By: Susan Patterson, Master Gardener
When you travel through the southern parts of the United States, especially Florida, you may come across these sturdy bushes flowering with abandon on hill slopes and by the wayside. You may be growing one in your garden with lots of love and hope — esperanza means ‘hope’ in Spanish — but what if your esperanza does not bloom at all? Find out reasons for esperanza not blooming and tips on how to get blooms on esperanza plants in this article.
Why Esperanza Does Not Bloom
Like most other members of the Bignoniaceae family, this popular landscape plant is loved for its floriferous nature. The flowers have a quaint fragrance too, but it is very mild. Butterflies and hummingbirds are attracted to the flowers too.
Drought tolerance is another feature appreciated in these plants, which go by the scientific name Tecoma stans, but more commonly called yellow bells. However, many gardeners who love these bunches of bright yellow, bell-shaped flowers are disappointed by their esperanza not blooming.
The common reasons for esperanza plant not flowering includes having a thorough look at the cultural requirements:
- Sunny location: Bright, hot, sun brings out the best in esperanza plants. The thin leaves may be a bit droopy in the middle of the day, but the flower show continues unabated. The plants may tolerate slight shade, but it reduces flowering.
- Good drainage: Whether you are growing your plant in a pot or in the ground, drainage is very important. That’s one reason for them thriving on the slopes of hills.
- Need for space: These plants like to stretch out their roots. Plants that tolerate drought conditions usually have large root systems, and they do not have much competition, unlike those growing in rich, damp soils. If an esperanza plant was blooming well when you brought it home from the nursery but later refused to flower in the same pot, it may have become pot bound.
- Alkaline soil: Tecoma does well in neutral to slightly alkaline soil. Some soils, especially those waterlogged soils and those rich in rotting vegetation, may be too acidic for esperanza. Chalky soils are well tolerated by these plants. Now you know why they do well in Florida soil, which is rich in calcium carbonate from the seashells, and in Arizona with little rainfall.
- Need for phosphorus: Most fertilizers are high in nitrogen. Plants do need nitrogen for good growth, but too much nitrogen in the soil makes them unable to absorb phosphorus from the soil, which helps promote blooming.
How to Get Blooms on Esperanza
Below are tips on getting your esperanza plant to bloom:
- Relocate – Move the plant to a sunny, well drained area of the garden. Also, adding sand and compost to clay soil improves drainage.
- Repot – If the pot has more roots than soil, repot it into a larger pot containing good, well draining soil mix.
- Reduce acidity – Test the soil pH and, if you find your soil acidic, amend it by incorporating powdered limestone to neutralize the acidity.
- Feed it phosphorus – Phosphorus is essential for flowering. Adding bone meal or super phosphate may promote flowering.
- Ignore it – If you still see no flowers on esperanza, even after following the above tips, it is time to ignore the bush completely. No more watering, no more feeding! In fact, this treatment may actually bring good results because esperanza thrives on neglect. Not allowing the flowers to set seeds is another way to prolong flowering.
- Is your esperanza plant seed-grown? – Esperanza plants sold by nurseries are special cultivars selected for high flower count. Even though they can be easily propagated from the seeds they produce in abundance, seed-grown esperanza plants may not be as floriferous as the parent plant. Some of them may exhibit the tree-like habit of one of their ancestors and grow very tall without any sign of flowering until they are big enough. Replacing the plant with a proven specimen from the nursery may be the solution in such cases.
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How to Plant Esperanza
Esperanza (Tecoma stans), also called yellow bells, yellow trumpet, trumpet-flower or yellow elder, grows as a perennial flower in U. S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 8 and above. In colder climates, it is grown as an annual. The trumpet-shaped flowers appear in the spring and persist through fall. The flowers have a pleasing fragrance that attracts bees, but the honey produced is poisonous. These deciduous shrubs grow to be 3 to 6 feet tall and spread to cover up to 4 feet in diameter.
Any growth that has just occurred in the most recent growing season may have buds. This is valuable information because it determines the pruning schedule for the plant. Plants that bloom on new growth may be pruned just before the growing season without sacrificing blooms. Plants that bloom on one-year-old wood must be pruned immediately after blooming to preserve the blooms for the following spring.
Since esperanza blooms on new growth, conduct regular pruning for maintenance and shaping in late winter, after the last frost. Maintenance pruning allows the gardener to control the size of the plant, and it also encourages the plant to grow more vigorously in the spring. Do not prune esperanza once it begins to grow in the spring. Springtime pruning will remove buds that have started to sprout on the new growth.
Remove seed pods to promote more esperanza blooms
Esperanzas love sun, heat and good drainage. Picasa
Q: After a nice spring blooming, our esperanzas have had no new flowers, although the plants are healthy. Should we prune or apply a fertilizer? Or is the significant rain followed by drier weeks part of the problem?
A: Did you remove any beanlike seed pods that usually follow spent blooms? Do so, and you'll eventually get more flowers from esperanza, aka yellow bells and Tecoma stans.
Full sun, heat and good drainage are key to good blooms. Since yours are healthy, I don't think fertilizer is necessary, especially a nitrogen formula that might promote growth at the expense of blooms.
I'm somewhat surprised your esperanza bloomed so early. Was it in a protected area? Even the esperanza planted on the south side of my house froze to the ground. It's spent months regrowing and is late to bloom.
Q: Can you identify the low-growing weed that is gaining ground in my St. Augustine grass? It goes to seed in the fall. I can kill it in the flower beds with Roundup. But I have not found anything to treat it in the lawn without also killing the grass.
A: You have basket grass, a creeper with miniature, bamboolike leaves. Fortunately, it's easy to pull, especially when the soil is moist. You can grab one end, and because it's so shallow-rooted, you can pull up long lengths at a time.
Mow before it flowers and sets seed. A pre-emergent herbicide may help eliminate any seed already in the soil. But encourage a healthy St. Augustine to reduce basket-grass vigor.
Esperanzas can be trained into tree form in areas where they do not freeze to the ground each year. It is not necessary, but may allow light onto surrounding plants. They may also be pruned and trained onto a trellis to keep them from growing wide, though they are not vines: they will not cling to the trellis, so they must be tied down.
Once esperanza blooms fade, pruning them from the bush will help promote more flowering. Additionally, removing any of the long seed pods that the plant forms will not only increase blooming, but will also reduce the chances of esperanza escaping into the wild in regions of the United States where it is considered invasive. The plant will still bloom continuously even if it is not pruned in this manner, but each flush of blooms is more profuse.
- Esperanza (Tecoma stans, also known as yellow bells, yellow trumpetbush or yellow elder) is a perennial, semi-tropical shrub to small tree that is native to the hot, dry regions of the Americas.
- But esperanza can grow very large without freezes, and may need to be pruned or trained.
Q. cutting back Esperanza’s
I live in central Texas will I have to completely cut back my Esperanza's in the fall? And if so what month should I?
Old flowers can be removed as they fade.
Weekly dead heading will help promote more flowering.
Cut back any dead or damaged branches throughout the summer. Cut back to healthy stem.
Prune back entire plant in late winter, before any new growth begins.
Remove up to 1/2 of the plants height and cut back lateral branches to help keep it's shape.
The heavy winter prune helps keep the plant upright and dense.