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A Neat Trick to Get the Most Out of Your Daffodil Bulbs

This easy technique keeps your spring beauties neat in the garden and healthy for next year. 

Daffodils in the garden
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Daffodils are the star of the spring show in my garden. I adore tulips….but so do the rabbits with whom I share my green space. Daffodils are toxic to bunnies, so we get to live in harmony when their sun-drenched show is in full flower in early spring.

Though, in Keats’s famous words, “a thing of beauty is a joy for ever,” we all know spring bulbs fade and die back after a few weeks of glory. When they do, their blooms browned, their leaves splayed and pale, it’s tempting to take to them with pruning shears, lest your garden look sloppy and neglected.

This denies your daffodils in two ways. First, pruning spent daffodil foliage denies the plant the opportunity to engage in its full cycle of bloom, decay and rebirth. And second, it robs you, the gardener, of a satisfying spring task to keep your garden looking neat and attractive.

Try this easy technique to keep your daffodils thriving even while they sleep their way toward next year. 

Once the blooms have died off and the foliage has lightened in color and flopped out into a flat spray, gather its long leaves into a ponytail-like clump. Divide the bunch in half and tie the leaves into a loose single knot. The leaves will form an appealing, rounded shape that can sit in your garden without giving off neglected vibes. If you plant hostas or other spreading plants near your daffodils, they might even become camouflaged by their greening neighbors.

Now the most satisfying part of all. Eventually, as the summer heat builds, the bulb in the soil will be ready to let go of the foliage, having reconstituted itself with all the nutrition it needed from the summer chapter of its growing cycle. You’ll know you’ve reached that moment when a gentle tug on your knots releases them easily from the ground. 

Lifting as you would a duffel bag handle, stroll through your garden and liberate each bundle from its spot. As you do, you’ll know you’ve invested in your plants’ future well-being—and left your garden looking neat and tended in the meantime.

You might, as you work your way through your garden, even turn back to Keats, who praised daffodils in his poem Endymion for “the green world they live in; and clear rills / That for themselves a cooling covert make / ‘Gainst the hot season.”

How do you care for your daffodils after they’ve bloomed?

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