How To Plant And Care For Daffodil Bulbs

Daffodil Narcissus or Jonquil Bulbs are easy to care low maintenance flowers if you follow these simple steps.

At planting, a daffodil is a preprogrammed, self-contained flower machine ready to grow and, loom so flowering the first year is virtually guaranteed, assuming you planted it in a suitable location with ample sun and well-drained soil.

After that, daffodils are usually long-lived and require little care. These are some of the best low maintenance flowers you can grow. Follow this easy guide to ongoing care and maintenance of daffodils (also called jonquil or narcissus) for years of enjoyment and flowers from your daffodil bulbs.

Care of Daffodil Foliage

The daffodil bulb renews itself through its foliage each year. After flowering, the foliage must be allowed to grow and mature and die back. The foliage is a nice green at first, continues to elongate, and then turns yellow and finally turns brown, falls over and dries up. This process is critical for the bulb’s ongoing health and blooming ability and it can look a little ugly.

If you remove the foliage prematurely, the bulb will suffer and blooming will decrease or cease altogether. So wait until the foliage is about half yellowed (or more) before you remove it. Do not braid the foliage as this reduces the surface area exposed to the sunlight — and is a lot of work, too.

It is not at all necessary to remove the dying foliage; you may leave it in place and allow it to complete its full cycle and serve as a bit of mulch. For me, browning daffodil foliage is a natural seasonal event and a fair repayment for the blooms I enjoy so much, so it doesn’t bother me to watch it.

Fertilizer, Compost, and Mulch for Daffodils

Daffodil Foliage plants

If your bulbs are planted in reasonably good soil or in a flower bed you may not need to fertilize them. However, you can top dress (sprinkle on the soil surface) with a bit of complete fertilizer such as 5-10-10 or bulb fertilizer in early fall (when they are rooting) and very early spring (as they begin to emerge from the soil) if you wish.

You can certainly top dress with compost once or twice a year. Spreading organic mulch if they are in a bed, or mowing with a mulching mower blade if they are in a lawn, or allowing fallen leaves to stay in place if they are in the woods, also helps to feed the soil and keep the bulbs healthy.

Bulbs in a flower bed can be mulched in the fall. Apply mulch about three inches thick after several hard freezes have occurred. Waiting discourages rodents from nesting in the mulch. The mulch will help keep the soil temperature steady and minimize freeze/thaw effects.

When to Divide and Transplant

Why Daffodils Stop Blooming or Flower Less? Eventually, your daffodil bulbs may become crowded and flowerless as a result. You can lift and divide the bulbs in early summer as the foliage goes dormant. At that point, you can replant the bulbs in their new location or you can store them in a dry and airy place for the summer and replant them in the fall. Larger bulbs will bloom better than small ones, but replant all of them. Small ones will bulk up and bloom in another year or two.

Your daffodils may bloom poorly if they are in a shady location. Sometimes nearby trees grow over time and shade a spot that was sunny back when the bulbs were planted. Transplanting to a sunnier spot will help. Give the bulbs a year or two to settle into their new location before blooming.

Deadheading and Self Seeding Daffodils

Deadheading means removing the flowers when they wilt and fade. Prompt deadheading can help the bulbs gain strength and produce bigger blooms the following year. If you do not deadhead, the plant uses some of its energy for producing seed rather than for rebuilding the bulb. This means blooms will be smaller next year. You may deadhead if you wish, it is not absolutely required.

If you are trying to naturalize your bulbs, skip the deadheading. The resulting seedlings help spread and increase your bulb planting. Depending on the growing conditions, it can take a few years for the seedlings to reach blooming size. You might opt to deadhead in alternating years to give the bulbs a boost while still encouraging some seeding. Whether or not to deadhead is a personal preference.