Follow these easy steps for delightful daffodils

The Island Garden

Daffodils in the author’s garden near Fort Wetherill. They have been blooming for two decades.

Daffodils in the author’s garden near Fort Wetherill. They have been blooming for two decades.

I am constantly surprised by the number of people who tell me their daffodils only last a season or two.

Mine, which have been going for 20 years, constantly are increasing. In fact, I find it easy to dig a couple gallons of bulbs to give to friends. So, what’s the trick?

When first planting in the fall, set your plants in the ground with a half-teaspoon of bonemeal mixed into the bottom of the hole. This helps the bulb establish itself for the upcoming spring. Wait for the bulbs to put on their lovely yellow display, then deadhead them — that is, remove the dead flowerheads. This stops the plant from putting energy into creating seeds.

Next, fertilize the remaining leaves. Do not cut them. Wrap them in bundles or break them. By fertilizing the leaves with a balanced fertilizer (10-10-10; these numbers represent, respectively, the percentages of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in the fertilizer), you are giving the plant energy for the next season.


If you cut the leaves, you take away the opportunity for the plant to put energy into the bulb. Don’t touch the leaves for at least six weeks or until they flop over or die. Yes, I know it looks ugly, but the plant needs that time to store energy. Only after about seven weeks should you cut the leaves.

If your plants have a few leaves, but no flowers, they did not store enough energy last year to send up a flower stalk; probably because the leaves were cut too soon. Old-timey gardeners call this “going blind.” The way to get flowers next year is to fertilize the remaining leaves to promote energy storage in the bulb.

With that out of the way, it is almost time to begin planting. For a plant, the ideal time to go into the ground is on a rainy day. That’s not good for a person, unless you are a sailor and enjoy water running down your neck into your boots.

By planting on a rainy day, the ground is moist, the plant is moist and as soon as the plant is in the ground, it is watered. Unfortunately, that is not what usually happens. Most gardeners stick their plants in the ground on warm sunny days when the gardener likes to be outside.

Quite often, the gardener forgets to water the plant and wonders why it has wilted. As soon as you put any plant in the ground, water it well. This will help the plant suck up moisture and keep its leaves full.