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6.6.13

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.

Caring for Daffodils after blooming



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?

Daffodil flower seedheads

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.

Daffodil leaves

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


Daffodil foliage Braiding

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?

26 comments:

  1. Anonymous12:13 PM

    Rather than brading, I grab all of the leaves and tie them in a loose single knot. It not only looks better than the braid but is easier to cut at the base once they completely wither.

    I wouldn't recommend digging them up and transplanting into pots as the energy to grow additional bulbs would dissipate into absorbing transplant shock.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I regularly dig mine up after they bloom and notice no adverse affects. In fact, when the spring bulbs planted in public planters and parks are done blooming in Chicago, they are dug up and distributed (for free) to gardeners and community gardeners in the city. You can get a huge bag of free tulips and daffodil bulbs. It's awesome!

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  2. I have a lot of layering going on so I very rarely even notice the daffodil foliage from the street. I also do the one-third method, nip off one third the beginning of June, end of June taken another third to even them out with existing foliage. I have hundreds of bulbs and it is only the tulip foliage that really bothers me, so I treat them as annuals.

    Eileen

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Eileen,

      The 1/3 method is interesting. I have never tried it because I'm too lazy and math is not my strong suit. I was a liberal arts major ;0) But maybe I'll give it a shot next year. Thanks for the tip on dealing with daffodil foliage.

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  3. I do think that layering your plants is key to keeping the garden looking great all the time. However that can take a few years to fully grow in. In the mean time braiding, tying or just tucking the foliage down and behind another plant usually works very well. I have always had success with re-blooming my daffodils in this way as long you have them planted in an area with good drainage and lots of sunlight. As for digging them up, I never have been a fan of that. What I would recommend is planting them deeper with a herbaceous perennial on top to take over when the daffodils are done.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Renata, You're right that the layering method looks good, but it does take a few years for other plants to get big enough to do it properly, or make it seem effortless. Since my garden is rather small, I sometimes don't have the option of waiting for the perennials to grow big enough because by then they are crowding something else out. I need a bigger garden. :0)

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  4. I know a lot of extension folks would strongly object to any braiding endorsement and I must say I'd agree with them. Braiding greatly reduces the surface area of foliage available to photosynthesize. It's just an intuitive concept to me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I bet some extension folks wouldn't recommend braiding, but I've been doing it for years and my initial club of daffodils I started my outdoor garden with are now three clumps that are getting too hard to manage. In my personal experience I haven't noticed any ill effects from it. Unless you count having too many bulbs a problem. :0)

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  5. I'm lazy. I just leave the leaves alone and let the falling leaves from our oak trees cover up the dying foliage.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I like your lazy approach to gardening!

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  6. Man, spammers sure do gum up the works, eh? Anyhow, my preference with all bulb foliage is just let it go. My perennials are usually growing well enough by then that the dying bulb foliage isn't a big deal.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha, yeah. There were quite a few of them I had to remove to clean up the comments on this post on caring for daffodils after blooming.

      Delete
  7. It is not a good idea to fold and tie daffodils. According to Iowa cooperative services, "The daffodil foliage manufactures food for the plant. Adequate amounts of food must be stored in the bulbs in order for the daffodils to bloom the following spring. Tying the leaves together with rubber bands or braiding the foliage reduces the leaf area exposed to sunlight. As a result, the leaves manufacture smaller amounts of food. Plus, tying or braiding the foliage is a time-consuming chore. "

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Samantha,

      Yeah, I know what the cooperative folks have to say on it. But like I said above, I haven't encountered a problem with braiding. I've been doing it for years and my initial clump of daffs is now too large for me to manage in my small garden even though I have divided it into three clumps now. Thanks for the feedback.

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  8. I braided one year but found it to just be another job that wasn't really necessary. I just layer my plantings and the dying back stems get lost in the rest of the foliage.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sensible Gardening, I hear you about creating more work in the garden for oneself. I wish I could afford to pay someone to garden (weed, prune and clean up) for me. ;0)

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  9. True indeed, it is not necessary to braid it. Great information there Samantha.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Nelson, yeah, braiding daffodil foliage is not necessary, but is is an option. One that I think gets a bum rap.

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  10. I'm pretty much of the "let them lie" school of thought. Miniature roses and some lavender do a pretty good job of covering up the dying foliage but I'm always glad when they wither away and I can yank them!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LostRoses, covering them up with miniature roses and lavender sounds wonderful. I wish I could grow some mini roses in my garden, but they just don't seem to overwinter well for me.

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  11. It is really unnecessary to braid the daffodils, it wouldn't actually make any change or have an effect. Instead of doing it, I just make a single knot and it's all done. HA HA.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Louisa,

      How do you manage the single knot without breaking the foliage? My clump(s) are too big for a single knot, unless I do several single knots, but that time it just seems easier to braid all the foliage together.

      Delete
  12. @jojo_60407:38 PM

    Late to this daffy party, I've been a braider for many years. It's relaxing on a lazy day, if ya know how to braid. I take the top/end of braid and circle it to 3' or 4" from bottom of plant and then twist tie it together. I don't do all of them this way but it gets them out of my way and it creates an upright circle crop :)

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  13. I am really glad to have found this page, thanks for all the great input...this is my first time with Daffodils!!!
    I hope they come back next year! Thanks everyone! ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  14. Anonymous4:35 PM

    I have mine planted amoung good sized hostas and this covers the mess completely.
    My daffodils return every year no problem.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I always braid my hair and my daffodil leaves ...then stand back and wait for the know it alls to start moaning ....the garden looks cared for and there is light coming in for the surrounding plants to come on . The daffodils ( and me ) are always wonderful again the following year : )

    ReplyDelete

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