Keep Those Daffodils Blooming Year After Year
Spring has sprung and the daffodils are finally at peak bloom (better late than never!) A few people have asked why their daffs aren’t blooming as well as in the past, and they assume it was because of the tough winter. But that’s not the case. Daffodils are hardy to much colder temperatures than we saw during this brutal winter, so we look to other reasons.
Cutting off the foliage before it is ripe is probably the biggest reason for daffodil decline. Whether you paid attention in Biology class or not, what I’m about to say should make sense to you.
When you planted that bulb, it was more than just a bulb. The foliage and flowers were already pre-programmed to appear in the spring. How does this happen? Do you remember our old friend photosynthesis? Leaves absorb sunlight and turn it into nutrition for the plant. That nutrition is needed for production of roots, foliage and flowers. So if you cut the foliage off a daffodil before it is fully ripe and has done its job, you are depriving that bulb of nutrition needed to create the blooms you will see next year. Let the foliage brown naturally and don’t tie it up. We refer to those well-tied bundles of foliage as ‘Daffodils in Bondage.’ Yes, I know it looks messy. It’s nature. It’s supposed to be messy! That foliage should stay on the plant for at least 6 weeks after bloom.
What else might cause a dearth of blooms? When you fertilize your bulbs, the first number in the N-P-K ratio should be low. High nitrogen will give you lots of foliage, but fewer flowers. Feed your bulbs when the green shoots are emerging, and choose a product that is specifically for bulbs. Espoma Bulb-Tone is a good organic choice. Follow the package directions.
Lack of water during the growing season can cause poor flowering too. Be sure to give your bulbs ample water when they are actively growing (from sprouting until you finally cut the foliage off.) Remove the spent blossoms as the flowers goes by.
Occasionally your bulbs may need to be divided. The best time to do that is after the foliage has ripened (usually by July 4). When you decide to divide, be sure to mark the spot where you planted them in the garden, as there is no foliage to serve as a reminder of their location. Carefully dig around the clump of bulbs and separate them into smaller groups to relocate, being sure to bury them deep enough. The general rule of thumb for planting spring bulbs is to plant two to three times as deep as the bulbs is tall. Measure depth at the bottom of the bulb, and keep at least 5 together in a clump. Incorporate fertilizer (according to package directions) before you fill up the hole, and you are well on the way to keeping your daffys blooming year after year.