What's "Your method" of handling bulb foliage ?

Silver Spring, MD(Zone 6b)

We all know that books will tell you to let the daffodil and tulip foliage die back naturally and we all know it takes about a long 6 weeks for that to happen. Rules were made to be broken and sometimes certain practices work for the gardener, despite book suggestions. My dear MIL folded her daff foliage down and put rubber bands around it, so the garden would look not so shabby. I've removed the dried daffodil bloom and cut the stem back near to the ground, Last year I experimented by digging up some daffs and planting them in a flower box with soil over them, letting the foliage die back naturally. After that I cut the dried foliage off and put the bulbs in a mesh laundry bag and hung in the unheated garage and when fall came, I replanted those bulbs..To be honest I couldn't tell any diffrerence; I know I marked the place where the daff was planted but I didn't notate which were the transplants so I'm not sure if I can tell if my experiment worked. It's a lot of work replanting in the Fall but it allows you to determine better placement of them among the other perennials in the flowerbed.
Don't know if this makes any sense and I hate planting bulbs with a passion. I even made 3 bulb cages out of hardware wire and planted bulbs in that and forgot to mark where the bulb cages were planted, which was not to smart on my part I admit.

One garden blogger from the mid west wrote that she gradually cuts her daffodil foliage tips until they are almost to the ground. Her gardens are absolutely stunning too!

I know there are a lot of wonderful, experienced gardeners that doesn't follow the recommendations of the garden books writers and they have beautiful flower gardens..

Please share your experience and success of handling bulb foliage after blooming season is finished.

I think we covered this last year but I couldn't find it in my search tonight.(make that wee hours), I fell asleep after dinner and woke up about 10:30 pm and my brain won't shut down but I need to get a few more hours of sleep.

Durhamville, NY(Zone 5b)

I let the foliage stay on the plant for absolutely as long as I can. I figure that foliage is the source of energy to the plant to grow new bulbs for next year. I wouldn't dig daffodils up unless I wanted to move them, or if after many years, too many of them were not producing flowers. The ones in my yard have been there 25+ years and I'm thinking about digging some of them up to start a bed in a different place. If I couldn't stand the look of the leaves, I'd plant something in front of them that hid the daffodil leaves without shading them.

This message was edited May 10, 2012 8:02 AM

I loosely tie my daff foliage together. I have read since that one is not supposed to do this, but I have not had any problems with daffs flowering or multiplying. I would definitely continue this practice.

Silver Spring, MD(Zone 6b)

Carolyn, do you explain a little more how you do your bulb foliage? Do you bent them over losely, and what do you use to tie them with?


I split the leaves into two halves and the tie one section over the other. Tie them one over the other once which should be enough to hold down the foliage. The foliage will yellow and die back tied this way. As I mentioned, I have read that this is not necessarily the best way to have the foliage die back, but it does work for me and I have not had any problems with my daffs flowering the next year.


Silver Spring, MD(Zone 6b)

I don't know what the weather is supposed to be like today and I have a bowling luncheon to attend today. Maybe I can get some done like you do yours and more this afternoon or tomorrow...weather permitting. That sounds simple enough. Carolyn, thanks for explaining that more for me.


I just hope I was clear and not confusing!

Stamford, CT(Zone 6b)

Daffs are not my favorite, but they were here when we moved in 7 years ago, and they bloom faithfully. I always trim them down and figure it's ok if they don't come up, but they keep bloomin' as if they like my yard.

Marine City, MI(Zone 5a)

i take leaves and braid them and then tuck the remainder under, like making a knot. They look cool, and when the foliage dies, its just a neat little ball to pick up and discard.
Sometimes if I am in a hurry, or super lazy, I just twist them and then tuck the ends in like a knot. easy.
I admit that most of the time i just break or cut them off. I really havent noticed a decrease in blooms or healthiness, so I just do it! LOL

Dolan Springs, AZ(Zone 9a)

I severely over planted a planter box with freesia bulbs, and then fertilized every month, and as far as I can tell the bulbs 'fed' themselves from the soil, and thrived. Is it possible that if the tops are cut off early, the bulbs just supplement through their roots?

