cutting back foliageSpring blooming bulb-flowers including daffodils and tulips are graceful beauties are now welcoming the arrival of a new growing season. But once the blooms fade, what’s left is drooping foliage and messy stems that crowd beds for weeks.

Gardeners need to resist the temptation of cutting back the foliage as soon as flowering ceases. There are other creative ways to deal with the green bulb foliage, to ensure a picture-perfect crop of bulb blooms again next year. Foliage shouldn’t be cut off until it turns yellow and dies back naturally.

The foliage on the smaller bulbs such as snowdrops and squill will die back rapidly and cause little problem. The foliage on the larger bulbs such as tulips and daffodils will take several weeks to die back.

After flowering, the plant needs the green leaves to manufacture food (photosynthesis) stored in the bulb for next year’s growth. If the gardener cuts off the foliage early, the plant can no longer manufacture nutrient reserves for next year. This results in a small, weak bulb that will gradually decline and die out.

One good way is to plant spring bulbs throughout an annual bed where ready color will disguise dying foliage. Another method could be to situate bulbs behind a perennial or annual border planting — highlighting blooms and hiding foliage.

Perennials such as hosta or day lilies and low-growing ground covers provide the perfect nesting spot for bulb flowers, whose tall stalks will peek out of emerging spring foliage and blend with the perennial while preparing for dormancy.

If you plan to replant bulbs every year, one option for the most picky of gardeners is to dig and toss the bulbs out, dead foliage and all. The bed may then be prepared for a new planting in the fall to start the process over again. This is a costly practice, however, and you forfeit the benefit of one season of work to provide larger, dividing bulbs that produce more flowers for your efforts year after year.

You need to be more patient and let the foliage die back naturally.

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