B. Rosie Lerner
Purdue Extension


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Clean up Bulbs to Encourage Next Year's Blooms

As the dazzling display of Spring-flowering bulbs comes to a close, its time to for a bit of spring cleaning. Now is the time to remove spent blossoms and prevent seed production from stealing needed carbohydrate reserves that can be better saved for next year's bloom.

Even though the foliage that remains is not very attractive and, in some cases, is downright unsightly, resist the urge to cut those green leaves off the plants. The health of this year's foliage will determine the amount of carbohydrates that will be stored in the bulb below ground this fall. These stored reserves, in turn, determine the strength of the blooms for next spring.

Some gardeners attempt to "tidy" up the foliage by gathering the leaves into bundles and folding, braiding or tying them in a knot. Although it is slightly better than removing the foliage, the leaves that are inside the bundle will not be exposed to light, thus reducing photosynthesis and future blooming potential.

Instead, help the foliage thrive by providing plenty of sunshine, a pinch of fertilizer and water when the weather is dry. When the bulb foliage begins to turn yellow or brown, you can remove the leaves and add them to your compost pile. Tulip foliage generally dies back by mid June, but daffodil foliage can remain green until mid-summer.

You can make the bulb foliage less noticeable by inter-planting perennial and annual flowers among the bulbs. Inter-planting will also help keep the bed interesting long after the bulb flowers fade. Select plants that bloom at different times in spring and summer to keep the bed in color throughout the season. Plants such as candytuft, dianthus, false rock-cress and phlox provide early color, yet stay low to the ground to provide an attractive background for bulb flowers. Perennials, such as daylilies, salvia and coreopsis, as well as many annual flowers, grow a bit taller in late spring and summer, thus providing a good screen to mask fading bulb foliage.


Writer: B. Rosie Lerner
Editor: Olivia Maddox