Durhamville, NY(Zone 5b)

No. The source of energy for a plant is sunlight. It's basic source of raw material is CO2. Both of these come from the leaves. It's just that bulbs can gain a lot in a very short period of time.

Franklin, OH(Zone 6a)

Okay, I know this is an old thread, but it's the closest I could find to what I want to know. I have several patches of daffs that only had a couple blooms this past Spring. Can I dig these up while they're still green and let them dry and then replant after separating in the Fall?

Essentially that should work. Seems to me you could just transplant them without waiting for them to dry out. Use plenty of bone meal as helps with root production.

Franklin, OH(Zone 6a)

Thanks, Carolyn. I thought if I let it dry out, it wouldn't be laying on its' side in the garden! I'll get the bone meal for sure.

Stamford, CT(Zone 6b)

I did trim the foliage down quite a bit, but against my wishes, they keep growing.

Frederick, MD(Zone 6b)

Although my bulb foliage mostly just dies back on its own (too many out there for any elaborate method!), I think once the leaves start yellowing, they have done most of what they'll be able to do for the bulb. So if you don't like the way they look, You can certainly trim them back or chop them back altogether once you see yellowing tips without affecting the bulb/bloom for next year much.

Remember, Bleek says to fertilize 3 times - once when spring growth begins, once during the bloom season, and once in fall (maybe with high-phosphorous like bone meal) to help roots grow.

Poughkeepsie, NY(Zone 6a)

I leave mine alone. Nature knows what it's doing.

Göppingen, Germany

once again capturing an old thread, but well... I've alway been a strong supporter of letting the foliage on the plant as long as possible, but now, as I started to read something about breeding plants I'm not that sure anymore: There might be a case of involuntary breeding goals here: all our garden daffodils are far away from their wild ancestors, and I bet gardeners throughout the centuries never liked the yellow foliage, and most will have cut it away - thus they selected for those genes which dealt well with loosing foliage early.

It may be just the same as with annuals and their germination time: as most people use more seeds than they need and discard the weekest, they select for fast germination, because the strongest plants are mostly those which got a head start. so most annuals with a long history of garden usage germinate in about 5 days, and most wild species take far longer.

So my advice would be: happily cut back the high-end cultivars and leave foliage only if the species is close to the wild form.

Frederick, MD(Zone 6b)

Cutting them back once they start yellowing won't hurt a thing, whether they are species or hybrid types... for that matter, I think they'd come back each year but probably not multiply much if you cut them right after flowering, especially if you fertilize them 2 or 3 times each year.

Last year I had too many floppy leaves keeping perennials from sprouting well. I roughly braided or twisted to get them out of the way, but this spring I may try cutting them halfway back with the weed wacker instead... there are too many to braid or trim by hand. I'm thinking that leaves that are cut back should still be able to supply enough food for a good show next year.

Sierra Foothills, CA(Zone 8a)

Another question...when you trim off the spent blooms ("deadhead"), do you take the stem or just the flowers?

Frederick, MD(Zone 6b)

I have so many that I do well to pop the heads off after they bloom.. I can't imagine trying to trim off all those stems, LOL. Actually, I don't bother pulling off spent blooms unless I can see that the plant is trying to set seeds... I want its energy to go into growing a bigger bulb or offsets, so I pop off developing seedpods.

Sierra Foothills, CA(Zone 8a)

Thanks Jill. I was just wondering if the green stems absorbed light to help feed the bulbs, like the leaves do.

Frederick, MD(Zone 6b)

They're green, so they probably do a little photosynthesis, but I think their contribution would be fairly minor... If the deadheaded stems bug you, cut them off. :-)

Sierra Foothills, CA(Zone 8a)

Actually I did cut some off, and I did leave some on. And no, I won't go back and re-cut them. Too busy weeding in other beds now.

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