Why Won’t My Basil Grow Well?

“My basil always is short and flowers.  It is in full sun, and I suspect it’s too much sun.  I would like lots of succulent leaves, but the leaves are small and thin 🙁  How many hours of direct sun is enough? or maybe I should move it to part shade?” Question from Catherine of Tampa, Florida

Answer: Basil needs just a few things to really grow well. These are.

  1. Well-drained, fertile soil with a neutral pH
  2. Full sun (6 hours or more)
  3. Average water
  4. Fertilizer for vegetables and herbs (follow product instructions)
  5. Regular deadheading to keep it from flowering
Thai basil is compact, beautiful, and tasty!

Check your soil and make sure that it is porous and fertile. Amending your herb garden with Black Gold Garden Compost Blend will certainly improve its texture and quality.

There are some basils that have been bred to refrain from flowering while producing non-stop flavorful leaves. Proven Winners Amazel Basil and the tall, gorgeous, variegated Pesto Perpetuo Basil are two excellent varieties that are sure to perform beautifully and DO NOT FLOWER. I also recommend that you try Thai basil, which is pretty, tasty, and very heat tolerant. ‘Cardinal’ is a super beautiful variety that I am growing this year. You can let Thai basil flower with no ill effect. Its purplish-red flowers are fantastic and delicious!

Happy gardening,

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist

Why Didn’t My Cannas Bloom?

“This year, I didn’t get many blooms on my cannas. Any ideas?” Question from Gloria of Morgan Hill, California

Answer: I’m sorry to hear that your cannas did not bloom well. Let me cover everything that they need to grow and flower to their fullest, followed up by some danger areas, and you can troubleshoot from there.

What Cannas Need to Grow Well

Cannas (Canna species and hybrids, Zones 8-11) are lush, tropical to subtropical perennials adapted to full to partial sun, and rich moist to average soils. Providing a boost of continuous-release fertilizer formulated for flowers always encourages good blooming. They originate from warm regions of the Americas where climates are humid and rainy. When growing conditions are ideal, they will flower with no trouble. If they are not hardy where you live, dig their rhizomes in fall and store them in a cool, dark place through winter.

Conditions that Discourage Canna Flowering

Here are several suboptimal growing conditions that will discourage blooming cannas: too little water, too little light, low humidity, and too little fertilizer.

There are also several viral diseases that will discourage growth and flowering in cannas. These include the Canna yellow streak virus (CaYSV) and Canna yellow mottle virus (CaYMV), among others. Plants with these diseases show abnormal leaves with browning or yellowing streaks of mottled patterns. If your canna leaves exhibit either, dispose of the plants immediately and replace them with certified virus-free stock (specialty growers are usually the most reliable source). Be sure not to reuse the potting soil, if your plants are in containers.

I hope that this helps!

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist

Why Aren’t My Pumpkins Fruiting?

Why Aren’t My Pumpkins Fruiting

“How do I get my Pumpkins to get past just flowering?” Question from Marilyn of Roseburg, Oregon

Answer: I am sorry to hear that your pumpkins are not producing! There are lots of things that could keep your pumpkins from setting fruit. Let’s start with what pumpkin vines need to grow and produce fruit.

What Pumpkins Need to Fruit

  1. Full sun (8 hours per day or more)
  2. Fertile, well-drained soil
  3. Regular water
  4. Fertilization with an all-purpose vegetable fertilizer
  5. Space–Vines require plenty of space to grow and branch.
  6. Time–Check the days to harvest for your pumpkin variety. If it is 100 days or more, then it is a late producer and just needs more time.

What Keeps Pumpkins from Fruiting

  1. Lack of female flowers (see below)
  2. Lack of pollinators–Bees pollinate pumpkin flowers, which is essential for them to fruit.
  3. Excessive heat– Very hot days (above 95 degrees F) and warm nights (above 75 degrees F) can stress vines to the point where they do not fruit.
  4. Too little light–Vines lack the energy to produce fruit.
  5. Too little time–If late-producing vines are planted too late in the season, they will not have enough time to fruit.
  6. Pests and disease–There are many pests and diseases that can reduce fruit output in pumpkins. If your vines look healthy, then don’t worry about this possibility.

Pumpkin Flowers and Fruiting

All squash, pumpkins included, have two flower types–male and female. Male blooms appear first on the vines as simple yellow flowers with stamens covered in yellow pollen. Female flowers develop towards the vine tips and have little fruits at the base of the yellow flowers as well as a single, central pistil in each bloom. If your vine has both flower types, then pollination failure could be the problem. Without pollination, developing fruits just shrivel. The solution is hand-pollination. Simply use a small brush to move pollen from a newly-opened male flower to a newly-opened female flower. It’s fast, easy, and will yield pumpkins.

It is quite possible that your vines are healthy and on the verge of producing. Time may be the only factor limiting their fruiting. Many late pumpkins will not start bearing until September. Keep me posted. I would love to hear the end of your pumpkin story.

Happy gardening

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist


Click here to view my top 10 list of best-tasting pumpkins and winter squash!

Why Aren’t My House Plants Growing?

“Why would a houseplant just not grow? A couple of my houseplants won’t get any bigger or the growth is so slow it’s barely noticeable. I got them when they were small starter plants & have had them for a year or 2. These are my common plants…spider and prayer plant.  Any suggestions would be appreciated.” Question from Katherine of Las Vegas, Nevada

Answer: There are several reasons why your plants may be stunted or growing poorly. Reasons typically involve soil drainage, soil quality, fertilizer, and light. Here are seven house plants Q&As to make sure your plants are getting what they need.

  1. Does your pot have drainage holes and a saucer to catch water? If not, repot your plants in pots with good drainage. Otherwise, water will pool at the bottom of the pot and inhibit root growth.
  2. When you stick a finger in your potting soil is it saturated or dry? Even moisture is what you want for these plants. (Click here to read a great article about how to water house plants.)
  3. Is your pot big enough? Check to see if your plant’s roots are “bound” by trying to run your finger along the inner edge of the pot below the soil line.  If you feel tight roots along the edge, it is time to transplant your house plants into a larger pot. (Click here to learn how to repot bound house plants.)
  4. Did you choose good-quality potting soil? Good-quality potting soil should be lightweight, porous, and have premium ingredients, such as peat moss, coir, compost, perlite, and added fertilizer. We recommend Black Gold All Purpose Potting Mix for house plants.
  5. Is your potting soil more than three-years-old? If so, replant your house plants in fresh potting mix (not a problem in your case).
  6. Do you feed your house plants? Tropical foliage plants, such as prayer plant (Maranta leuconeura) and spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum), should either be fed with a continuous-release fertilizer, which usually feeds plants for up to six months, or regularly fed with a water-soluble fertilizer.
  7. Are you house plants growing irregularly, are they one-sided, or are their leaves elongated and thin? If so, they may be getting too little light. Be sure to provide them with bright, filtered sunlight for good growth.

I hope this information helps and your plants really begin to grow.

Happy house plant growing!

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist