Leave Foliage on Spring Flowering Bulbs

Spring flowering bulb foliage is important for next year’s bloom.  Bulb leaves such as tulip, daffodil and hyacinth manufacture the sugars and carbohydrates that accumulate in the bulb, producing large flowers.


Removing the foliage soon after flowering lowers the quality of next year’s bloom, leading to smaller or non-existent flowers.   Bulb foliage isn’t particularly attractive, especially with no flowers present, but allowing it to remain is a good investment.


After bulbs bloom, cut or snap off the flower head.  This action prevents the bulb from expending energy producing unwanted seeds. Next, fertilize plants with a complete fertilizer such as 10-10-10 to provide nutrients for maximum bulb development.  Use approximately one pound of fertilizer per 100 feet of bulbs.  Make sure the fertilizer is watered in after application.


Specifically for tulips, cut the stems to the first leaf if the appearance is important.  As the foliage of some bulbs matures, leaves tend to elongate and appear straplike; in the case of tulips, leaves enlarge and flatten.


Daffodil foliage can be gathered as it becomes long and tied into a knot, braided or clipped together with clothes pins.  Leaves will continue to manufacture food, but appear less gangly. Tulip foliage is more difficult to disguise or hide.  Leaves are next-to-impossible to fold or bend to take up less space, so patience is required to accomplish the goal.


Fortunately, most gardeners report that the fading foliage of crocus and grape hyacinth is not as unattractive as that of tulips and daffodils.  With that in mind, adding a planting of either or both is a good option.


To soften the appearance of fading bulb foliage, interplant between them with annual flowers such as salvia or vinca to cover it a bit.  As the annual flowers mature, they’ll hide the yellowing or browning bulb leaves.  Allow the foliage to remain until it starts turning yellow or brown, which usually occurs in June.  Leaves can be clipped and composted at this point without damage to next year’s flowers.

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