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Brown immature Hebe flowers

wild flowerwild flower South West LondonPosts: 78
I have 2 small Hebe bushes in large containers but their emerging young green flowering buds inevitably produce brown 'hairs' on the buds i.e. don't bloom

I have read that they should have a blood, fish and bone fertiliser which I don't have and am loathe to buy since I read it attracts foxes.  Is there an alternative to this?  I have been using a potash fertiliser but with mixed results.

I read that they dislike waterlogged conditions i.e. prefer well drained.  However, I notice that if they are not watered fairly regularly their leaves tend to look very dry and lose their plumpness/dull shine.
A 'weed' is just a plant in the wrong place - subjective! ;)
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  • CeresCeres Posts: 2,149
    Any chance of a photo of the hebes and their pots? It might help with the overall picture.
  • LoxleyLoxley NottinghamPosts: 4,961
    edited September 2019
    Are the pots much larger than the plants' root balls? I wonder if the compost is going claggy. If there's much more compost than the plants need for their roots, it can mean the plants end up sat in sodden, claggy compost. It's more likely to be something like that than anything to do with fertiliser (unless you've been over-fertilising)...
  • wild flowerwild flower South West LondonPosts: 78
    edited September 2019
    I don't think it can be due to the large containers since, when I first planted them there, they did flower normally.   Or that the compost is claggy since - quite the reverse - I notice the top of the soil drying out easily (they are in sunny positions) and, as mentioned, the leaves start to look dehydrated and in need of watering.

    I thought I had adequately described the green, unopened flowers - the little spikes they have are brown i.e. as if the flowers had already opened up (i.e. when the whole flower then becomes brown); they never bloom as they currently are - with those brown spikes there.  Will try and take a photo tomorrow (not that convenient - don't have the means to do this currently).

    No help with an alternative to the blood, fish and bone fertiliser?
    A 'weed' is just a plant in the wrong place - subjective! ;)
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 48,889
    What you're describing is the way they look after flowering, or are old flowers.
    Hard to make any other guesses without photos though. 
    Did you tease the roots out before planting? If they were a bit pot bound, what @WillDB describes is a common problem. They just sit there - not moving out into the surrounding soil/compost, and therefore they get waterlogged. They might still flower as normal if it was the right time of year for them and they had buds ready to open. 
    How long have you had them?

    I don't use anything except B,F&B for mine, although I sometimes use liquid seaweed or tomato food. Foxes dont bother much unless they're in the ground, but even then, they soon leave them alone. You could just use any slow release fertilier for them though. 

    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


  • LoxleyLoxley NottinghamPosts: 4,961
    edited September 2019
    By claggy I mean that the compost (if we're talking about multi-purpose compost) has decomposed, typically it will sink down in the pot, and it will no longer be fluffy and 'open'. This means there's less space within the compost for air and water, and it can then swing between too wet and too dried-out. If the moisture levels are very inconsistent while the flower buds are developing, it might interrupt their proper development. It's just a guess based on the information you've given. How long have they been in the same compost, and what is the compost like now? A loam based compost would be better for a long term planting, and the planter ideally shouldn't be a lot larger than the roots of the plant require. 

    I don't *think* the problem you're having is likely to be caused by a lack of BF&B or any other fertiliser.
  • wild flowerwild flower South West LondonPosts: 78
    edited September 2019
    Fairygirl said:
    What you're describing is the way they look after flowering, or are old flowers.
    Hard to make any other guesses without photos though. 
    Did you tease the roots out before planting? If they were a bit pot bound, what @WillDB describes is a common problem. They just sit there - not moving out into the surrounding soil/compost, and therefore they get waterlogged. They might still flower as normal if it was the right time of year for them and they had buds ready to open. 
    How long have you had them?

    I don't use anything except B,F&B for mine, although I sometimes use liquid seaweed or tomato food. Foxes dont bother much unless they're in the ground, but even then, they soon leave them alone. You could just use any slow release fertilier for them though. 

    I've had them for several years - over 5 years I think...would age be a factor?
    No, I am familiar with the flowers after they have bloomed i.e. the whole flowerhead then turns brown i.e. is NOT young, green, unopened with brown spikes as they are now.  I will try to get a photo soon.
    Yes I always tease out roots before planting.
    I might look into a slow release fertiliser - assuming that the potash fertiliser is not appropriate then?
    A 'weed' is just a plant in the wrong place - subjective! ;)
  • wild flowerwild flower South West LondonPosts: 78
    edited September 2019
    WillDB said:
    By claggy I mean that the compost (if we're talking about multi-purpose compost) has decomposed, typically it will sink down in the pot, and it will no longer be fluffy and 'open'. This means there's less space within the compost for air and water, and it can then swing between too wet and too dried-out. If the moisture levels are very inconsistent while the flower buds are developing, it might interrupt their proper development. It's just a guess based on the information you've given. How long have they been in the same compost, and what is the compost like now? A loam based compost would be better for a long term planting, and the planter ideally shouldn't be a lot larger than the roots of the plant require. 

    I don't *think* the problem you're having is likely to be caused by a lack of BF&B or any other fertiliser.
    I've thought a bit more about what you are saying.  I never just use a multi purpose compost anyway, i.e. mix it with soil and some sand - maybe a fair bit of sand since I knew they like to be in well drained soil.  The top IS 'fluffy and open' e.g. I have used some good top soil in both containers fairly recently. 
    It might well be that my watering is somewhat inconsistent (as you suggest) and might account for the flower buds not developing properly.  Good point!   👍  I try to keep the hebes reasonably well watered but am always surprised that it seems to require much more frequent watering!  For example, after a day of rain, I always think it can then wait a day or 2 (before watering) if the weather is dry but not hot....sometimes the dry looking leaves tell me otherwise and I have to lug watering cans (from my back garden) to where they are (in the front garden).  It could well be due to the inconsistent watering then I guess.....



    A 'weed' is just a plant in the wrong place - subjective! ;)
  • BorderlineBorderline Posts: 4,687
    I agree with what's been said by Fairygirl and WillDB. Growing shrubs in containers can be challenging at times and the plant's growth tends to be weaker and watering has to be consistent. The soil may need topping up or altering. 

    Leaves inflating and deflating sounds like water not retaining long enough, so very likely under-watering rather than over watering. Flowers forming, but drying out or failing to fully form are signs of stress, most likely due to lack of water.

    I grow many shrubs in containers, and at this time of year, in full sun, I have to water a minimum every 3 days. On slightly warmer days, daily. The soil has to be loam-based with some grit to aid drainage.
  • yeah, sounds to me like the flowers have passed. Perhaps they didn't last very long due to the pots drying out quickly. I've never had much luck with pots, particularly terracotta pots that allow water to evaporate more readily than impervious alternatives.
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 48,889
    Also - don't forget that hebes have dense foliage, so even when you think they're well watered, a lot of that gets used up very quickly in warm weather. In windy weather too.
    Even with the amount of rain we get here in summer, I still have to water certain things in pots as it gets used up very quickly. Terracotta pots dry out quicker too, so perhaps you need to look at an alternative.

    Often on the forum, people say 'but we've had lots of rain' - forgetting that it doesn't always penetrate too. it has to be quite heavy and consistent to really get down into pots, so be aware of that in spring and autumn, not just summer  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


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