Care for Bulbs After Bloom

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Spring has come and the spring bulbs are pretty much at their peak bloom now. Daffodils, tulips and hyacinths, among others, are all putting on their long-awaited show. It’s good to enjoy them while you can, but soon the blooms will fade, and then what?

Bulbs as Annuals or Perennials

Some of the most colorful bulbs in our gardens, tulips and hyacinths, are really not great at returning the following year with the same punch. Although they may come back, these bulbs diminish over time. Instead, these might be considered as annual plants-plant them in the fall and pull them out as soon as they are done blooming in the spring. Other bulbs like daffodils, snow drops, crocus do reliably come back every year and are considered perennials. In fact, these plants can increase in number over time.

Spent Flower Heads

When the flowers fade, it’s not necessary to deadhead them. However, if a tidier garden is preferred, dead flowers can be clipped off at the base. The seed heads of alliums are an exception, their starburst appearance are attractive for months after flowering, so they can be left for additional interest in the garden. Some other bulbs such as crocus, scilla and grape hyacinths can reproduce by seeds as well as by dividing the bulbs. If naturalizing—spreading the bulbs throughout the landscape, is a goal, these flowers can be left to go to seed.

Leaving the Foliage

As tempting as is it is to cut the foliage down after the blooms have faded, it’s important to let the leaves do the job for which they are intended. The bulb expends energy to grow the flower and therefore the leaves need to photosynthesize to restore energy for the following year’s display. Once the leaves start to show some browning on the edges, then they can be cut off. One trick in planning the ornamental garden is to plant perennials around these bulbs so that when they emerge, they hide or distract from the bulbs foliage.

Spring blooming bulbs are a big reward for a small amount of work, even for those that bloom only one year. Many bulbs though give numerous years of enjoyment. And they herald the spring like few other plants.

Written By

John Murphy, N.C. Cooperative ExtensionJohn MurphyBullington Gardens Education Director Call John E-mail John N.C. Cooperative Extension, Henderson County Center
Updated on Mar 30, 2021
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