I Bought a Flowering Tree That Has Failed to Bloom. Why?

Possible Reasons Why Your Tree Is Not Flowering

Flowering cherry tree branch with white and light pink blossoms

The Spruce / Autumn Wood

Someone wrote in to me asking about why a flowering tree she had bought has failed to bloom:

"The flowering tree I purchased has not bloomed. What is the cause of this failure to flower? Its blossoms were the whole reason why I got the specimen in the first place. Why is it not living up to the beautiful picture on its plant label?"

My answer follows.

Why Trees Fail to Bloom

There are many possible reasons for flowering trees failing to bloom. For instance:

  1. The flower buds could have been damaged by the elements (untimely frosts are frequently the culprit).
  2. The trees may not have received sufficient water.
  3. You may have pruned the tree at the wrong time (homeowners sometimes remove branches containing the very buds that would have become flowers the next spring)
  4. There could be a soil deficiency.

Pertaining to the possibility of a soil deficiency (that is, a nutrition problem), when plants fail to flower, a commonly suggested remedy is fertilizing with a fertilizer high in phosphorus. Such a fertilizer will have a high middle number in its NPK value. However, the best route to take is to have a soil test done if you suspect that the ground in which the tree is growing is lacking in nutrients.

Without having the soil tested, you are merely guessing when you try to add this or that soil amendment to the soil in hopes of correcting a deficiency. Guessing is not the proper way to proceed: it can lead to unintended consequences that you will regret. Nor is it difficult to have your soil tested. Just send in a sample to your local extension office (call the nearest state university to find out how to contact your local extension office). You can also buy do-it-yourself soil testing kits at home improvement centers.