The Daffodil is a beautiful yellow trumpet-like flower that I am sure you have all seen before. The daffodil is Mother Nature’s way of announcing to us all that the days are getting longer, springtime has arrived, and it is about to start getting warmer. Seeing the first daffodils opening after a long, cold, and dark winter brings relief like no other, and daffodils will last many years because they are surprisingly easy to grow and require little care. Although daffodils are not particularly high maintenance, learning what to do with daffodil bulbs after flowering will ensure that they return to brighten up your springtime year after year.
What are Daffodil Bulbs?
Structurally, daffodil bulbs are short stems with fleshy leaf bases known as scales. These scales do not generally support leaf growth, but they function as a storage organ for food. This storage organ is what provides energy through dormancy in the winter months and enables the daffodil to grow and flower in the springtime. The centre of the bulb is an unexpanded flowering shoot from which new stems and leaves emerge and the basal plate is formed by a reduced stem from where the roots will grow.
What to do with Daffodil Bulbs after Flowering
As we mentioned previously, daffodils are low maintenance and with the right care, they will continue to come back year after year. There are a couple of ways to look after daffodil bulbs after flowering and that depends on whether you plan to lift them or leave them in the ground.
Caring for Daffodil Bulbs Left in the Ground
Leaving daffodil bulbs in the ground is likely to be the easiest option and you do not require any kind of technical skill to be able to do this although there are a couple of minor things that you will need to think about
1. Remove Stem and Dead Head
As soon as the flower has faded and died, you will want to remove the stem and head. This is to conserve the plant’s energy stores as the next stage in the plant’s life cycle would be trying to create seeds.
2. Leave the Leaves Alone
When removing the stem, be careful to leave the leaves in place until they die back on their own. The leaves will continue to absorb energy from the sun and through photosynthesis, the sun’s energy is converted into vital sugars that are stored in the bulb for the following season.
3. Leave Alone
Once all the foliage has died back and the bulb has once again become dormant, there is nothing left for you to do. There is no need to water the area or tend to it at all until you fertilise it in the early spring. I did tell you that daffodils were low maintenance!
Lifting and Storing Daffodil Bulbs
Lifting your bulbs will obviously require a little more work than just leaving them in the ground. Lifting them can be done for many reasons as you may want to move them the following spring or the ground where they remain extremely waterlogged through the winter.
Steps 1 & 2
Steps 1 & 2 are the same as above. You will want to ensure that you remove the stem and deadhead the flower but continue letting the foliage continue to grow and absorb sunlight, therefore, refuelling the bulb’s energy stores.
3. Lift Your Bulbs
Once the foliage has all but died back, you can lift your bulbs. Dig an area around the bulbs being careful not to scratch or scar them as this open wound can leave your bulb susceptible to disease and rot.
4. Clean your Bulbs
Once your bulbs have been lifted, they will require cleaning. It is best to do this with a soft brush. Gently shake off any excess soil and then using a soft brush, give the bulb a clean. Do not use water as introducing water now before storing could cause them to rot.
5. Storing your Bulbs for Winter
If stored correctly, your bulbs can usually be kept for winter with no problems. We recommend using a cardboard box for storage as this will let the bulbs breathe as using plastics can cause the bulbs to sweat and rot. First, put a layer of newspaper in the bottom of the cardboard box and then add your first layer of bulbs being careful to ensure they are not touching one another. Cover with some newspaper and repeat. You will want to keep your box of bulbs in a cool, dark place such as the garage or basement or somewhere that is not too damp.
6. Simulating Winter
If the place you have stored your daffodil bulbs is not cool enough (you kept them indoors for example), around 6-8 weeks before planting, you will want to put them into the fridge for cold stratification. Cold stratification is our way of simulating the cold winter conditions that the bulb would experience if it had stayed in the ground!
Do Daffodil Bulbs Need Fertilising?
Indeed, daffodil bulbs thrive with appropriate fertilisation. It’s essential to grasp the right timings and methods for this purpose.
When to Fertilise Daffodil Bulbs?
- Autumn (At Planting Time): If you’re planting daffodil bulbs in the autumn, consider adding bulb fertiliser or bone meal to the planting hole. This initial boost aids in root development.
- Spring (During Growth): As daffodils start to emerge in spring, a light feed can be beneficial. This nourishes the plant, promoting vibrant growth and blooming.
- After Flowering: Post-bloom, daffodils can benefit from a final feed, replenishing nutrients consumed during flowering. This is especially vital if you’re looking forward to a blossoming show the following year.
