tips and good luck

    Bookmark   June 10, 2005 at 10:02PM
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The male and female thing is for getting fruits - edible or ornamental - from plants that have incomplete (unisexual) flowers, such as kiwi (edible) and holly (ornamental). It has nothing to do with the initiation of flowering.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2005 at 11:13PM
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Dave_Lisa(z7b WA)


Just curious (doing some detective work here). What kind of soil do you have? I see from greggb's post that his is blooming great in clay soil. My neighbor has a mock orange that has only bloomed once in 5 years. Of course, we both have sandy soil. Maybe Mock Oranges don't like sandy soil? Or they need a richer concentration of nutrients than sandy soil will hold?

    Bookmark   June 12, 2005 at 12:18PM
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Dave Lisa - my soil is decent - a bit clay-ey, but not overly, just holds moisture pretty well without turning to a brick. Definitely not sandy soil there. West exposure so plenty of good sun. Everything else in that bed is thriving and the MO looks quite healthy, just no blooms. I've talked to others with this problem too, seems there's some secret we don't know.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2005 at 2:22PM
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Like I said, right up there with flowerless wisterias. Mockoranges are still blooming, take a walk or drive around town and you will probably see others with a dribble or even none at all, some that are loaded and many that are in-between. No pattern may be apparent. I haven't ever heard any good theories.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2005 at 5:30PM
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Dave_Lisa(z7b WA)

Well there's one common thread that I've seen among the three people on Gardenweb who have this problem. All of our mock oranges were planted in Western exposures. It's not exactly a large sample, but hey, it's a start. Perhaps it's as simple as they don't like western exposures? I know, I know, I'm grasping at straws, but I want to know why!

    Bookmark   June 13, 2005 at 11:08PM
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Maybe you should be grasping at canes. I'd cut it down, wait and see if it blooms on the new head - or cut it down and dig it out.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2005 at 11:23PM
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Don't yank it out yet! My mock orange didn't bloom for 4 years (also in sandy soil with limited sunlight- morning & a fit of filtered pm light) until it was slightly bigger than yours. It has bloomed for the past 2 years with more blooms last year than during the first year of blooms. This year it is about to bloom, which is consistent with previous years- about a week or two behind it's m. o. friends. I guess some are just late bloomers! Yes, Ron, something about "waiting for the right time," as it's name reflects.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2005 at 12:37AM
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Note that Dave said it was in bloom when he bought it. Likewise, it's usual to see 'Virginal' with flowers in 5 gallon pots at nurseries - otherwise they'd never get rid of it. (Shoppers can be pretty consistent about passing over flowerless flowering shrubs).

    Bookmark   June 14, 2005 at 1:31AM
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Dave_Lisa(z7b WA)

Merrygardener, you just gave me a glimmer of hope.

Yes, it was in bloom when I bought it (actually, I'm the Lisa part of Dave_Lisa :) ), but is it possible that blooms can be forced in the greenhouse that wouldn't occur in natural conditions?

    Bookmark   June 14, 2005 at 10:31AM
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bull22(z7 WA)

I found that m.o. bloom on last years new growth. I would try pruning the old growth to a new bud to make new growth for next years flowers. Do it now to get the most out of the new branches.
I learned this when a cottonwood tree fell thru my row of m.o. I had to cut them almost to the ground. The next year I had more flowers than ever. Good Luck

    Bookmark   June 14, 2005 at 11:58AM
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I have bloom after all! Yesterday found blooms on the very bottom branch. There's hope after all!

    Bookmark   June 14, 2005 at 1:09PM
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Dave_Lisa(z7b WA)

Yay!!! Congratulations, drmedica!

Pruning, huh? I haven't done that yet. It's worth a shot. :)

    Bookmark   June 14, 2005 at 9:19PM
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Or train a clematis up onto it.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2005 at 5:02PM
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nenna(z7 OR Pacific N)

My MO is at least 10 years old, and only this year produced 6 blooms on a very large bush. I have tried pruning it, amending the soil, etc, to no avail. It is in a sunny location. This weekend I mentioned my problem at the Joy Creek Nursery, and was told, that more than likely my MO was started from cuttings that did not flower. I guess the lesson here is that it pays to buy it in bloom, and not as the bare root specimen I remember buying.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2005 at 12:55PM
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Dave_Lisa(z7b WA)

That explanation won't work for mine, as it was in bloom when I bought it. I don't know what magic they worked, but it hasn't bloomed since.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2005 at 6:49PM
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Fertilizer with a high middle number?

