Flower Bulbs Not Growing: Why There Are No Daffodils After Planting

Flower Bulbs Not Growing: Why There Are No Daffodils After Planting

By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer

Daffodils are cheerful harbingers of early spring and, usually, they bloom dependably for many years. If your flower bulbs are not growing, put on your detective hat and do a little troubleshooting. Most problems are easy to fix.

Daffodil Flower Bulbs not Growing

If your daffodil bulbs did not come up, there are a number of things to consider.

  • Did you plant the bulbs upside-down? Daffodil bulbs should be planted with the pointy side up.
  • Did you plant too late in the season? The best time for planting daffodil bulbs is fall, between September and Thanksgiving. If you forgot to plant, you can put the bulbs in the ground later, but you probably won’t see much growth the first year.
  • Did you plant the bulbs too deeply (or not deep enough)? As a general rule, bulbs should be planted at a depth about three times their height. This means that daffodils should be about 6 inches (15 cm.) deep. If you live in a cold climate, be sure the tops of the bulbs are protected by at least 3 inches (7.6 cm.) of soil.
  • Did you remove the foliage too soon after last year’s blooming season? You can cut the bare flower stalks, but always leave the foliage in place until it turns yellow. Through the process of photosynthesis, the bulbs convert energy from the sun into food required to sustain the bulbs for the next growing season.
  • Are your bulbs old or overcrowded? If so, this can be a reason for daffodils not coming up. This problem is usually easily remedied by digging and dividing the bulbs after the foliage begins to turn die down and yellow.
  • Do you have chipmunks or other rodents? The little rascals love bulbs, and while most don’t typically find daffodils’ bitter taste that palatable, they may still on occasion dig them up if there’s nothing else available. If this is the case, you can cover the planting area with wide mesh chicken wire. You can also build square boxes from the wire and plant the bulbs in the wire box.
  • Does your soil drain well? The bulbs will rot in soggy, muddy soil. Daffodils usually don’t need supplemental irrigation, but if spring is unseasonably hot and dry, the bulbs will benefit from a deep watering once every week.
  • Are the bulbs planted in a sunny location? Bulbs need at least six hours of sunlight per day.
  • Are you over (or under) fertilizing your daffodils? As a general rule, a single application of a good quality bulb fertilizer in autumn is plenty.

Now that you know the most common reasons for daffodil flowers not coming up, you can fix the problem and ensure future growth of your daffodil bulbs.

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Why are there no flowers on my daffodils?

Likewise, people ask, what do you do when daffodils don't bloom?

Plant leaves were cut too soon or tied off the previous year. (Daffodils replenish their bulb for about six weeks after they bloom. The bulbs should be watered for about this long after blooming. The leaves should not be cut off or blocked from sun until they start to lose their green and turn yellow.

why do my bulbs have no flowers? The most common reason for a bulb not flowering is that it has been planted too shallow. Whilst the plant is in leaf, but not flower, is the best time to dig up the bulb and re plant to a greater depth.

Likewise, people ask, will blind daffodils flower again?

A There are several reasons why daffodils become “blind”. One of the most common is the leaves (vital “solar panels”) are mown too soon as they fade in the five or so weeks after flowering. Without energy from the leaves, the plant is unable to make next year's flower buds.

What do you plant after daffodils bloom?

As the daffodil foliage starts dying back, the summer perennials take over. Some shrubs are especially good companions for spring blooming bulbs, also. The blooms of Azaleas, Forsythia, Japonica, and Lilacs complement or echo the colors of daffodils and other spring blooming bulbs.

Do daffodil bulbs get old?

Keeping this in view, how many years do daffodil bulbs last?

Daffodils blooms can last up to three weeks when temperatures remain between 45 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Longwood Gardens. But when temperatures rise above 65 degrees Fahrenheit, flower longevity is greatly shortened to only a few days.

Furthermore, will old bulbs still grow? Ready to Grow Most don't last more than a year out of the ground, and then only if they're stored properly, although this can vary by species. In general, flower bulbs rot if you don't get them in the ground soon enough. For this reason, flower bulbs should be planted as soon as possible.

