Tips to Care for Your Tulip and Daffodil Bulbs this Spring
Tulip and daffodil bulbs are some of the easiest to grow because they do the best when you leave them alone. That's right, the less you do to them after planting the healthier the flowers will be in the long run. That being said, there are a few things that can help the natural process along.
Early Spring Care for Fall Planted Bulbs
If the soil is dry early in the spring a good watering will go a long way to helping the bulb produce a healthy flower. Water when the first signs of growth appears. If Mother Nature has taken care of the watering - that's when we've had a lot of rain, like this year - then you are off the hook for this task. However, if the soil is dry, give the bulbs a good drink. A good drink means the soil needs to be wet right down to the planting depth of the bulb. One good soaking is usually enough.
After Bloom Care for Bulbs
Fertilize: As the flowers die back apply a light application of fertilizer to keep the leaves healthy. Fertilizers are labelled with 3 numbers separated by a dash. These numbers represent the product's Nitrogen (N) - Phosphorus (P) - Potassium (K) content. You will want to choose a fertilizer product with fairly even values for example: 10-10-10. A natural fertilizer such as manure is also a good option at this time in the season.
Cut Off Spent Flowers: Cutting off the flowers after their bloom life signals to the plant to focus all energy to bulb development rather than production. The proper place to clip the spent tulip or daffodil blooms is just below the petals. You want to leave as much of the stem there as possible.
Natural Die-Back of Leaves: By allowing the leaves to die back naturally they will continue to provide nutrients to the bulb for as long as possible. The decaying leaves can be unsightly in your garden so hide them instead of cutting them off too early by planting bulbs behind perennials in your garden or plant bright coloured annual flowers in clumps around the dying spring bulbs to make the naturally decaying bulb leaves less noticeable.
Tulips and Daffodils are Hardy Bulbs
Since Tulip and Daffodils are hardy bulbs they can be left in the ground to bloom again next year. You do not need to dig them up, store, then replant in the fall every year. Digging only needs to happen after a few years of the bulbs multiplying. If your bulbs have begun to clump and need separating, dig them up after the leaves have died back naturally, usually late June, then store the bulbs in a cool, dry, dark place until fall planting time.
Tulips, especially the more specialty varieties need replanting after 2+ years. Daffodils last longer and often don't need replanting until after 4 or more years. To increase your replanting interval for bulbs choose varieties classified for "naturalizing" at planting time.
As you can see, tulip and daffodil bulbs do best when we just leave them be. Only water if Mother Nature hasn't, and besides clipping the flowers after bloom they are best left alone to die back naturally. Spectacular spring colour blooms and very little maintenance, what could be better than that?