With its bright colors lighting up the garden, nothing in nature signifies the arrival of spring more than the daffodil, a flowering perennial planted as a bulb that provides the absolute best return on an amazingly minor investment of time and attention that will bloom every spring for decades. In fact, so little is required by daffodils that I struggled with the name of this piece until adding the word “proper” to the title.
Proper care is more about what not to do than what is needed. The only thing daffodils need is a light feeding with a balanced fertilization as the plants are emerging out of the ground in the spring. Beyond that, leave them alone. After blooming, the green foliage will gradually turn yellow and then die back to the ground. During this six-week period, the leaves are absorbing sunlight and through the process of photosynthesis are actively converting energy to sugars, which are then stored back in the bulb. It is this stored energy that will produce next year’s flowers.
If you are concerned with how the daffodils present themselves in the period after blooming, put some consideration to where they are planted. Daffodils naturalized along the woods’ edge will be absorbed and disappear as the rest of the plants leaf out. Alternatively, you could incorporate them in perennial plantings with a similar leaf type, like liriope or day lilies, which will camouflage the daffodil foliage as it begins to die back.
Remember, when it comes to daffodil care, less is more!