How To Care For Spring Flowering Bulbs

How To Care For Spring Flowering Bulbs

It's that time of year here in SE PA, when the daffodils are blooming! As I drive along our back roads I see them putting on show along the stone walls that border many of our farms.

Seeing them reminds me of my first grade teacher, Miss Fitzpatrick. She had a house on a street that I travelled often. Each spring the daffodils growing along the side of her home were the first flowers of the year that I would see and always made me smile. "Look Mom," I'd say. "Miss Fitzpatrick's daffodils are blooming!"

If you have daffodils or other spring flowering bulbs like tulips you might be wondering how to best take care of them. And, what do you do with all that foliage once the flowers are gone?

In this week's tip, I'll give you a few easy steps to caring for your spring bulb plants so that they keep flowering every spring.

But first, if you don't have plants like tulips and daffodils - how you add them to your yard?​​​​​​​

 How Do I Plant Tulips and Daffodils?


Tulips and daffodils grow from bulbs like the ones in the photo below. The bulbs need a period of cold dormancy in order to bloom in the spring. So the bulbs must be planted in the fall.

Many people want to know if they can plant the Easter flowers that they received as a gift at this time of year. The answer is Yes. Just know that they have been 'forced' to bloom in a hot house and it's really a toss-up whether or not they'll come back next year. 

The best thing to do if you want to add flowering bulb plants to your yard is to put a reminder on your calendar. The best time to plant spring flowering bulbs is 6 to 8 weeks before a hard frost is expected and when soil temps are below 60 degrees F. This is usually during September and October in the north, and October and November in the south. Check with your local nursery or with the company you are going to order from for the best time in your area.

Next, bulbs need to be planted at a certain depth. Again your local nursery can help you with this. Use a transplanter with depth markings like the one in this photo so that you can find the correct depth as you plant. (Shameless plug: We include the transplanter in our Garden Tool Set which you can purchase here)

Caring for the Plants as They Bloom

A plant's goal in life is to produce other plants. And they put a lot of energy into doing this. Flowers and then seeds are the result. Once a flower has dried up and turned to seed it's important to remove it so that the plant will make more flowers.

So as the blooms on your flowering bulbs drop off, be sure to deadhead them. Deadheading is removing the seed head and the stem. Yes, cut the flower stem back all the way to the base of the plant. By doing this, you may give the plant an opportunity to produce more blooms.

What to Do with All That Foliage

Tulip Foliage

Eventually the bulbs will stop blooming and you'll be left with a lot of foliage. As the leaves start to yellow, you might be tempted to cut it back. DON'T! You see the bulb needs to store energy for next year.

Remember it takes a lot of energy to make those beautiful flowers. By leaving the foliage on the plant it can make food through photosynthesis and store it in the bulb. The leaves will die back naturally when this process is done. It's safe to remove the remaining leaves about 8 weeks after the bulb bloomed. 

If you really don't like seeing the foliage, hide it by planting perennials near and around your bulbs. When the perennials start to come out for the year, they will do double duty and hide the bulb foliage for you. Daffodil foliage can be especially messy and seems to last forever so some people braid it to keep it tidy. I've never done this - I just make sure that I have enough plants around it to hide the leaves until they die off completely.

Hopefully you are enjoying your own spring bulbs. But if not, now's the time to make that note on your calendar so that you can plant them this fall for a burst of color next year!

Tulips along stream

If you do have spring bulbs in your landscape, comment below and let me know what kind you have and how you're enjoying them this spring.

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