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When daffodils don’t bloom

I covered my daffodils in the fall with a heavy layer of pine straw. The leaves have come up but they are not budding or blooming. Is the pine straw too acidic for these plants?

Daffodil copyAfter a long winter, we look forward to the daffodils blooming in spring, and it’s a disappointment when they don’t produce the flowers we expect.

The failure to bloom is not due to pine straw causing acid soil; daffodils – or jonquils, as we sometimes call them — tolerate a range of soil types, as long as it is well-drained and moderately fertile, and some varieties actually prefer slightly acid soil. A lot of garden experts suggest mulching daffodil beds with a light layer of pine straw. Small, early blooming daffodils may not be able to penetrate a thick layer of mulch.

So consider some of the other possible reasons daffodils don’t bloom:

Were they cut down too quickly last spring? After daffodils finish blooming, allow the foliage to remain until it turns yellow. This allows the bulb to gather and store energy for growing and blooming the following spring.

Were they given a high-nitrogen fertilizer? Nitrogen tends to grow a lot of foliage at the expense of flowers. Fertilizer that contains a higher level of phosphorous promotes blooming.

Is the bed too crowded? Bulbs continue to grow and divide underground, and after several years, the bulbs may grow big, lush clumps with few or no blooms. If it’s an old, established bed, it may need to be thinned. Dig the bulbs, separate and replant them.

Too little sun? Daffodils need six to eight hours of sunlight to bloom well. They tolerate dappled shade in early spring, but if they are in dense shade, they likely will not bloom.

These are among the most common causes. The American Daffodil Society has a whole page of reasons that daffodils fail to bloom, which you can read here.

For gardeners in Middle Tennessee (where The Garden Bench calls home), this is a good time to mention that the Middle Tennessee Daffodil Society is holding its annual Daffodil Show March 19 and 20 at Cheekwood Botanical Garden. This is the time to see some of the most perfect daffodils grown and arranged by serious daffodil aficionados. To learn more, visit the MTDS site here.

Spring into action: With warm weather rolling in, it’ time to check the garden to-do list. Read about March garden tips, tasks and events in The Tennessean.

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