Oh the joys of spring and the wonders of bright flowers! Spring brings with it the promise of renewal and growth. New shoots emerging from the ground and on trees that were bare over winter. As soon as spring arrives, flowers from bulbs in the start emerging. The wonderful show however lasts between 4-8 weeks depending on the weather and the severity of rain for the season. After the wonderful display, the flowers do eventually start to wilt and look straggly.
If you like me, prefer to leave the flowers in the garden instead of cutting them for an indoor vase, then at some point, the flowers start turning yellow and the petals will start drying up.
What should I do with daffodils and tulips after they have flowered ?
Two most attractive and most common spring flowers, daffodils from the Narcissus family and tulips (genus Tulipa) are among the most rewarding of seasonal blooms you can plant in your garden. However, in comparison, they also become rather ugly and unsightly once their blooming prime is over. Depending on where you live, you have two main options – lift the bulbs or deadhead.
Lift or deadhead
How to lift bulbs
Typically, in warmer climates, for example in the southern hemisphere, it is always recommended that bulbs are lifted after they flower and the foliage has died back. Cut off the flowers once they start to wilt badly. Leave the bulbs in the ground until the leaves start to turn yellow and dry out.
When that happens, on a dry day, using a fork carefully dig out the whole bulb intact. Spread the bulbs out on a large tray or mesh to dry. Once all the foliage has dried out completely, cut off it off near the tip. Store the dry bulbs in a dark container or a paper bag. Keep them in the shade or indoors in the cool.
If the winters are mild where you are, just before re-planting for the next season,place the bulbs in the crisper section of the fridge for up to six weeks. This will mimic the cold season that will trigger growth in the bulbs. After that, plant out as normal.
How to deadhead Spring flowers
If you live in the Northern hemisphere, however, things are far simpler. Especially if there is a long cold winter, then lifting is unnecessary. Instead the best thing you can do is to simply dead head the flowers once they are past their prime.
This involves simply cutting or breaking off the flower stem a couple of inches just below the flower. Ideally, you want to deadhead the flowers before it starts to set seed. This happens when the pistel and stamen start to swell visibly. It is sufficinet to remove the flower as soon as it starts to get straggly and is no longer attractive.
It is important to leave the leaves intact as this helps the bulb to continue to photosynthesise to feed the bulb. When the leaves do eventually turn yellow and start to dry out, you can then also either wait for them to dry and wilt completely and then just remove the stalks or cut them off leaving about an inch above ground.
How to feed bulbs/plants
To ensure a good ’show’ year after year from your Spring bulbs, it is good practise to feed them. There are two main times in the season to do this. The first is just as the plants start emerging in early spring. Scatter an all round general feeder such as fish, blood and bone on the soil surrounding the plants. Feed lightly and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations as too much could burn the plants.
The other time to feed the bulbs would be past flowering season. As the plants are past their flowering prime and if you have deadheaded the flowers, they can now focus all their energy on feeding the bulb. You can give them a little boost by adding a general fertiliser, again to the soil. Once you have fed the bulbs, do make sure they are watered well.
Alternatively, use a general liquid feed throughout the flowering period, especially if the season is dry and watering is required.
Hopefully with these simple steps you will be rewarded for years to come with gorgeous Spring blooms that will return year after year.