While we find that Tulips are more popular and get the most attention in the catalogs I receive each year I am partial to Daffodils myself. Why do I prefer Daffodils, well there are many reasons, which include; I’m impatient and Daffodils bloom earlier and they come back each year. I also have a deer problem and they don’t like the Daffodils. My experience has also been that Tulips seem to disappear after a few growing seasons. Each fall I spent hours planting my daffodil bulbs with visions of spring blooms in my head (I had a good season this year). 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 still thrive even when I don’t put the time and effort into the upkeep of them. While we enjoy their beauty early in the spring they quickly fade from our memory as other flowers take their place and the spring and summer planting season gets into full swing. Here are some easy steps you can follow that will encourage your Daffodils to return next 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 do the trick. 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 or brown 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 pretty and 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.
One last thing to remember once you have accomplished these tasks is 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 an identifying mark or label so you know that there are bulbs planted there. With gardening, we have the good and the bad and while these tasks aren’t the most glamorous or fun thing to do you will reap the rewards next spring! A little maintenance now has big benefits down the road!