Why isn’t your flowering houseplant sending out flowers? It can be frustrating. First, determine if your houseplant is a flowering plant. If you have a fern, your plant won’t be flowering…..ever. But, if you purchased a flowering plant and it hasn’t bloomed again in over a year, it is time to assess the situation and see what can be changed. Everything is cyclical and your flowering plant should flower within a year’s cycle. So, let’s talk about a few reasons why your plant may be refusing to send out blooms.

'Rita's Gold' Fern

This ‘Rita’s Gold’ Boston fern will never bloom as it is a fern

1. Should it be blooming?

The first thing to consider when a plant isn’t blooming is, should it be blooming? Is it a mature plant? Is it time for it to bloom? Flowering plants can’t bloom if they aren’t mature plants. An example is a citrus tree, such as a lemon. If you start the plant from seed, it may be years before the plant is mature enough to bloom. Yet, if started from a cutting of a mature tree, it may bloom as a small plant. 

Is it Time for it to Bloom?

Many plants bloom at a certain time of year, whether it be long nights that spur them on to bloom or short nights and long days. A good example is the Thanksgiving cactus, Schlumbergera. If it isn’t getting the long, dark nights it needs, it usually won’t bloom. Poinsettias are another example of a short-day plant. These plants should be in bloom in approximately November and December. These pictures below were taken today, though and as you can see, they are also in bloom in April, which isn’t unusual. 

Thanksgiving cactus bloom

This Thanksgiving cactus is blooming

2. Is the light right?

Once you’ve determined your plant could be blooming, and it isn’t, the next thing to determine is if it has enough light. If your plant doesn’t have the right amount of light to feed the plant’s leaves and send out flowers, it won’t. Feeding the plant is its first priority and it won’t give any energy to growing flowers if it doesn’t have the energy, which comes from a light source. That source can be the sun or electric lights. Below, this cactus is on an unblocked west window and does flower in the spring. 

cacti

A cactus needs a large amount of light to send out flowers

The cactus above surprised me with a bloom this spring. It was on the ledge of my sunroom and not only was it in a southern exposure, but the sill stays quite cold. Some cacti like a cold dormancy period in the winter. If a cactus is in a cold situation do not give it water until it warms up in the spring. A cold, wet cactus is a rotten cactus, unfortunately.

Electric Lights May Be the Answer

I’m in an African violet society and most of the members grow their plants under electric lights. It helps your plant to have symmetrical growth and the correct amount of light to help your plant send out flowers. I use LED shop lights and the lights are on approx. 7-8 hours per day and I use a timer so I don’t have to worry about turning them on and off and they can be used for any plants.

I also grow other gesneriads on the same shelves with their African violet cousins. Below are an aeschynanthus or lipstick plant, a kohleria, an epsicia or flame violet, and a streptocarpus.

3. Humidity Levels Acceptable?

Another reason a plant may not be blooming is the humidity level. Many plants need a level of humidity that is good for the plant and its blooms. If the air is dry, the buds may dry up and fall off. Use a pebble tray or a room humidifier to raise the humidity. Misting is not all that effective as the moisture quickly dissipates, not helping the plant at all. 

Pebble tray

A pebble tray helps with humidity around the plant

4. Water and fertilizer

If a plant is allowed to dry out when it is setting buds, the buds may fail to develop. A dried-out plant is a stressed plant and a stressed plant isn’t a healthy plant, though it may send out flowers thinking it is dying and needs to set seeds to ensure there are other plants to save the family line. Remember, a healthy plant is a plant that with the right light, is more likely to send out healthy blooms. That brings us to fertilizer. I use a water-soluble fertilizer, but whatever you choose to use, is up to you. Though many plant parents think that fertilizer can “make” a plant bloom, fertilizer isn’t food for the plant and can’ make it bloom, but it can add to the health and well-being of the plant, helping it to send out vibrant blooms.

5. Pests and Disease

Another problem that may be hindering your plant from blooming is pests and diseases. If a pest is slowly sucking the life (literally) out of your plant, it won’t have the energy to bloom. They like to hide under the leaves, in the crevices of the leaves, and in the area where the petiole meets the stem. They are masters of disguise but if something seems “off” with your plant, it may be a hidden pest. Alcohol and a cotton swab are your first line of defense and a horticultural oil or insecticidal soap may also be helpful, before resorting to insecticides. Always check the root system for problems, as well.

Your plant may also have a fungus or disease attacking your plant. This may appear as a dusty look like this powdery mildew below or as a dark spot or spots on the leaves that spread. You may need a fungicide or horticultural oil. (Always read the label and test on one leaf of your plant.)

Powdery mildew on a violet

Powdery mildew almost looks like a layer of dust but is a fungal disease

 

6. Over-potted? 

It has been touted that a root-bound plant is more likely to bloom. Though a root-bound plant may be stressed and so sends out flowers to make seeds to ensure its survival, it does seem to make a difference when it comes to flowering. It may be that it fills the container with roots and so can then put its energy into making flowers. So, the point is, don’t over-pot your flowering plant. If it is extremely root-bound it may need the next size pot, but don’t be surprised if it takes a year or more to bloom again. And it is okay to down-pot a plant if you feel the pot is too large for the plant. 

Hoyas

Is your hoya not blooming? Hoyas need a high light situation and mine are blooming regularly in a south window. Has it bloomed before, but after cutting the spent flowers off, it hasn’t bloomed since? The picture below shows a peduncle or the small spur from which the flowers emerge. They will always bloom from the same peduncle so never cut them off. As you can see, the one below is quite long, as it has bloomed many times from the same spur. 

Orchids

My phalaenopsis orchids bloom reliably every year. I let them bloom, cut the flower stalk off completely, and let them grow to store up energy to send out more flowers next year. I water them thoroughly, letting them dry down almost completely before watering again. Every other year, I completely change the potting medium and trim off any dead, brown roots as the potting medium breaks down and the roots don’t get enough oxygen. This will help them grow well and bloom. Make sure they are getting a good bright light, such as an east or west exposure. 

Yellow phalaenopsis

Blooming orchid

7. Variegated Plants

The popular spathiphyllum or peace lily is a well known flowering plant that is popular at memorial services. The white inflorescence is made up of a spathe (the white large leaf-like appendage) and the knobby spadix (inside the spathe), which is the actual flower spike. This variegated form below is called ‘Domino’ and as usual with variegated plants, it doesn’t bloom as prolifically as its non-variegated counterparts. So if you aren’t getting any or not many flowers on a variegated plant, that isn’t unusual. Variegated leaves don’t have as much chlorophyll to capture the light’s energy to make food for the plant. Therefore, it is using its energy for the plant rather than for sending out flowers. Does that make sense?

 

'Domino' Spathiphyllum

Variegated foliage of a ‘Domino’ spathiphyllum lily

 

Do you want the flowers?

It may be controversial, but I cut the flowers off my aglaonemas. I want all the energy of the plant to go towards making the beautiful foliage. Do you cut the flowers off?  They aren’t that attactive, in my opinion. What is your take on it?

Aglaonema flowers

I cut the flowers off my aglaonema

8. Is your plant resting?

Not only is your plant not blooming but it seems to have completely disappeared and died. Yikes. Two plants that naturally do that are the cyclamen and the oxalis. They are both bulbs and often die down and rest after blooming. Don’t throw them away, but wait for them to wake back up and grow and flower again. 

I hope this helps you figure out why your houseplants may be refusing to bloom. With good care, including the right light, water, and fertilizer, you should have blooming plants in no time! What is blooming in your home today? 

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