Have you noticed that your daffodils and narcissus have been struggling and lost their vigor? Here are several possible reasons why and ways to address reviving them.
As with perennials, many flowering bulbs do best with fertilizing when planted, as their leaves emerge, and as they bloom, with a slow-release organic fertilizer such as Root Rally, from Age Old.
If you’ve been fertilizing but using a product that is too high in nitrogen, your bulbs will have lush leaves, few flowers. Try switching to a product that contains higher phosphorous and potassium.
Increasing the biology in the soil is always beneficial, so top-dress with compost annually and sprinkle with Compost Tea from time to time during the growing season.
If the area in which your daffodils are planted has become shady over the years, it may be time to relocate them to an area that receives at least a half-day of sun.
Similarly, if surrounding plants have become too vigorous, your flowering bulbs will be in competition for food. Examine your space and determine which plants should be relocated.
For six weeks following bloom, daffodil leaves are still taking in nutrients that replenish the bulbs energy reservoir for next season. Be sure to leave those leaves – without bundling or cutting! – for maximum energy capture, and don’t remove them until they have turned yellow.
While most daffodils and other Narcissus love water, they must have good drainage to avoid basal rot fungus which will result in pale, malformed leaves, stems and/or flowers. There is no cure for basal rot and infected plants must be discarded (do not compost). If your soil is heavy and holds too much water, prepare your bulb beds with the addition of expanded shale and compost. Many of the wildflower Narcissus are more tolerant of dry conditions.
Think back to last season for environmental events such as heat waves or a late cold snap that could have impacted your plants.
Bulbs that have been growing in the same spot for many years may need to be divided. If you’re growing them for bouquets or for exhibition, daffodil bulbs would like to be divided every year or two (kudos to the gardener who can accomplish this!) as crowded bulbs are competing for food and space and can cease blooming. To avoid this issue, choose varieties that are good for ‘naturalizing’.
Daffodils and narcissus can be impacted by many viruses, with the most common being Yellow Stripe and Mosaic. Both are contagious and incurable. Dig and discard infected bulbs.
Yellow Stripe is expressed with fine streaks of yellow the length of emerging leaves and weakens the plant by the following year. Mosaic appears as white blotches on the yellow flowers where the petals lose their color and does not seem to affect the plant vigor.
After the flowers fade and the leaves have yellowed, dig up the bulbs. Separate them into individual bulbs and replant about 6” apart and deep. You may replant immediately or dry the bulbs in the shade (try drying on cooling racks from your kitchen to enhance airflow and prevent rot), store them in mesh bags and replant in October.
When replanting, utilize an organic slow-release fertilizer that is high in potassium such as Root Rally. If you replant immediately, try not to water them until the fall.
Some bulbs may be stressed following transplanting, so don’t be alarmed if they skip a year of blooming.