After her daffodils were done blooming, my neighbor spent hours braiding their leaves into tidy bundles. I don’t have time for that. Am I hurting the bulbs by not braiding the leaves?
Just the opposite. This is another example of the benefit of standing aside and letting nature do its job.
Think of leaves as solar collectors. Every bit of sunlight that falls on the leaves is transformed through the process of photosynthesis into carbohydrate reserves that are stored in the bulbs. The more photosynthesis, the more energy the bulbs stockpile, which results in a bigger floral display next year.
Anything that reduces the amount of sunlight reaching the bulb foliage will decrease next year’s flowering. This is true of all spring-flowering bulbs, not just daffodils. Your neighbor’s braiding technique, as well as the practice of bundling bulb foliage with rubber bands, won’t prevent the bulbs from returning but it certainly reduces the number and size of next year’s flowers. Even intermingling the bulbs with perennials, such as hostas and daylilies, so the bulb foliage disappears among the emerging perennials, will slightly reduce the bulbs’ future performance.
Allow the leaves to mature fully, until they’ve lost their green color, before clipping them off. Admittedly, tattered daffodil foliage that lingers into June is less than glamorous. In my garden, I operate under the theory that if there are dazzling flowers in another part of the garden in late spring—I recommend peonies, roses, bearded irises, clematis, and poppies—no one will notice the fading bulb foliage. —Doug Hall
I dragged my feet this fall and failed to plant my daffodils. Is there a problem planting them during the February warm spell?
What do you have to lose? Plant them and hope for the best—but don’t delay any longer. If your soil is workable, plant the daffodil bulbs outdoors. If the ground is frozen, get a bag of potting soil and plant them in pots.
As you know, spring-flowering bulbs—daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, crocuses, and the like—are planted in fall so they have three or four months to establish root systems before blooming. Your daffodils will be getting a very late start at that, so if they bloom at all it will likely be later than normal. The key to their future success is their ability to produce sufficient leaves this spring to recharge their energy reserves—and you won’t know for sure if they’re able to do that until they begin growing. Whether they flower or not this spring, they will probably get back on a normal flowering schedule in subsequent years if they put up a good stand of foliage this first year. Daffodils are known to thrive for decades in their preferred growing conditions: a sunny exposure and soil that drains quickly.
Another variable to this situation is where you’ve been storing the bulbs. If they’ve been kept in a cool and humid spot, such as an unheated basement, and the bulbs still appear firm and not shriveled, they are more likely to overcome late planting than if they’ve been stored at room temperature. Good luck! And don’t feel bad; after all, who among us has not discovered an unplanted bag of bulbs in February? —Doug Hall