Daffodil die-back?
April 14, 2005 11:01 PM   Subscribe

Daffodils - let them die back or dig out the bulbs?
posted by sagwalla to Home & Garden (11 answers total)
I leave mine in over winter. If you dig them up, you can separate out the bulbs (they double, I think, every season) and replant them in time for next year, but there's nothing wrong with leaving them in the ground except that they tend to get quite condensed in one area.
posted by tracicle at 12:12 AM on April 15, 2005

Unlike most tulips they just keep multiplying and spreading, so I leave ours in place, and we get more and more each year. It's lovely.

When they die back, it's not so lovely, but oh well.
posted by litlnemo at 1:05 AM on April 15, 2005

When the leaves have turned brown/yellow, fold them over so the tips are touching the ground and secure them loosely - a rubber band works really good. At least then you'll have neat little stacks. Eventually you can retrieve the rubber band - if you can find it!
posted by Zeedog at 4:40 AM on April 15, 2005

Here in Texas, they say you should dig them up put them in the freezer, since a hard freeze is supposedly what makes them flower in the spring. I probably only get 30% of my daffs producing flowers if I leave them in.

I've also heard that once the flower is done, you're supposed to cut off the leaves just above ground line so the bulb stops trying to feed unproductive tissue. (I think this is true whether you dig them up or leave them in the ground.)
posted by Doohickie at 4:45 AM on April 15, 2005

My mother uses Zeedog's method in her own daffodil patch, and it seems to work fine. Better than rubber bands, though, you can use one of the flower's own leaves to tie it together. More ecologically sound, you know.

(On preview: This is Maryland. YMMV.)
posted by Faint of Butt at 4:45 AM on April 15, 2005

The leaves after the blooms are what builds the food in the bulb for next year's blooms. We leave them in the ground around here. (Hi! from gardening zone 5A.)
When the leaves turn brown back to the ground, you cut them off. The bulb is done with them. I never heard of tying the leaves together, but please don't use anything that might end up around the neck of a small animal or the neighbor's cat.
There's an Arboretum outside Chicago that has "naturalized" acres of woods with them, and they've grown into big, lush clumps. You know they don't have the time to separate all that or do anything with them. They just mow theirs when the leaves die off. It sounds true that they wouldn't bloom unless they froze, so you may have to do that in warmer climates. (I just never thought about it.)
posted by unrepentanthippie at 5:21 AM on April 15, 2005

It depends. If you live where it gets cold in the winter, you don't need to dig them up. You can if you want to, or if you want to move them.

Don't dig them up until the leaves have turned brown, though. Until the leaves brown, they're feeding the bulb. Once the leaves turn brown, you can cut them off, or dig the bulbs.

Do cut the flower stem off, or it will form a seed pod, and the daff won't multiply. It will still come back next year, though.
posted by jlkr at 5:22 AM on April 15, 2005

Yeah, I was wrong... not when the flower is done; when the leaves turn brown. (I thought it was the former, but usually don't get around to it till the latter.)
posted by Doohickie at 5:34 AM on April 15, 2005

Piggyback question (I love AskMe! Always asking things I need to know!): What if you need to remove them, how long should you wait?

I bought a large pot with about a dozen daffodils in it from Easter Seals. I've enjoyed them in the pot but I'd like to plant them in my yard for next spring. They've finished flowering and I've been going on the assumption I should wait until the leaves die back before digging them up and... keep them somewhere cool and dry until next fall or plant them in the ground right away?

I'm in zone 5A, and I'm a student who will be away for the summer, if it makes a difference!
posted by nelleish at 8:39 AM on April 15, 2005

You don't need to dig them up if it doesn't freeze, here in S Cal my daffodils do just fine in the ground over the "winter". I let my leaves get brown before I pull them off and the other foliage (lavender mostly right now) take over the blank spots for the rest of the summer. They've been the first sign of springy life in my garden (which just gets a little sparse -- never quite dying off here) for 4 years now.

If you do need to transplant them, dig them up when the leaves are dead and store them in the fridge until Fall. If you plant them and let them sit dormant without having a chance to take root, there's more of a risk that insects will damage them.
posted by dness2 at 12:41 PM on April 15, 2005

Response by poster: Thank you all for some very informative background and experience. I probably should have [+]'d. I'm very tempted just to leave them alone, but also would like to move on in terms of using the space.

I've been told that if you lift the whole shootin' match out once they've done their flowering thing, they will die back out of the soil and still be viable the following winter. Suppose you dug them out and left them in a bucket in the dark somewhere and cut them back after they had died off. Thus you can put in some annual bedding plants and keep the garden more colourful without waiting for them to go brown, die back, etc.

I don't know zones from bones, but I'm in SW London. We often get a killing frost and a wee bit of snow, but no hard freeze. I planted this lot around Christmas and we've had a spectacular daff season this spring. We're likely to move on within a year and I'd like to know if it would seriously weaken the bulbs to cut them back. I am patient enough to leave the next owner a random act of kindness if it's worth the loneliness of a wait before bedding in the annuals.
posted by sagwalla at 3:04 PM on April 15, 2005

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