It’s hard not to love a daffodil when it’s in full glorious bloom, but as the flower head dies and the leaves start to flop, they can look a real mess. This weeks blog looks at how best to care for daffodils which have bloomed, and some strategies to deal with the messy, dying folliage.
Do right by your Daffs
Firstly, you need to do right by your daffs. If you tidy them up too early, then you will lose next year’s flowers.
1. Deadhead all spent flowers
Once a daffodil has flowered, it starts to channel its energy into producing a seed head. Though this may sound like a free daffodil in the making, this should be discouraged. Daffodils take eons to produce a new plant that will flower from seed and it's a waste of time trying. What we want is for the daffodil to channel all its energy back into the bulb, to ensure that next year’s plant has enough reserves to flower. To deadhead a daffodil, remove the spent flower, by cutting either the whole stalk off at the base of the plant, or cut of the flower head, just past the swollen part of the stem.
2. Allow the foliage to die down naturally.
It is really important to let the daffodil foliage die back naturally. The plant needs a period of photosynthesis to generate fuel for next year’s flower. Failure to generate sufficient energy results in a “blind” plant (flowerless). The dying back process takes about 6-8 weeks. Once the foliage is starting to yellow and writher, you can pull it away from the plant. DO NOT tie the leaves in little bundles!
3. Feed your daffs
Each year, the mother bulb produces some smaller bulbs, which in time will grow large enough to produce a flower. This process can be helped along with a high potassium feed in March. After flowering it is also helpful to feed fortnightly with a liquid feed until the foliage dies down.
How to hide all that messy foliage
If you have a small garden like mine, or daffodils in very prominent positions, all that strappy collapsing foliage looks a real mess and it can really put you off planting daffs!
There are some ways around it.
1. Plant smaller, and/or early flowering varieties such as “tete-a-tete” and “February Gold”. Smaller varieties die down in a less conspicuous way, as they have less foliage to begin with. Early flowering varieties can be cleared away earlier, so the messy foliage is gone by the time the garden really starts to hit its spring climax.
2. Plant your bulbs behind other herbaceous plants, such as heucheras, ferns, peonies etc. This way, you get to see the flowers, but the foliage is hidden.
3. Better still, plant your daffodils between herbaceous plants which will be in flower at the same time, such as Pulmonaria, Brunnera and forget-me-nots. You will gain some lovely flowering combinations, as well as cover for all that strappy folliage.
4. Treat your daffs like annual bedding plants. This sounds a little bit bourgeois, but daffodils really are very cheap to replace! You can always dig them up after flowering and replant next autumn.
Daffodils and Brunnera
Daffodils, Pulmonaria and lots of sunlight!