Bud & Flower Troubles


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Blooms may be poor in size and quantity. They may also be damaged, distorted or spotted.

Birds are extremely selective in their choice of flowers. Nearly all blooms are ignored but Polyanthus, Primula ‘Wanda’ and Crocus (especially the yellow-flowering varieties) may be stripped of buds and flowers in spring by sparrows and blackbirds. Surprisingly, plants in one garden may be ruined and similar plants next door completely ignored. Control is difficult because netting is unsightly in the flower garden. A bird repellent spray may be tried.


There are several possible reasons why plants may fail to bloom. Some herbaceous border plants dislike being moved and may not bloom during their first year in the garden. Daffodils suffer from a disorder known as grassiness – grass-like leaves and no flowers; there is no cure. Tulips sometimes suffer from blindness. But the most likely cause of failure to flower is the effect of one of the factors in the paragraph below.


A common problem is the failure of plants to produce the normal number of blooms. The two most frequent reasons are too much shade and too much nitrogen. Some bedding and rockery plants will hardly bloom at all in deep shade – always choose carefully for such locations. Too much nitrogen, due to overmanuring, is the cause of too much foliage and too little bloom; use a fertilizer which has more potash than nitrogen in order to redress the balance. There are many other possibilities – failure to pinch out the growing point of bedding plants to induce bushiness, failure tocut off dead blooms in order to induce repeat flowering and failure to water in dry weather. Bud drop can occur if there is a late frost or even a cold night; Sweet Peas frequently suffer in this way.

Aphids, both greenfly and blackfly, can seriously reduce the quantity and quality of the floral display. When the weather is warm and dry, large colonies of these pests build up on the buds of many types of flowering plants, causing the flowers when they are open to be undersized. In a severe attack the buds may fail to open. Spray with Long-last, Bio Sprayday, Malathion or Liquid Derris when the pests are first seen.


An important pest of Chrysanthemum and Dahlia blooms. At night the petals are eaten, making them ragged ‘ and unsightly. During the day the earwigs hide in the heart of the blooms or beneath leaves and other debris on the ground. Clear away rubbish. Shake open blooms, then spray plants and soil thoroughly with Hexyl.

Thrips or thunderflies, swarm over leaves and flowers in a hot summer. The usual symptom is silvery flecking of flowers and leaves. Gladioli are particularly susceptible. Flowers may be ruined by a bad attack. Spray at the first sign of attack with Fenitrothion or Long-last.


Theseactive, sap-sucking bugsareaserious pest of Dahlias, Chrysanthemums and many other flowers. Buds may be killed; if they open the flowers are lop-sided. Begin spraying with Fenitrothion as soon as damage appears on theleaves. Repeat2or3times at 14-day intervals.

GREY MOULD (Botrytis)

In a cold and wet summer this Chrysanthemum disease can ruin the flowers. Small water-filled spots appear on the petals, eventually spreading to destroy the bloom. Anemone, Cornflower and Dahlia are affected. Spray with Dithane when buds begin to show colour. Repeat at weekly intervals. Pick off diseased flowers.

Grey mould is a serious disease of the flower garden which strikes when the weather is humid. It can attack a wide variety of blooms; Chrysanthemum, Dahlia, Paeony, Lily and bedding plants are particularly susceptible. Flowers may be spotted at first, but later rot and become covered with a fluffy mould. Badly diseased buds fail to open. Pick off mouldy leaves and flowers as soon as they are seen. Spray with a systemic fungicide.


Petals sometimes possess streaks or patches of an abnormal colour. This colour break is caused by a virus and there is no cure. Tulips are the most likely flowers to be affected; it may also occur in Dahlia, Chrysanthemum, Lily, Viola and Wallflower. The effect may be attractive; multicoloured Tulip varieties are bred in this way. But in a single-colour bed the effect is undesirable and the plants should be destroyed if you wish to keep the stock pure. The removal of diseased plants is essential where phyllody occurs – a virus-like condition which causes the flowers to turn green.

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