The fully-developed buds of double flowers, such as roses and peonies, sometimes fail to open. This problem is known as ‘balling’ and usually occurs in wet weather conditions. However, it is possible to rescue some of the affected flowers.
What is flower balling?
Flower balling is a disorder in which flower buds develop normally but do not open. But what is the cause? Cool, wet weather saturates the outer petals and then the sunshine dries and fuses them into a tight, papery shell, preventing the bud from opening.
Flower-balling is characterised by the following appearance:
- The bud often feels soft and slimy to the touch; and then the outer petals turn brown, becoming dry and crisp in places
- When the outer petals are prized apart, the inner petals appear normal
- The bud may drop off or, if it hangs on the plant, grey mould may develop and cause it to rot
- Thin-petalled, double flowers such as rose, peony and camellia cultivars are most susceptible to this condition
- Good air circulation is crucial to dry the buds quickly. When planting roses, choose an open site (but not exposed). With existing plantings, increase ventilation by pruning correctly; staking peonies; and cutting back overhanging shrubs or trees
- Water plants in the evening, avoiding hot, sunny conditions, and always direct water at the base of plants rather than the foliage and flowers
- In certain situations, it may be feasible to construct a temporary shelter over the whole plant or individual buds to protect them from rain
- Remove balled buds promptly before grey mould sets in as it can infect other blooms or nearby plants and cause dieback of stems
- Replacement of repeat offenders is sometimes the only remedy. Modern cultivars particularly of roses are said to be less affected
There are no chemicals treatments for this disorder.
Common name Flower balling
Plants affected Roses, peonies and camellias
Main symptoms Flower buds turn brown and fail to open
Main causes Wet, shady conditions
Timing Spring and summer