What you do with your spring flowering daffodils and tulips once they have stopped flowering depends on whether you want to try planting the same bulbs for next spring. If you don’t plan to do this, you can dig them up and throw them away, but if you do, you might find yourself wondering about the hows, whens and whys of bulb after-care.
Daffodils often naturalize very well in the garden. That means you can leave them in the ground while they are dormant, and they will come up on their own next year. But if you water your garden regularly, or get a lot of summer rainfall, your bulbs may rot. Some people want to plant something different in the same space for the summer, replanting their daffodils in fall, or they are just worried that they’ll forget where the bulbs are when they are digging over their beds.
Whether you plan to leave your bulbs where they are or lift them and store them, you should not cut off the old foliage until it has dried up naturally. You can cut off dead flowers, but the leaves need to move their nutrients back into the bulb so that it has enough stored nourishment to give you good flowers next year.
Now that your flowers are spent, you can reduce watering, allowing your bulbs to get the message that the growing season is over. When the leaves have dried up, you can lift and store your bulbs if desired, or cut off the leaves and let the bulbs stay in the ground until it’s time for them to start growing again.
You were thrilled with your display of tulips and would like to preserve the bulbs. Tulips differ from daffodils in that they do not naturalize as easily. The bulbs are susceptible to rot, but if you have sandy soil, you may be able to get your tulips settled – depending on the cultivar you choose. Species types and certain hybrids, particularly the Darwin Hybrids, are the best-known for naturalizing successfully.
There’s one thing that you should know: Your second-year tulips will never be as showy as the ones you planted from DutchGrown bulbs last fall. Why?
Dutch growers spend years growing tulip bulbs to reach the optimum size that produces glorious flowers. You get them at their peak. After this, the bulbs split up into smaller bulbs, and these may not flower at all.
The bulbs you got last fall were also specially conditioned by exposing them to specific temperature ranges for set periods of time. It’s not something you can easily do at home. The science of growing tulips for the most stunning flowers has been developed over hundreds of years and is very precise.
However, if you’d like to give lifting and storing your bulbs a try, or are hoping they’ll naturalize, follow the same process as we described for caring for Daffodils after flowering.
Once you have lifted your bulbs, shake off most of the soil and leave them to dry in a shady spot for a while. If your bulbs are too moist when they go into storage, they may rot. Never store bulbs in plastic bags, and don’t pack too many layers of bulbs on top of one another. Good air circulation is important for keeping them healthy. Paper bags or crates with good ventilation are good storage containers. Check your bulbs every now and then, and if you see signs of rot, discard the diseased bulbs.
Don’t miss your planting season! Set a reminder on your phone, mark it in your diary, or circle the date on your calendar.