Thursday, May 18, 2017
By Karen Santee
OSU Ext. master gardener volunteer
We have enjoyed the flush of bright colors from tulips and daffodils and now we are left with wilting leaves. What are we supposed to do?
The leaves are a very important part of the health of the bulbs. They provide food production for the next bloom time. As long as there is green in the leaves, there is food for the bulb. Leaves are best left alone and allowed to brown. This will take about six to eight weeks.
Some of us are tempted to rubber-band the leaves together or braid them to tidy up the bed. This will slow down the food flow and weaken the bulbs. This process is also time-consuming and tedious, so let the leaves lie and allow nature to run its course.
Instead of cutting back or banding the foliage, you can tidy up your flower beds by deadheading flowers so they don’t go to seed. Producing seed takes a lot of energy away from bulbs, so this will help strengthen the bulbs.
Planting bulbs in combination with spring flowering perennials will help hide dying foliage of the bulbs. Perennials will return each year so there is less labor and cost. Simply research bloom times of perennials for continual bloom in your flower beds.
Annuals will add color and coverage to spring flower beds. They are easily grown from seed and available as transplants.
Foliage plants are also great camouflage for dying bulb leaves. Hosta, artemisia, and sweet woodruff are a few examples. Foliage plants add interesting shapes and textures.
Some spring bulbs lose their vitality after one or two years. Fertilizing these bulbs before bloom and after bloom will help extend their life. Planting them in beds with higher levels of organic matter and better drainage will help as well.
Take time to enjoy those spring flowers and let the leaves go. Nature is an amazing gardener and will relieve you of some unnecessary stress.
To learn more about caring for your bulbs after blooming, go to: go.osu.edu/afterbloom