Also, how do I know if my daffodil bulbs are still good?

Take time to evaluate new bulbs before you plant them to avoid disappointment and gaps in your garden plan.

  1. Examine the bulbs to determine that they are plump and firm.
  2. Discard any bulbs that are mushy, moldy or smell bad.
  3. Fill a bucket or other container with water and toss in your bulbs.

Why do daffodil bulbs come up blind?

A There are several reasons why daffodils become “blind”. One of the most common is the leaves (vital “solar panels”) are mown too soon as they fade in the five or so weeks after flowering. Without energy from the leaves, the plant is unable to make next year's flower buds.

Consider Flower Shape

The flowers that attract hummingbirds are not the same as those that attract bees or beneficial wasps. The flower’s shape makes it easier or harder for different species to access the nectar and pollen. To attract bees and other pollinators, Saska recommends choosing flowers with a composite shape, like zinnias, cosmos, daisies, sunflowers, and purple coneflower.

How to grow daffodils

Plant daffodil bulbs in autumn in moist but well-drained soil in full sun. They work well with a variety of other spring flowers, including wallflowers and primulas, and are perfect for a spring pot display. Deadhead after flowering and let the foliage die down naturally, for the best display the following spring.

More on growing daffodils:

Where to plant daffodils

Daffodils do best in full sun but will tolerate light shade. Plant them in a moist but free-draining soil. Daffodils can be grown in containers, in borders or naturalised in lawns.

Daffodils look fantastic when planted with wallflowers. Here, Monty Don explains how to plant daffodils with wallflowers:

How to plant daffodils

Plant daffodil bulbs in autumn. Always choose large and firm bulbs, avoiding any soft or visibly rotting ones. Dig over compacted soils and improve with organic matter such as home-made compost or well-rotted manure.
Most narcissus need to be planted about 10cm deep, about twice the depth of the bulb itself (follow instructions given for individual varieties).

If growing daffodils in a container use a peat-free John Innes no 2 or 3 mix, and position the container in a sunny spot. Water containers so the soil remains moist but not wet. It’s possible to leave bulbs in a pot for many years, but remove and replace the compost above the bulbs each year.

Watch our No Fuss video guide with Kevin Smith, on how to layer daffodils and other bulbs in a pot:

When growing daffodils in grass, the easiest way to create a natural look is to throw a handful of bulbs onto the lawn, and plant them where they land. Use a bulb planter to pull out plugs of soil and then pop the bulbs in the holes, pointy end up. Cover with the soil and turf you’ve just removed.

In this video clip from Gardeners’ World, Monty Don explains how to naturalise bulbs in grass:

Bulbs can be planted into open soil using a hand trowel or bulb planter. Space bulbs two bulb-widths apart.

Here, Monty Don demonstrates how to plant daffodil bulbs in a border:

How to look after daffodils

Apply a slow-release bulb fertilizer to poor soils and pots each spring. Deadhead plants after flowering and leave the foliage to die down naturally, so the nutrients in the leaves are returned to the bulb (this improves flowering potential the following year). If growing narcissus in a grassy area then you might not be able to cut the grass until June.

How to propagate daffodils

Established daffodil clumps can be divided in autumn. Lift clumps carefully with a garden fork and peel the bulbs apart. Replant straight away. If you have time and patience, you can grow daffodils from seed. Rather than deadheading after flowering, leave a few seedheads to develop and then sow the seeds when ripe. Bear in mind that it will take a few years before the daffodils flower.

Growing daffodils: problem solving

Daffodils can suffer from ‘blindness’. This is where they produce a healthy crop of foliage but fail to flower. There are several reasons why this may happen, including poor soil, overcrowding and shade. You can usually rectify the problem but it can take a couple of years for the bulbs to flower again. Simply dig them up in autumn and replant. If growing in shade, plant them in a sunny spot. If the bulbs are overcrowded then divide them and plant them in smaller groups. If the soil is poor then enrich with well-rotted horse manure or home-made compost. Water the bulbs in well and top-dress with organic matter. You should see flowers again within a couple of years.

