Fothergilla Isn't Blooming

Fothergilla are versatile shrubs well known for their abundance of flowers in spring. The flowers start blooming before the plant’s leaves fully unfurl, lasting about 3 weeks in April or May. The showy male flowers, which bloom on separate inflorescences from the female flowers, are popular for their bottlebrush flowers. While the flowers lack petals, the spikes of long, white stamens put on a spectacular show. In addition, fothergilla’s aromatic flowers are an early source of nectar for pollinators. Fothergilla is a reliable bloomer, but some factors can negatively affect its performance. Luckily, there are many ways to ensure that your fothergilla blooms each spring. 


Common Reasons Why Fothergilla Isn’t Blooming

One of the most common reasons that fothergilla isn’t blooming is due to improper pruning practices. Fothergilla blooms on the previous year’s growth, so pruning too late in the season can inadvertently remove next year’s buds. Similarly, pruning in late winter or early spring can remove the current season’s buds. Though uncommon, deer and rabbits may also “prune” fothergilla. Deer are attracted to the fragrant blossoms in spring, while rabbits may chew the plants down in winter when food is scarce. 

Another factor affecting fothergilla blooms is insufficient light. Although fothergilla grows well in partial shade, it produces more flowers when it is grown in full sun. Flower production can be negatively affected if the plant receives less than 6-8 hours of sunlight per day. Lastly, late spring frosts may damage buds and flowers.

Pruning Fothergilla To Help It Bloom

A well-timed pruning schedule will ensure that fothergilla blooms in subsequent seasons. While pruning will not encourage blooms, the timing of pruning will affect flower production. If pruning for height control, it is important to prune fothergilla immediately after it finishes flowering in spring. Pruning at any other time can remove the flower buds, thus preventing the plant from flowering. Remove any suckers to divert more energy to the main plant. Prune out any dead, damaged, or diseased branches as soon as you notice them. This will improve the health of the plant and lead to more vigorous blooms. 

Fertilizing Fothergilla To Help It Bloom

Fothergilla benefits from nutrient-rich soil. To promote fast, healthy growth and flowers, amend your soil with organic matter or apply fertilizer to your fothergilla. Use a well-balanced, organic fertilizer formulated for acidic-loving plants. A slow-release, granular fertilizer applied once in spring works best, but liquid fertilizers can be used once per month from April to July. Water the plants after applying fertilizer. 

Get Fothergilla To Produce More Blooms

Fothergilla will bloom profusely when it is grown in a suitable environment. Keep the fothergilla’s soil consistently moist and well drained. Provide more sunlight to your fothergilla if it is planted in a shady area. Younger, smaller plants can be easily transplanted to a new location. Older, more established plants can also be transplanted if needed. Carefully prune any overhanging branches from neighboring plants that may be blocking light. 

Protecting fothergilla from pests and frost is also important for flower production. Prevent rabbits and deer from eating your fothergilla in winter and spring. Apply liquid repellents to dry ground and foliage, reapplying after rain. Install rabbit fencing that is at least 3 feet tall with no gaps for rabbits to squeeze through. Additionally, provide protection to your fothergilla when a late spring frost is expected. Cover the entire plant with a layer of frost cloth, removing it after the frost has passed. 

Why Fothergilla Isn’t Blooming

  • Pruning too soon or too late in the season can remove flower buds.
  • Deer and rabbits can damage or remove branches, stems, and flowers.
  • Too much shade will reduce flower production.
  • Late spring frosts can damage flowers and buds.
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Lauren Youngcourt - Published 07-05-2023