Despite their early emergence this year many of our spring blooming bulbs went on to produce their beautiful displays. To keep the flower show going for years to come there are a few things we should do as the growing season progresses.
Once the flowers on our spring blooming bulbs, such as daffodils and tulips, begin to fade remove them. This will prevent the plant from ‘wasting’ energy producing seeds, instead that energy can be used to create reserves for next year. Once the bulbs are done blooming they can be fertilized using a 5-10-5, 5-10-10 or similar fertilizer (2 pounds per 100 square feet). Make sure to work it shallowly into the soil and water. It’s also important to keep the foliage until it dies on its own.
As the season progress leaves of our spring bulbs often begin to become unsightly. This is especially true for larger bulbs such as tulips and daffodils which can take several weeks to die back, while smaller bulbs like snowdrops and squill will have their foliage dieback quickly and usually does not cause much of a problem. It is important to keep this foliage because the leaves are needed to create the food (photosynthesis) that the plant is going to use to produce blooms next year. By removing the foliage too early the plant can no longer produce that food and can result in reduced blooming in subsequent years as well as small, weak bulbs that gradually decline and die out.
If you didn’t get any blooms on your bulbs this year there are several different reasons this may have happened besides getting nipped by cold weather. If the bulbs you planted were smaller than normal it can take a year or two before they begin blooming. The bigger the bulb, the better. If bulbs don’t receive 6 to 8 hours of sunlight, while their leaves are out, they often won’t produce flowers. If that’s the case it’s time to move them to a sunnier location. If bulbs have been growing in the same location for several years they may be getting overcrowded. If this is the case once the leaves begin to yellow they can be dug (it will be easier to do it while the leaves are around than searching for them in the fall) and divided and replanted.