MIDDLETOWN, NJ - A short time ago, unseasonal warm weather had the spring bulbs showing life as green spears started to pop out of the ground in our flowerbeds. A late winter storm then covered everything with snow followed by more snow and a sleet/rain combination.
Because of the deer population in this area, most of those bulbs were daffodils. Before the snow, as temperatures dropped, many gardeners put various covers over these bulbs to help them survive Mother Nature’s return to winter weather.
But, there’s more to learn about daffodils than that they are just yellow trumpet flowers that pop their heads up in the spring to present an arresting sight and when paired with purple hyacinths, will look stunning!
The National Daffodil Society notes that there are over 25,000 registered cultivars that are separated into 13 divisions (based on the form of the daffodil). Does your daffodil have a large, small or a split cup? Does it have small petals and a “hoop petticoat” shaped cup (Bulbocodium)? Are the petals swept back (Cyclamineus)? Does it have a hanging bell shape (Triandrus)? The listings go on. There is a profusion of varieties to please the eye.
A stand of daffodil bulbs can outlive the person who planted them. Most daffodils are reliable in Zones 3-8 and bloom best in full sun, although a little dappled spring shade shouldn’t have much effect. In general, you can expect them to reach heights of 12-18 inches and be 6-9 inches wide. While your initial bulbs may eventually give up, they should have produced new bulbs over their lifetime to keep the daffodil parade ongoing.
So, why then, do daffodils sometimes stop blooming? It is called “going blind.”
There are four main causes:
- Planting Depth—if planting is too shallow, bulbs can dry out and die. Therefore, plant 4-8 inches down, depending on the size of the bulb. However, if bulbs are planted too deep, they will be slower to emerge above the ground.
- Impatience—if foliage is cut back too early, not enough food has been stored to carry your plant through its seasons. No, the yellowing foliage is not pretty, but it’s vital! Interplanting with a grassy type of plant like “liriope” does help to camouflage the situation. Another plant to consider for interplanting is scented stock--an old fashioned annual (picture on left). At twilight, an arresting fragrance emanates from the modest blooms. It’s vanilla, spicy and wonderful! The plant blooms best between 60-80 degrees and will grow as a cool weather annual in our zone. And please don’t braid the leaves to make the plant look neater. The leaves need to be exposed to light. You can flatten the leaves, however, between the other plants to hide them, if you must.
- Food—Top-dress your plants with bulb food or bone meal when leaves first emerge and again, when the plants flower.
- Insect Damage—Narcissus flies eat the flower buds. Because the insect larvae is in the ground, cultivate around the area to kill the larvae or at least expose it to hungry birds.
Now you and your daffodils are set for spring as long as no more snow threatens to rear its head as Mother Nature twists and turns with our climate changes.
If you are interested in a vegetable garden, join our club members on April 18 to hear Master Gardeners Bob Mellert and Ellen Simonetti discuss the planting and care of vegetables. An assortment of herbs and vegetables will be available for sale at our Plant Sale in May. Call Nancy Canade at (973)-452-4846 for further information. The wonderful world of plants and flowers awaits you.
Garden Club R.F.D. is a member of the Garden Club of New Jersey, the Central Atlantic Region of State Garden Clubs, Inc. and the National Garden Club, Inc. We welcome all inquiries and are open to accepting new members.