Just got back from England where mock orange "Beauclerk" was in bloom everywhere with gigantic white blossoms (3 inches?)i sun and shade. Why o why don't we see this one here?

    Bookmark   July 4, 2005 at 8:41AM
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Phosphorus is often overapplied, can produce a toxicity. Do not fertilize without sampling your soil and having it tested.

'Beauclerk' has been sold by

Colvos Creek nursery, Vashon, WA

Thomas, 'Ornamental Shrubs, Climbers and Bamboos' describes it as "Very strong-growing, with arching, graceful growth. Flowers opening flat, large and rounded, with faint mauve stain. Extra fragrant." I've got one mixed in with some roses, I should go out and see how it is doing.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2005 at 2:00PM
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Greetings! If I am picking up on a thread that is too old to revive, please let me know. I did a search for mock orange and this came up. Bought a house with 20 foot tall mock orange, in a row about 50 ft. long. They only leaf out on the top 10 ft, and last year when we moved in, I found only 2 blooms.

Sooo.... I figure my choices are pretty limited in regards to reviving them. Are they hardy enough to lop off to the ground and just hope they regrow? If that is the answer then what time of year? Our growing season is so short so I figured early in spring as soon as they leaf out?

I would like to know how all of you guys have done with your mock oranges- hope to hear good news- and good info!
Thanks for your input-peace

    Bookmark   May 19, 2006 at 8:50PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Maybe in Zone 4 there is a problem with it being too cold in winter for the kind you have there to flower consistently. Elsewhere ones such as 'Minnesota Snowflake' have been promoted for being extra hardy.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2006 at 12:09AM
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I only moved into this house last summer but these are well established, many years old. The neighbors remember them flowering at one time (good sign eh?)

Well my patience ran out and I googled MO's, got this web site from NDSU, which happens to be where my husband got his undergraduate degree, and it turned out to be a great informational page.

Long story short... I lopped 'em all off to the ground and am hoping they regrow- wanna place bets?

Here is a link that might be useful: Mock Orange questions answered

    Bookmark   May 20, 2006 at 6:06PM
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Before digging it out, you might try just root pruning it. SOme plants, like wisteria, which was mentioned earlier, respond to stress by putting out blooms. I was once advised to stress my non-blooming wisteria by root pruning it, but NOT digging it out. The next year it was loaded with blooms and rampant new growth... I had to put on my lion-tamer outfit and keep whacking away at it to keep it from pullng down a mature fir tree nearby (back, back, you crazy wisteria!) Maybe coincidental, maybe not. Seemed an easy enough thing to try... for what it's worth...

    Bookmark   May 21, 2006 at 12:32PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Cutting roots might promote flower bud set, but would not encourage vegetative growth. That's why roots of bonsai are pruned annually, it dwarfs the top. Likewise, top pruning at planting time slows establishment by reducing root growth. Plants are organisms with integrated parts, just like us.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2006 at 5:22PM
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mdvaden_of_oregon(NW Oregon)

Maybe you have not been pruning it, but if you have, it's possible that the wood was removed that would have bloomed.

Mock orange is similar to lilac and forsythia, in that they bloom on the previous year's new growth. So late pruninn in fall winter of top portions can eradicate spring flowers.

Visit my site below, pick my PRUNING menu selection about our services, and scroll way down the page: there's a table for different plants and when to prune.

Here is a link that might be useful: M. D. Vaden Home > then click PRUNING in menu > scroll for pruning table

    Bookmark   May 21, 2006 at 9:25PM
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I just lopped off all the branches of each bush (7 total) as close to the ground as possible. It is called rejuvination pruning, according to the ndsu extension service.

It should be done just before the bush leafs out in spring. All of the energy now goes into new shoots. I will get blooms next year on what grows this year.

I did this on Sunday, gave the bushes (or rather the roots)a deep watering, and today there are 2-4 new shoots on each bush!

I have heard about root pruning, however, as I mentioned when I picked up the original thread, these MO's were very poorly pruned for many years before they became mine. I will try to take pictures of the new growth today and document the 'rebirth' of our MO's!

