Nothing says “spring has arrived” better than the appearance of the first daffodils in February. It is therefore particularly disappointing when naturalised daffodil bulbs start declining and merely producing foliage and no flowers. This condition is commonly called “Daffodil blindness” and unfortunately occurs fairly often in bulbs that have previously flowered well.
Whereas certain perennial spring bulb varieties such as snowdrops, grape hyacinths and crocuses, as well as summer flowering varieties such as crocosmias, are particularly suited for naturalising and getting better year after year, others such as certain daffodils, can sometimes struggle a bit with age.
Newly planted, good size and healthy daffodil bulbs normally grow well in the first year and produce great flowers. In subsequent years however their flowers can sometimes decline or disappear altogether, leaving only foliage. When the latter occurs we refer to it as daffodil blindness.
The good news is that daffodil blindness can often be avoided, or where needed remedied. Several conditions may be the cause of daffodils going blind:
Disease (virus or narcissus basal rot) and pests (narcissus bulb fly and/or eelworm)
- Affected bulbs should be discarded and destroyed. Diseased or infected bulbs are often easily spotted, as they are soft/rotted instead of firm and healthy.
- Drought after flowering may cause foliage to die down prematurely and prevent the bulb from replenishing its energy for next year’s flowering. Lack of nutrients in the soil, is normally easily remedied using fertiliser or natural compost.
- After the leaves have died back in late spring/early summer, lift the bulbs and replant them in fertile soil 10 to 15cm apart if you suspect overcrowding.
Defoliation and/or knotting
- Don’t remove leaves directly after flowering, and avoid the urge to tidy up foliage by drawing the leaves into a knot. To rebuild its food reserves, daffodil bulbs need at least six weeks of healthy leaves after flowering.
- To avoid energy going into faded flowers to form seed capsules, deadhead the plants after flowering so that all the energy generated through the leaves can go to the bulb for rebuilding its reserves for the next season.
Correct planting depth and time
- Keep a planting depth of 10-15cm (dwarf daffodils) and 15-20cm for regular size daffodils. Shallow planting encourages division, producing smaller bulbs and inferior or no flowers at all.
- Try to plant daffodil bulbs by October, as bulbs planted later in the year may have diminished performance.
Something that certainly cannot be overestimated is the quality of your planting material. Make sure that you source your bulbs from a reputable supplier and that you buy sufficiently large size bulbs (10-12cm for dwarf daffodils and 12-14 for regular size daffodils). Cheaper bulbs often mean smaller bulbs with significantly inferior flowers. We are certainly not saying that you should not shop around for good value, but merely wish to point out that a relatively small amount of extra money buys you much better quality bulbs and therefore flowers.
Lastly, set realistic expectations. Although daffodils are perennial bulb flowers, some varieties are better suited for naturalising than others. Most dwarf daffodils (narcissus cyclamineus) and larger trumpet daffodils such as “Dutch Master” and “Ice Follies” generally do very well for years. Another stand out performer is the lovely narcissus poeticus “Actaea”.
We invite you to browse our daffodil range, as well as other bulb varieties at www.bulbsandbeyond.com. Should you have any questions on daffodils or wish to discuss anything else that we may assist with then please do not hesitate to contact Edward Pennings at email@example.com.