Caring for Daffodils After Blooming
Along with crocus bulbs, daffodils are some of the easiest garden bulbs you can plant in your garden for a showy display of blooms every spring. From my experience in the garden caring for daffodils after blooming is not unlike caring for tulips after they are done blooming, with one exception: The foliage. Daffodil foliage can be a pain to deal with–especially if you have a small garden.
When daffodils are blooming they can be spectacular. Since mine are planted close to the fence, the blooms often are picked by school children on their way to school. I don’t really begrudge them, after all, who can resist their showy yellow color during those cold, rainy, and drab days of spring?
Like with tulips, the first thing you should do to ensure a flush of flowers the following year is to deadhead the stems and remove any seed pods that may have developed. Bees, primarily bumblebees, visit them regularly in the garden in the spring when there isn’t much forage available to them. The result is usually handful of seed pods developing after they have been pollinated by bees. To remove the seed pods just snap off the heads when you’re weeding the garden. Removing the seed pod will strengthen a daffodil’s bulbs. Since the bulb is not expending energy in developing the seeds, all of its energy is being focused on the bulbs below ground and producing offsets (baby daffodil bulbs) and producing next year’s flower.
The worst part of growing daffodils is the foliage after the blooms have faded. When the bulbs are in flower the strappy leaves are shorter and stand up straight. All of that changes as the leaves emerge from the ground and start growing towards the light. Soon after a decent rain you may find that the foliage is a mess like pictured above. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem, but if you planted daffodils along a path you may find that the leaves create a hazardous condition in the garden after rains and as the leaves start to die back.
Braiding Daffodil Foliage
When confronted with a mess of daffodil foliage in your garden, your first instinct might be to cut it back. And this would be the opposite of what you want to do if you want the bulbs to flower again the following year. If the foliage is still fresh and green, the bulbs are still photosynthesizing and feeding the bulbs below ground and preparing blooms for the following year.
One trick that gardeners employ to deal with daffodil foliage is to braid the leaves together to get them out of the way. If you’re a girl, parent (or oldest of four latchkey kids) you may have some experience with braiding. It’s the same with daffodil foliage as it is with hair. Section off the leaves of your daffodil clump into three parts and braid them together. Make sure to tie off the daffodil braid at the tip to keep it together.
Alternatives to Braiding Daffodil Foliage
Braiding daffodil foliage is kind of controversial. For starters, it looks funny to have braids of foliage sticking up throughout your garden bed. There is also some concern over whether or not braiding the leaves inhibits photosynthesis. But in my experience I haven’t found that to be a problem, but I can understand why it isn’t ideal. If you do braid your daffodil foliage wait until the leaves have died back on their own before cutting them off and composting the leaves.
If your garden is small and there isn’t much room for planting, consider digging up the bulbs and placing them in pots and locating them somewhere out of the way where they will still get water, sun and fertilizer while you wait for the foliage to die. Then plant the daffodil bulbs back in the garden in the fall.
Alternately, you can plant perennials and annuals in front of your daffodil clumps that can help mask the daffodil foliage as it dies. Look around your garden, your neighbor’s gardens, and public gardens of ideas. See what plants are growing and producing foliage that’s tall enough right now that could hide foliage. For example, in my garden right now as the daffodil foliage is splayed out the daylilies and cranesbill geraniums foliage is tall enough that they could hide the daffodil foliage perfectly.
How do you handle unsightly daffodil foliage in your garden? Do you braid or hide the foliage, or do you prefer to do nothing and put up with a couple of weeks of floppy foliage?