BTW, I have never even smelled the flower of a mock orange-the ONE flower that bloomed on the row of bushes last year was 12 or 13' off the ground- I hear it is worth the wait!

    Bookmark   May 23, 2006 at 1:25PM
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mdvaden_of_oregon(NW Oregon)

My method, usually, is to prune back the largest 1/2 of the shooots.

When all the limbs or stems are pruned back, not all the energy goes to new shoots. It's a bit like tree pruning. About 1/3 of the energy will be dedicated to fighting and isolating decay in the stems. Because wood decay organisms are going to get started in the exposed cuts.

Simultaneous root pruning can demand another reserve of energy resources too.

So when it's available, renovation should be tackled in stages.

I'm sure your shrub will respond fine. I haven't had a mock orange shrub in years. We have room for one now.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2006 at 11:04PM
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I have been going thru so many threads and googling for info on MO that I don't remember where I heard this but given how many people have never had their MO bloom, I think it is a good idea. If you are going to buy one, buy it when it is in bloom- and haven proven it can bloom less problems down the road!

    Bookmark   May 24, 2006 at 4:18PM
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Mine didn't bloom for 3 years or so after planting, just kept getting floppier and more wild. Took out all the very oldest growth to the base, and voila--blooms since then.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2006 at 3:00PM
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Mine is planted in the woods with very little sunlight, in very acidic soil. I have many blooms every year.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2006 at 3:50AM
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mkirkwag(Puget Sound)

I have a 5 foot MO that started out as a cutting given to me by another GW'er - no bloom. If I'm going to prune it way back shall I do it now, in it's growth period, or wait until it's dormant?

    Bookmark   June 24, 2006 at 11:06AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

I doubt pruning will help. And with a new plant you will just delay its development by removing part of its top. Flowering comes from side shoots off of mature canes.

'Virginal' is common and distinctive, easily identified. Take a look around and I am sure you will see this one here is loaded, that one has some...same as with others it just seems to flower variably. One largish old unpruned one on the south side of 164th, near Lynnwood, WA (east of Emery's Garden nursery and across the street) has been showy this year, although not smothered there is a nice even distribution of large fragrant flowers. It hangs out over the sidewalk, as though beckoning a cab.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2006 at 3:36PM
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Hi, I'm new to this forum =) I'm interested in buying this plant - but don't know where to start! Can anyone point me in the right direction? there are a few websites that offer seeds, but i'm afraid that it won't live to bloom. There's also this website, Aloha Tropicals, that offer potted plants. has anyone purchased plants from this website? Please help.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2006 at 3:46PM
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Hi, I was looking for an answer to my non-blooming MO and came across this thread. I bought a MO early spring and planted in clay soil and it blooms profusely but when I went back to the nursery for another one I found another type of MO which is tall and slim. I put the new one in the front where soil is much better. For 3 years not a single bloom. If grafting works well with MO, probably I would try to graft a cutting from the first one to the non blooming bush.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2008 at 1:02AM
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Hi, I have a question regarding identifying new growth versus weeds around the base of my large (12') mock orange (don't know variety - white fragrant flower). Coming up all round is a simple cane, smoother but similar to the cane of the mature plant, but shoots straight up with with larger and brighter green. simple opposite leaves coming right off the cane. The mature shrub has dark green 2 inch leaves, that are (I don't know how to describe, let's see...) variegated/multiple off smaller stems off stems, off branches. Does anyone know if the new growth looks remarkably different (yet similar) from the mature or are these weeds?

    Bookmark   July 27, 2008 at 11:41PM
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Hello folks, I'm something of a connnoisseur of the Mock Oranges, n don't get on the site that often....anyhow, here's some things I've learned over the years from experience.....
1st off, many of the species available thru 'reputable' nurseries are not of pure strain (i.e. their integrity is 'shaded' or 'uncertain'). I have several forms, of which three I know are 'true blue' to their labeling. P. coronarius (and be careful with this one as well, see it in FULL flower to be sure, the flowers are white inside n out, n very fragrant if authentic, n old wood is chestnut brown outside) P. lemoinei X 'innocence' usually has some variagated leaves, is slower growing but flowers well n is perhaps one of the most fragrant mock orange scrubs I have....rivaling one of it's parents, P. coronarius for fragrance! Finally, there is P.lemoinei 'belle etoile' (Fr. Beautiful star) and this is a dependable bloomer has vigorous growth n has a purple splotch at the base of ea. flower, and is quite fragrant as well. I also have a form of P. lewisii from the N.W. U.S. that's in flower now, n is enchantingly fragrant. Hold it's flowers in panicles of a dozen or more at the end of ea. stem producing the flowers. This scrub was sold to me as cv. 'Goose Creek' but the description given now is of double flowers which the one I was sold was not! There are so many issues involved when dealing with retail growers that really have little or no knowledge of what their really obtaining and/or selling when it comes to this particular breed of scrubs!!