Q: For the second season, my daffodils come up but do not have any flowers. Any ideas why?

A: According to the American Daffodil Society (www.daffodilusa.org/index.html), there are quite a few reasons why daffodils don't bloom:

They need feeding with a 5-10-10 fertilizer. Feed at planting, when the leaves emerge and again when they flower.

A high-nitrogen fertilizer was used that results in lots of leaves but few if any flowers.

The bulbs are in too much shade. Daffodils should have at least a half-day of sunlight.

The daffodils are competing for food and water with other plants such as when planted under conifers or densely planted shrub beds.

The area has poor drainage. Although daffodils like lots of water, they do not like sitting in wet, non-draining soils.

The leaves of the daffodils are cut too soon and the bulbs do not have enough time to store energy for the next spring's flowers. Bulbs need about six weeks to produce and store food in the bulb. Wait until the leaves are yellow and brown before removing.

Transplant stress can result if bulbs were shipped from one climate and planted in another very different one. This will usually not show up until the second or third year.

Daffodils can get viruses. The two most common are yellow stripe and mosaic. Yellow stripe manifests as a yellow stripe that appears after the leaves emerge. Mosaic virus appears as white spots on the yellow flowers.

A bad growing season the previous year, such as an early heat spell, can affect the appearance of the current season's blooms.

And finally, the problem I see most commonly -- the bulbs have been growing in the same area for a while and grown into dense clumps. Daffodils reproduce rather quickly and should be checked for crowding at least every two years. The bulbs should be dug up when the greens yellow. Separate into single bulbs and replant about six inches apart and six inches deep. Bulbs can be dug, stored in mesh bags in a cool, dry area and replanted in the fall if necessary.

Q: I was wondering if there are any safe pre-emergents for weed control that would not harm shrubs and perennials. None of my beds has weed barriers.

A: Preemergent weed control products work on newly germinating seeds not established plants. These products can be used to reduce annual weeds but will have no effect on perennial (or broadleaf) weeds.

They will also affect any free-sowing perennials or biennials by killing off the newly sprouted seeds from these plants as well as the weeds.

In general, they will not harm already planted shrubs or perennials but must be used with care around very young, newly transplanted flower seedlings.

As always, check the package for usage, plants that may be affected, and, most importantly, be sure that the weeds you are trying to control are annuals (such as crabgrass) and not perennial (like dandelion and other broadleaf weeds).

Generally, gardeners get into trouble with the post emergent weed controls that can be non-selective (tries to kill everything) and selective (targets a particular group of plants such as broadleaf weeds). Both work best on actively growing plants and can kill many common perennials as well as weeds.

Q: I would like to put a small variety of hydrangea in pots outside my front door for summer. My question is, would I need to bring them in either a garage or basement over the winter and would they need light and frequent watering over the winter?

-- Anita Dreisbach, Schnecksville.

A: Bringing them in or not depends on where you live and the hardiness of the hydrangea you choose. A plant in a container is exposed to temperatures roughly one zone colder than those planted in the ground in the same area. So if you live in Zone 6 and your hydrangea is hardy to Zone 4, you shouldn't have a problem with the plant.

If you live a bit farther north in Zone 5, and you plant a hydrangea hardy to Zone 5, you stand a good chance of losing the plant if left out during a cold winter.

Another option is to protect the plant and the pot by wrapping them. Some suggest a protective cone of Styrofoam, a cage filled with leaves and wrapped with a waterproof tarp or simply moving the plant to a protected area. If you choose to cover the plant, be sure to enclose both the sides and top.

Note that there are several other concerns with this idea such as damage to pots in cold weather and the size of the pots if you will be moving them back and forth each season. Additionally, hydrangea like a lot of water -- moist not wet soil and may require frequent (sometimes once a day or more) watering during hot weather or dry periods.

