Daffodils, ranunculus bulbs, anemones bulbs other bulb flowers are beautiful signs that spring has officially sprung. However, once the blooms fade and your spring flowers have done their job for the season, your role as bulb caretaker begins. Learn how to keep those bulbs healthy so you’ll have a repeat bloom next year.
Step 1: Clip the Blossoms
If you haven’t already, you should trim the blossoms and their stalks off the plant once they’ve faded or are far enough past their prime that you no longer like the way they look. Some flowers, like daffodils, are more likely to stay intact on their stems, while others, like tulips, may lose all or most of their petals. Either way, you should trim the stem down to the base so the plant doesn’t waste valuable nutrients on the blossom. You can choose to clip the blossoms as soon as they come up to make floral arrangements indoors or leave them on the plant until they fade, but whenever you do it, make sure to clip them before the plant starts producing seed heads as that effort takes a lot out of the bulbs.
Step 2: Leave the Leaves Alive
While you’re clipping the blossoms, take care not to slice off the leaves as well. Those leaves are the food factory of the plant, and the cells inside will continue to photosynthesize even after you’ve trimmed off the blossom and stem. If you accidentally trim off one leaf, that’s OK, but if you have a plant with several damaged or dead leaves, you may want to pull the bulb and mark the spot so you can replace it with a new one. Some experts say that braiding, banding or otherwise restraining the leaves is OK, but if you really want your bulbs to get a much nutrients as possible so they can bounce back more beautiful than ever next year, you should leave the leaves be so they can get as much sun exposure as possible.
Step 3: Trim the Leaves When Dead
Let the leaves live until they start turning yellow, then cut them back to the ground. Add a layer of mulch or plant around the trimmed plants to refresh the planting bed. If necessary, you can cut the leaves before they start turning yellow, but give them at least six weeks after you clip the blossoms so they can produce the nutrients the bulbs need to survive.
To Dig or Not to Dig: the Southern California Solution
There’s some debate as to whether bulbs need to be dug up or whether gardeners can leave them in the ground. Because Southern California doesn’t experience hard freezes and cold winter weather, this argument is largely moot. You can leave your bulbs in place without worry, though of course there’s no guarantee that squirrels and other pests won’t dig them up or damage them while they’re in the ground. Ultimately, whether you dig or not is up to you.