Finally, I'd be dubibous, based on my own personal experience alone, from buying Mock orange scrubs from any retailer/wholesaler you don't have experience or knowledge of, 1st hand.

Btw, I'd had the same problem with P.lemoinei 'virginal' from Wayside, and I wouldn't recommend buying ANY Mock orange 'Minnesota snowflake' scrubs, unless you see them in FULL flower.....I canned at least 6 scrubs I had bought yrs. ago, that failed to flower over many many years.... Brief, shop with much prudence!!

    Bookmark   May 9, 2010 at 6:29PM
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I just pruned my flowerless mock orange which is growing at an unbelievable rate. I bought it in 2008 from Wayside. It's planted right next to my flowerless wisteria arbor which is now 12 years old. Don't remember where I bought it - online somewhere. Spring Hill? Nature Hills? It was when I was just starting the garden. The flowerless wisteria arbor is just 5 yards from the flowerless wisteria tree which I bought the year before. All are very healthy, and quite free of flowers.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2010 at 6:21PM
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I too have been cursed with a flowerless mock orange, minnesota snowflake. Western exposure, although somewhat filtered in the afternoon, yielded sporadic limited flowering. Over a five year period, pruning - no pruning, fertilizer- no fertilizer, mulch - no mulch, light increased through light pruning of adjacent shading tree - NO SIGNIFICANT BLOOMING. I finally dug it out. I think that sabatiaman's comments are interesting. I certainly don't think that I saw the original plant in bloom. I did wonder if I was getting a cold enough winter period to set bloom. I don't even know if a cold period is necessary. I haven't seen anyone mention it.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2010 at 12:03PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

I've got one mule orange as well, the rest bloom.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2010 at 8:57PM
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Difficulty in obtaining 'hard to find' cv's of Philadelphus aka. Mockorange scrubs ( many of which are in European Bot. Gardens,nurseries, etc.) is because they cannot be shipped to the USA because it's said they carry an 'Elm virus' (not dutch elm, btw) proof to this reality is the fact that there are but a limited number of cv's available in the U.S. unless new 'strain' cultivars have been newly created from stock already here, and if you have the parent plants of these previously unobtainable varieties, you can always try 'breeding' your own (e.g. P.coronarius and P. microphyllus, both available in the U.S. and are the parents of many of the named P. X lemoinei cv's made long ago!). It's worth the endeavor if you desire these plants the way I do....and again, remember what I said previously above, be careful when buying ANY named cv's of Philadelphus, unless you know them (the sellers, retailers) to be reputable...Good Luck n Enjoy your scrubs!

    Bookmark   January 31, 2011 at 6:48PM
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Update on my own mockorange: I bought Philadelphus 'Virginal' ("the true strain!") from Wayside Gardens about 5 years ago. It never bloomed. I threw out plenty of branches and leaves, but never a flower. This season (2012), I pruned it, I fed it (twice), and watched it like a hawk. Nothin'. So about a month ago I took out the loppers and the shovel and now it's on the mulch pile. Maybe someday I'll try another mock orange, but I just lost patience with this one.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2012 at 7:45PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

2 years later the one I planted is still flowerless.

The Plant Locator - Western Region (2004, Black-Eyed Susans/Timber, Portland) lists sources for over 30 named cultivars of Philadelphus "scrubs".

    Bookmark   October 16, 2012 at 4:31PM
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when mine would not bloom I gave it pansy fertilizer which is 15-52-15 and it started to make buds and bloomed about a month later than what it should have but I did get the blooms, and loom soil is actually adding pete moss and compost to make it more nutritious

    Bookmark   June 7, 2013 at 5:53PM
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