As far as watering and light, again it depends. Plants in an unheated garage eventually will go dormant and freeze. These will require little water and light during the depths of winter with an increasing need as spring approaches.

Why Should I Grow Daffodils?

Whether you buy your daffodil bulbs or transplant them from elsewhere, you’ll find they can be put to great use around your garden.

Here are just some of the reasons why growing daffodils is a great idea.

1. Daffodils Bring Color to the Garden Early in the Year.

The main reason to grow daffodils is for their attractive colors and appearance.

Many varieties bring cheerful yellow and orange tones to your garden at a time of year when bright, warm colors are less evident. Usually, around the time when winter feels like it will never leave, these beautiful flowers poke their heads up and remind you that spring is just around the corner.

Just what the doctor ordered to chase away those wintertime blues.

Whether you place them in pots or containers, in or around the edges of beds or borders, in your lawn, in a polyculture of useful perennial plants, beneath fruit trees or elsewhere, these flowers are a great ornamental plant.

Companion planting daffodils with other floral companion plants help to create beautiful ornamental gardens.

For companion blooms, think about planting daffodils with:

  • Crocus
  • Alliums
  • Hyacinths
  • Bluebells
  • Irises
  • Tulips
  • Forget-me-nots

For a longer-lasting display of color, you should also plant daffodils alongside other flowering plants that bloom just after the daffodils have died back.

2. They Grow in Full Sun or Partial Shade.

Since they grow in full sun or light shade, daffodils can be a very useful plant for those interested in forest gardening. There’s nothing more breathtaking than a sea of yellow sweeping through the forest.

The daffodils can take full sun when trees and canopy layers of the garden aren’t fully established. But they can also cope with a little light shade once the canopy does begin to form.

The fact that they can do well in full sun or partial shade can also make them a more flexible plant choice for other areas of your garden.

For example, daffodils are an excellent choice for containers or a garden bed on a lightly shaded patio or in a lightly shaded garden area.

3. Daffodils Catch and Store Nutrients

When daffodils grow in the ground, they catch and store nutrients in the soil. This is a time when spring rains can wash nutrients away. So catching and storing them in the ground helps us preserve the fertility of our gardens.

Unlike other plants, which may sequester and use those nutrients over the coming months, daffodils and other spring ephemerals last only a brief time.

Plant daffodils near the top of a site, and when they fade and die back after flowering, a portion of the nutrients in the plant will be released and flow down to other plants that may need them.

4. They Provide Nectar for Early Season Pollinators

When in bloom, early in spring (or even late winter), daffodils are an excellent plant for bees and other early-season pollinators.

They provide an important source of nectar for these beneficial insects when few other food sources are available.

Daffodils can be particularly useful for planting around fruit trees, or other edible crops that require pollination in the spring.

Since the daffodils come out a short while before the trees blossom, pollinators will already be snacking on the flowers. So they’ll be readily available to pollinate your fruit trees once the blossom is out.

For this reason, daffodils are the perfect companion plants for fruit trees such as:

  • apple trees
  • pear trees
  • quince trees
  • plum trees
  • cherry trees

And a range of other other temperate climate fruit trees.

5. Daffodils Take Little Care and Will Come Back Year After Year

Not all of us have time to take care of lots of annual, high-maintenance flowers. Daffodils, however, couldn’t be easier to grow and care for.

Once you’ve planted them, they’re an excellent low-maintenance plant.

They require little care and as a perennial, they will come back to enhance your garden year after year.

Choosing low-maintenance perennial plants like daffodils is a great way to reduce your garden workload. More color, less work. Who doesn’t love that?

And it gives you more time for the plants that make the biggest difference in your life – edible plants.

Due to their ability to attract pollinators (and for other reasons given below), daffodils are not only easy to grow, they can make other edible crops easier to grow too.

6. They Can Be Used To Suppress Grass Around a Fruit Tree or Garden Bed

Daffodils planted in a ring around the eventual drip line of a fruit tree help to prevent grasses from creeping in around it.

