Don’t Forget the Daffodils

It’s easy to walk past spent blooms of early spring-blooming bulbs like daffodils when so much else is blooming in the May garden. But don’t forget the daffodils. If you haven’t yet marked the locations of daffodils and other early-spring blooming bulbs, do so now.

As May progresses, bulbs that were once in full bloom now look more like this.


Spent daffodil blossoms do nothing for the attractiveness of a garden. To tidy up this scene simply snap off the heads … just the heads … of the spent blossoms. Leave the stem and leaf foliage to continue to photosynthesize as this is the process that produces energy for the bulb for next spring.

Leave the foliage in its natural state as long as you can stand it. When it gets really floppy use a tie-together method to maintain a neater appearance. Loosely wrap two outer leaves around the remaining gathered-together leaves and give the two outer leaves a quick, but loose tie … just like the first step in tying shoelaces. This allows the foliage to keep collecting and storing energy until the foliage browns. It’s not advisable to gather, fold over, and rubber band daffodil foliage as this prevents the leaf surface of most of the foliage from photosynthesizing and sending energy into the bulb.

To maintain annual blooming, it’s very important to allow bulb foliage to brown naturally. You can remove the foliage once it is completely brown but, before doing so it’s a good idea to mark the exact location of your bulb plantings. My favorite method of doing so – with barrel rings – uses repurposed material and adds a rustic flair to garden beds. Barrel rings are sturdy enough to withstand a wayward footstep and heavy enough to not blow away. Their diameter is about the size of the mature plantings of daffodils in my garden beds.


I remove the barrel rings from decayed half-barrels previously used for container plantings. Rusty metal wreath frames are alternative found round objects that can be similarly repurposed as permanent bulb markers.

By marking bulbs now, you prevent accidently digging them up during later planting. Plus, the markers are a continuous reminder that this space is not totally empty.

Bulb suppliers often discount bulb orders made prior to July 1, so now is a good time to plan the bulbs you need to fill in gaps. If you don’t manage to get to bulb orders until autumn, the markers are ideal reminders of where you already have bulbs planted and where more are needed.

Barrel rings work well for larger clumps of bulbs but I’m still searching for a smaller type of repurposed ring to mark crocus and smaller bunches of spring-blooming bulbs. Any suggestions?

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