Gardeners across the country love daffodils. The beautiful white and yellow blooms brighten up the dreary winter weather, ushering in the spring. But sometimes these seemingly bullet-proof plants don’t bloom. Sallie Lee, an Alabama Extension urban regional agent, has some ideas on why daffodils fail to bloom as well as tips for season’s end bulb care and ways to help daffodil bulbs thrive next year.
Why didn’t my daffodils bloom this year?
Gardeners across Alabama experienced difficulties with daffodil bulbs with foliage, but no blooms. Lee said the lack of blooms could be a myriad of different problems, all remedied with a little bit of elbow grease.
Removing foliage too soon is one of the most common reasons bulbs won’t bloom in the following growing season. Other bulbs may have been planted too late. Although daffodil bulbs can be planted as late as January, bulbs may produce little foliage and few blooms.
Too little sun is another obstacle. Evergreen trees providing year-long shade will keep daffodils from blooming. Plants without six to eight hours have little chance to put on a show.
Bulb crowding also contributes to bloomless bulbs.
“Sometimes when bulbs are in the ground for several years, there is lush foliage in large clumps with few blooms,” Lee said. “To fix this problem dig the bulbs and separate them.”
Finally, bulbs may not bloom because they are dead or missing. Lee said poor drainage, rot, and critters could be to blame for this problem. Loamy sandy soil makes it easier for animals to dig and move bulbs, but Lee said daffodils taste bad and are slightly toxic so most animals stay away.
“If your daffodils don’t bloom the first year, don’t give up on them,” Lee said. “You know what they say — ‘The first year it sleeps, the second it creeps and the third year it leaps!’ Always give your bulbs the second year.”
“One of the most common mistakes gardeners make at the end of the season is removing bulb foliage before the bulb has had a chance to store energy for next season,” Lee said.
The remaining foliage after daffodils bloom collects and stores nutrients and sugar to facilitate blooming next spring. Though very common to knot the foliage and let it die back, wait until leaves are yellowing and dying back. Yellowing of the foliage also signals an opportune time to cut foliage back without depriving the bulb of nutrients for following year.
“Fertilizing bulbs at the end of the growing season can help give the push they need to store those nutrients for next year’s blooms,” Lee said. “While nitrogen is a go-to fertilizer, phosphorous is actually what helps the bulbs bloom.”
Once the bulbs stop blooming and foliage dies down, applying two to three inches of mulch over the bulbs can help regulate temperature and moisture levels. Lee said it is important to remember to only lightly mulch early blooming bulbs. Early bloomers are smaller and unable to push through thick layers of mulch.
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