Bulbs Won't Bloom?

I planted 15 Acidanthera bulbs in late April/early May. The foliage has come up, but the flowers have yet to show themselves. My question is, does the Acidanthera only flower every other year? or does the Acidanthera not flower the first year? Any advice or answers are appreciated.

Hardiness Zone: 5a

By Kevin Nightingale from Sidney, NY

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August 21, 20100 found this helpful

Hi Keven, If we are talking gladiolus callianthus. I have planted & lifted mine for 6/7 years now. The last two years, they have been very unproductive. This year though, I have a fair number of blooms. I think it is that the bulb has to be the right size/age, the size of a hazelnut. Too old & they're bloomed out, too small & they are immature.
Regardless of whether yours have bloomed this year, after first frost lift them & store in a cool dry spot for the winter. There should also be a lot of little pea sized bulbs you should save too. About 1/2 of these should survive to be planted next spring. If you plant in a basket, there is less chance of losing these tiny bulbs & will be able to keep planting your bulbs every year, with success when they attain the right size. This is only what I have experienced myself as I could find no help on the subject on the internet or in my many gardening books. I should also mention that I have never fertilized them per se but have usually used fresh triple mix to pot them up each year. I have attached a pic of one of my baskets (which I sink into the ground) As you can see, mine have almost finished their bloom.
Marg - Fenwick, Ontario (Cdn Zone 6)

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August 20, 2010

Bulbs Won't Bloom


Leaves yes, flowers no. Why don't my irises bloom? I have planted well over 35 bulbs in the last few years. Since we don't get a good freeze here, I stored the bulbs in the fridge for a few weeks before planting. They get plenty of water, and have a nice southern exposure. The oldest bulbs come up about February, grow slowly, then die with no flowering. I planted some daffodils this year, and they have spindly stalks and no flowers.

The irises that were planted decades ago in the backyard do blossom most years, but haven't flowered yet. Should I fertilize them in the winter? Why don't they bloom? We did have a few days under 40 degrees over Christmas, and other places I've lived in L.A. have blossomed like mad! We're at 1800 feet here, with rather acidic soil and very alkaline water. Help?

Hardiness Zone: 10a

Brandy from Los Angeles, CA


Hi Brandy,

Here are some ideas:

Soil Fertility

Because your daffodils are also failing to bloom, I suspect you may have a problem with your soil. You mentioned having slightly acidic soil and very alkaline water, but you didn't mentioned what type of irises you're growing. Although most irises are pH tolerant, some perform prefer slightly acidic soil, while others prefer a neutral to slightly alkaline soil. Just to be safe, I would recommend getting a soil test done.


Your county extension agency can give you more information. Tests usually only cost around $15 and the results will tell you exactly what you need to add (if anything) to correct soil problems-including problems with pH and fertility. For example, test results may recommend adding sulfur to lower the pH of your soil, or recommend adding limestone to raise it.

Your soil may also lack sufficient organic nutrients. Irises can be heavy feeders, and they don't like to compete with nearby grass, weeds, or other iris rhizomes for nutrients. A light application of fertilizer in the spring and again 4 weeks after blooming is usually more than sufficient. It is also best to avoid fertilizers high in nitrogen. Again, a soil test will provide you with specific recommendations.


Planting Depth and Spacing

Iris rhizomes prefer to sit near the top of the soil with only their roots buried below the surface. They also like to have some breathing room, and should be divided every 3-4 years when they become overcrowded. Here is a great bulletin from the UC Davis Extension Agency on growing all types of Irises.

Good luck!


About The Author: Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services. Contact her on the web at


Bulbs Won't Bloom

As soon as leaves appear in the spring, add a 20-20-20 fertilizer. (05/31/2008)

By Angie

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May 29, 2008

Why do half of my daffodils and tulips grow green shoots, but never produce a flower? Do I need to pull them out? I planted them about 2-4 years ago.

Cher from Provo, UT


Bulbs Won't Bloom

My mother in law did the same with iris. She didn't have them planted deep enough (they need to be shallow, but the bulbs were WAY out in the open). This year, I moved them over for her. I "conveniently" covered the bulbs with more dirt, and they are blooming! (05/07/2008)


By Kara Blueyes

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April 30, 2008
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