Bulb plants are the first flowers to bloom each spring. First the crocus, followed by the daffodils and then the tulips. These plants are best planted en masse so you can enjoy vast vistas of color. But then, you are faced with the dilemma of what to do when they are finished blooming.
The first inclination is to pull them out or cut the foliage off and throw it on the compost heap. However, that’s not a sustainable approach if you want them to bloom again next spring. The plants have to replenish the food in the bulb that was consumed to produce the blooms that just faded. This is done through photosynthesis.
When the flowers die, they will fall off the stem naturally. If they don’t fall quickly, it’s OK to cut them off so that energy can be used by the leaves, stems and bulbs. But don’t cut the stem or the leaves. Now that the flowers have done what nature put them on earth to do, it’s the leaves’ turn to do their thing.
When the leaves and stems die back and turn brown, you can then safely cut them off at the base, confident that they have served their purpose. If you want an extra level of protection, you can apply fertilizer around the base of your plants. Fertilize daffodils in early spring just as the plants are starting to poke up. Tulips should be fertilized in the fall. Check with your garden store horticulturists to see what formulation is best for your area. Don’t fertilize when you first plant the bulbs. They have plenty of food stored in the bulbs that will be used to grow that first year.
To keep your spring bulb beds from looking like a desert for most of the summer, you can plant later blooming companion plants among the bulbs. Companion plants are those that are planted in a bed to complement the other plants. Plants like hosta, coneflowers and black-eyed susans don’t come up until the bulb plants are at the end of their season. They fill in the bare spots and bloom in the summer or early fall so you have color all season.
Spring bulbs are such a welcome sight after a long winter. Yet, they are very low maintenance plants. Follow these tips and you’ll be able to enjoy early spring color in your landscape year after year.