Every year I get catalogue after catalogue in the fall with what seems like an endless parade of new daffodil varieties. While some of us are partial to tulips I enjoy daffodils. I’m the impatient type and daffodils give me earlier blooms and they come back year after year while at least for me tulips seem to disappear after only 2 or 3 growing seasons. Last fall I spent hours planting daffodil bulbs with visions of spring blooms in my head. Digging holes that were just the right depth, usually around 6 inches deep, finding just the right spot with soil that will drain and not allow water to pool during the winter, keeping squirrels and chipmunks at bay all so I could enjoy beautiful flowers in the spring. The question is now what do I do once these daffodils have finished blooming?
The good news is that many bulbs, daffodils included, seem to thrive on neglect. While we enjoy their beauty early in the spring they quickly fade from our memory as other flowers take their place and spring planting is in its full swing after the danger of frost is past. There are some very simple tasks that you can and should do to ensure that you enjoy your daffodils spring after spring:
- Fertilization-I always fertilize daffodils when the first leaf tips are out of the ground. There are granular fertilizers that are specifically made for bulbs and they are ok to use. However, following my commentary on how daffodils “thrive on neglect” I generally use a 5-10-5 fertilizer that I almost always have on hand in my garage and this seems to work just fine. I take a handful of fertilizer and scatter it among the emerging leaves. I then take a tool that will allow me to lightly scratch the fertilizer into the soil so it is not left on the surface where the rain can wash it away; maybe a ¼ of an inch at most and that’s it!
- Deadheading-This is a gardening term that many gardeners are familiar with but in a nutshell what this means is that once the daffodil has finished blooming you should cut the flower head off. This tells the bulb that rather than using energy to develop seeds it should channel that energy back into the bulb itself.
- Leave the Foliage in Place! Too often, once a daffodil finishes blooming gardeners will trim the foliage back to the ground. It is important to leave the foliage in place until it turns yellow. You’ll know this process is finished when the foliage is yellow and it can be gently pulled away from the bulb. Don’t pull too hard or you will pull the bulb out of the ground! I know that the ripening foliage doesn’t always look very nice. I generally gather the foliage in my hand, fold it over in half and then tie it up with a rubber band or twist tie like you would find on a loaf of bread. I just think it makes things look a little neater.
Now that you have accomplished these tasks; DON”T FORGET WHERE THE BULBS ARE! My memory seems to be pretty good these days so I rarely forget this but if you know you won’t remember it is a good idea to have a label or some identifying mark so you know that there are bulbs planted there. These tasks aren’t the most glamorous or fun thing to do but while you are doing all this just try to remember the benefits you’ll get next spring! A little maintenance now has big benefits down the road! Don’t forget if you have a tip you would like to share with others in the Blooming Secrets community please go to our Facebook page and share your knowledge with others.