It’s important to suppress grass growth within the root zone of a young tree because the grass competes with the tree roots for water and nutrients. And as we’ve already discussed, the daffodils will give back any unused nutrients to the young tree.

Grass growth can also create a bacterial, rather than fungal environment. But a fungal environment is what you want for optimal fruit tree health, growth, and yields.

Similarly, daffodils can also be closely planted along the edge of a garden bed or border, to prevent the grass of a lawn from spreading into your growing area.

7. Daffodils May Help Repel Deer and Other Animals

Daffodils are poisonous not just to us but also to a range of other animals. There is evidence to suggest that animals somehow know this and will largely leave them alone.

The large bulbs are believed to repel burrowing creatures like voles, moles, and gophers while the above-ground parts of the plant may help to encourage grazing animals like deer and squirrels to graze elsewhere.

For more ways to keep deer from nibbling in your garden, read 11 Ways to Keep Deer Out of Your Garden.

8. They Help Prevent Soil Erosion

Early spring rains are rich in nutrients. But unfortunately, they often cause problems with soil erosion where they’re heavy.

Spring ephemerals like daffodils whose root systems are active during this time catch and store water and nutrients that will later be beneficial to other plants. But they also help to stabilize the soil and prevent topsoil from being washed away by spring rains.

9. Daffodils Help Stabilize a Hillside

Their active root systems in spring, and foliage that pops up to provide vegetative cover early in the year, can be especially beneficial on sloping sites and hillsides.

Planting the right species can help in hillside or slope stabilization. So daffodils can be a good choice for inclusion in such a landscape scheme.

The bright flowers also look particularly stunning set against a steeply sloping bank.

10. The Flowers Can Be Used to Make a Yellow Dye.

Daffodils are usually best left in the ground. However, there are a couple of ways to use daffodils inside your home.

Firstly, and most obviously, daffodils can be cut and used in decorative flower arrangements of fresh spring flowers inside your home.

However, daffodils will not last long when cut, and placing them in a vase of water with other cut flowers can shorten their vase life too, so this is something to think about.

But there’s another use to consider: daffodil flowers can be used to make a yellow dye. For more details on this, check out the link below:

Daffodils may not be in bloom for long – but they’re more useful in your garden than you might have imagined. So perhaps you’ll look at them not merely as an ornamental, but also as a very useful garden plant.

Elizabeth Waddington is a writer, permaculture designer and green living consultant. She is a practical, hands-on gardener, with a background in philosophy: (an MA in English-Philosophy from St Andrews University). She has long had an interest in ecology, gardening and sustainability and is fascinated by how thought can generate action, and ideas can generate positive change.

In 2014, she and her husband moved to their forever home in the country. She graduated from allotment gardening to organically managing 1/3 of an acre of land, including a mature fruit orchard,which she has turned into a productive forest garden. The yield from the garden is increasing year on year – rapidly approaching an annual weight in produce of almost 1 ton.

She has filled the rest of the garden with a polytunnel, a vegetable patch, a herb garden, a wildlife pond, woodland areas and more. Since moving to the property she has also rescued many chickens from factory farms, keeping them for their eggs, and moved much closer to self-sufficiency. She has made many strides in attracting local wildlife and increasing biodiversity on the site.

When she is not gardening, Elizabeth spends a lot of time working remotely on permaculture garden projects around the world. Amongst other things, she has designed private gardens in regions as diverse as Canada, Minnesota, Texas, the Arizona/California desert, and the Dominican Republic, commercial aquaponics schemes, food forests and community gardens in a wide range of global locations.

In addition to designing gardens, Elizabeth also works in a consultancy capacity, offering ongoing support and training for gardeners and growers around the globe. She has created booklets and aided in the design of Food Kits to help gardeners to cool and warm climates to grow their own food, for example. She is undertaking ongoing work for NGO Somalia Dryland Solutions and a number of other non governmental organisations, and works as an environmental consultant for several sustainable companies.

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