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The Joy of Gardening

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spring bulbs

When should I cut my spring bulbs?


Question
My tulips and daffodils have all finished blooming. How long do I have to wait before I can cut them down? I would like to get rid of them now as they are looking rather ragged. Also, when is the best time to fertilize the spring flowering bulbs?

Answer
The longer you can wait to cut down your spring bulbs the better. Keep in mind that whilst the leaves are green those bulbs are actively photosynthesizing and replenishing the underground bulbs with food for the next bloom cycle. The more those bulbs can recharge themselves, the more blooms you will enjoy the following year. As a rule of thumb wait until the foliage starts turning yellow and fading in color before you cut them down to the ground. In some cases it might not be possible to leave them this long due to aesthetic reasons, in this case I would recommend leaving the foliage for a minimum of 6 weeks. If bulbs are interplanted with other plants they should not be such an eyesore when left to stand. Please resist the temptation to tie up the leaves for even though this has been a traditional practice, it still does not allow the foliage to capture the sunlight to photosynthesize. Be sure to remove the flowers stalks so that plants will not exert energy on producing seeds.

Regarding fertilizing, bulbs can fertilized twice a year; initially after planting in the fall and in spring immediately after leaves emerge. Personally I like to use organic compost as this both feeds the bulbs and improves the quality of the soil at the same time. However you can also use a synthetic well balanced fertilizer, 10-10-10, work it into the soil and then water it in.



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