I was taught that Daffodils had to replenish the bulb through foliage
after bloom. Some time after the bloom, my mom would tie the foliage
into loose knots. The foliage would die off.
I see a lot of folks who cut off or cut down the foliage some time
after the blooms, which certainly takes a lot less time if you have a
lot of daffodils (which we do).
Is there any consensus as to the best way to deal with the foliage?
Leave it until it starts to yellow.
Some will tie the foliage together about half-way up, bend the leaves
over at the tie, and then tie the tips together just above the soil.
When the foliage yellows, it's then easy to cut. Others will use large
paper clips -- unbent to form large hairpins -- to tack the foliage to
the ground and then seed annuals over the bulbs to hide the foliage. In
this case, the folliage can be left to decompose. Both of these are okay.
In my own garden, I leave the folliage alone and wait until it's brown
and dry. (This drove my mother nuts because it looks untidy.) I can
then lift it without having to cut anything. Of course, to promote
strong bulbs, I do cut the flowers off when they die; allowing them to
produce seeds weakens the bulbs. I leave the flower stems; since they
too are green, they provide some of the same nutrients to the bulbs as
do the leaves.
While this is for daffodils and other narcissus, be careful with other
bulbs and bulb-like plants.
Some are evergreen and should be allowed to keep their foliage. Among
these are "amaryllis" (Hippeastrum), bearded iris, daylilies, crinum,
Freesias have a long growing season after they flower. Grape hyacinths
and true amaryllis ("naked lady") generally start to flower before they
leaf out. All of these must be allowed to keep their foliage and go
dormant by themselves without being forced into dormancy by cutting
Fortnight lilies are a special case. Not even their flower stalks
should be removed unless they are clearly dead. The stalks will branch
out for more flowers. Cutting the stalks may eliminate flowering for an
entire season. I cut the stalks only to remove dead tips (generally,
spent flowers) and dead branches. Their foliage is evergreen and should
not be cut.
I planted both spring and summer bulbs for the same reason that I
planted perennials. I want flowers to come back each year without
having to plant them over and over again. This means that I must ensure
the bulbs are allowed to reinvigorate themselves from their foliage. I
would not cut down perennials merely because they finished flowering.
Similarly, I do not cut down bulbs until they are indeed ready.
David E. Ross
Climate: California Mediterranean
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