What Type of Fertiliser to Use on Daffodil Bulbs?
- Bulb-specific Fertilisers: These are designed to provide the exact nutrients daffodils and other bulbs require.
- Bone Meal: As an organic alternative, bone meal is rich in phosphorus, vital for robust root and flower growth. You can either mix it into the planting hole or sprinkle it on the soil’s surface.
- Slow-release Fertilisers: Particularly beneficial in the spring, these gradually provide essential nutrients over a period.
How to Fertilise Daffodil Bulbs?
- For Newly Planted Bulbs: Integrate the fertiliser into the soil at the base of the planting hole. Ensure a buffer layer of soil between the bulb and fertiliser to prevent potential damage to the bulb.
- For Established Plantings: Come spring, distribute the fertiliser around the base of emerging daffodils. Gently work it into the soil, ensuring the bulbs remain undisturbed.
Daffodil bulbs are extremely low maintenance and do not really take much in the way of looking after. As long as you let the leave continue to grow after the flower has gone, they will still be able to store enough energy to flower the next spring. Many people will just mow over the leaves once the flower has gone but this is not a good idea as you will end up with stunted daffodils the next spring and that is if they even grow at all. If you need to lift and store your daffodil bulbs, it is not too difficult either providing you follow the steps that we have laid out for you, you will have beautiful daffodils year after year.
Garden Doctor Tips
“If storing bulbs for winter, check on them every 4 weeks to ensure that none of them has rotted and gone mushy, if any have, throw them away immediately!”
“Over time, daffodil clusters will expand. Lift and separate bulbs every 3 years and plant a few elsewhere to establish new clusters!”
“Replant stored bulbs in early spring once the ground has thawed!”
“Do not forget to leave the foliage in the ground until it dies back on its own. The bulb needs the foliage for photosynthesis!”
Frequently Asked Questions
How many years do daffodil bulbs last?
Daffodil bulbs that are in storage will last around 12 months before they require planting.
What to do with daffodil bulbs after flowering?
Trim back the stem and leave the foliage to grow. The foliage will continue absorbing sunlight and storing energy in the bulb for the next growing season. Once the foliage has died back, the bulbs can either be left in place and fertilised in the spring or they can be lifted and stored.
Do you have to dig up daffodil bulbs every year?
No, daffodils do not need to be lifted every year. Daffodils will do fine being in the ground through the winter although it is a good idea to lift bulbs every 3 or 4 years to separate the bulb clusters.
How deep should I plant daffodil bulbs?
Daffodil bulbs should be planted at a depth that is about three times their height, typically around 4-6 inches deep.
Can I leave daffodil bulbs in the ground all year?
Yes, daffodil bulbs can be left in the ground year-round. They are perennial and will typically bloom again in subsequent springs.
Why didn’t my daffodils flower this year?
There could be several reasons, including insufficient sunlight, overcrowding, or poor soil quality. It’s also possible that the bulbs didn’t receive enough cold hours during winter to trigger flowering or the foliage was cut down too soon the year before.
Can daffodil bulbs be divided and replanted?
Yes. Over time, clumps of daffodils can become crowded, leading to reduced flowering. You can lift, divide, and replant the bulbs every few years to give them more space.
Are daffodil bulbs toxic?
Yes, all parts of the daffodil plant, including the bulbs, are toxic if ingested. They contain a compound called lycorine which can cause nausea, vomiting, and other symptoms if consumed.
Can daffodil bulbs be forced to bloom indoors?
Absolutely. Daffodil bulbs can be “forced” or coaxed into blooming early indoors by simulating winter conditions followed by a warm period.
Do daffodils require full sun to bloom?
While daffodils do best in full sunlight, they can also thrive in partial shade, especially in hotter climates. However, too much shade can reduce blooming.
Trevor Wright is not just a seasoned horticulturist; he’s the esteemed Garden Doctor. With a BSc in Horticulture and years of hands-on experience in the soil, Trevor has become a trusted mentor for all things gardening. As the founder of Garden Doctor, he’s committed to clarifying the intricacies of gardening, offering straightforward advice that’s rooted in years of practice. His writing is a garden of how-tos, savvy insights, and comprehensive guides that enable individuals to nurture and grow their garden dreams. When he’s not knee-deep in garden beds, Trevor is at his keyboard passing on his green-thumbed wisdom to budding gardeners, ensuring that the legacy of sustainable and joyful gardening blossoms far and wide.