Spring Daffodil and Tulip Care
One of the coolest things about most bulbs, especially Daffodils and Tulips, is that they tend to be very low-maintenance. Sometimes, though, people forget just how low-maintenance they are and try to do too much with them. With Tulips and Daffodils, what you do with the plants just after they bloom can make all the difference for next year’s blooms, so here are a few tips for spring bulb care.
Cut the flowers off once they start to fade, before they start to produce seed. You wouldn’t do wrong to cut the flowers early enough to use them as decoration or as a gift (just cut the stem low). This is so the plant uses the energy that it would use making seeds to build up its bulb, which means more, higher-quality blooms next year.
Do not, however, cut any of the leaves off. Those will spend the next several weeks producing food for the bulb. Think of it like those leaves are next year’s flowers. The leaves may not be the most beautiful plants (I personally like them, but that may just be me), but cutting them early could very well kill the entire plant. I had a neighbor whose son accidentally mowed a strip through his daffodil patch just before the leaves started to turn yellow. The next year he had a nice path through the patch with not a bloom to be seen. Let the leaves be until they turn completely yellow, which is the sign that they’ve produced enough food to sustain the bulb.
You can set annuals out among the plants to disguise the yellowing leaves. However, choose something that requires very little watering, such as Marigolds. If you are watering plants above the bulbs through the summer, the ground will stay moist. Tulip and Daffodil bulbs don’t like very moist conditions, as they can rot or just weaken, meaning fewer good blooms next season. The best way to deal with the unsightly yellowing leaves, though, is to choose a slightly out-of-the-way area for planting your Tulips and Daffodils. This way the foliage will be less noticeable later in the season. When the flowers are in bloom, though, they will do plenty to draw attention to themselves.
Keep in mind that this process may be somewhat different when growing hybrid Tulips. While Hybrid Tulips have many advantages and are far more popular than species tulips, they do not survive from season to season as well as species Tulips do, and many gardeners grow them as annuals. Cutting the flowers and letting the foliage yellow will maximize the second-year performance of hybrid tulips, but it is rare to get the same level of performance in the second flowering year from hybrids as in the first year, and generally need to be replaced within a few years of planting, especially in the South.