Daffodils didn't bloom this year...why?

johnh_or(Portland OR Z8)March 7, 2008

Hey folks....I usually hang out on the C&S and House Plant forum. I planted some Daffs last Feb...I know, kinda late! Procrastination is not one of my better traits. They came up and they even bloomed. I wasn't expecting blooms due to the late planting. Well this year, they came up and leafed out even fuller than last year but not a single bloom. My wife is thoroughly bummed out. They are her favorite flower. Anyway...was it due to them not being planted in the fall like they should have been? I am thinking the bulbs did not store sufficient energy to bloom this year...right?

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In the PNW, it is still very early for many narcissus to be showing color. Even the very early bloomers like 'Tete a Tete', 'Jetfire' or 'February Gold' are just getting started in warm, sunnier locations. You may just be over-anticipating a bloom period that won't occur for several more weeks :-)

It is also possible that the bulbs may not produce much flowering this year. Treatment after flowering last season could have an effect, like cutting back or removing the foliage too soon. The energy they store to rebloom in following seasons is produced by photosynthesis from the leaving of the foliage in place until it dies off naturally. If this process is cut short or altered (really has nothing to do with planting time), blooms will be scarce. Excessive watering of the area in summer or the use of a high nitrogen fertilizer (like lawn fertilizer) could also have an effect, but I suspect it's just a case of being a bit too early :-)

    Bookmark   March 8, 2008 at 9:10AM
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jqpublic(7b/8a Wake County NC)

the first year they may bloom the second year a lot of the bulbs multiply so they won't bloom as well. the third year you should get a good show. Sorry your wive was disappointed but you will get a good show in the future!

    Bookmark   March 8, 2008 at 3:04PM
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buyorsell888(Zone 8 Portland OR)

Do you know what cultivar they are? As gardengal said, it is very early here for many.

I've only got a few blooming now. Most are still green and some not even coming up yet.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2008 at 5:31PM
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sedum37(Z5 MA)

Gardengal48 is right -- if you didn't give them proper after care (fertilize with granular fertilizer after flowering, keep the leaves on until totally brown etc.) they may not flower this year. Usually daffodils are pretty forgiving and flower again. Also if they are in too much shade they may not flower again. When planted for many years, the bulbs may be close together and need to be divided but this doesn't seem to be your problem. Try fertilzing them now and later in the fall then again next spring when the foliage first appears. Leave the leaves on until totally brown and see if they are getting too much shade. If in too much shade then you'll have to consider moving them.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2008 at 2:10PM
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johnh_or(Portland OR Z8)

Thanks for the advice. I don't know the cultivar. They are in full sun and I knew to leave the foliage on till it turned brown but I didn't fertilize. Guess we'll just wait and see!

    Bookmark   March 11, 2008 at 5:45PM
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Personally, I think fertilizing is only an option, not a requirement. I never fertilize my daffs (too many, too widely spread throughout the garden) and all rebloom happily. They'll also take a fair amount of light or dappled shade, especially from deciduous trees, as they do most of their growth and bloom long before the trees leaf out.

I really think you are just too early in your expectations - give 'em a few weeks :-))

    Bookmark   March 11, 2008 at 9:10PM
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jqpublic(7b/8a Wake County NC)

Yeah I never fertilize my bulbs either. They just kind of do their thing...and thats what I like about them. If anything keep them in a sunny location and mulch to keep the moisture more even. I know most bulbs are used to a my arid climate though, so unless you've planted them there may be no need to water in the fall/winter if you mulch. Good luck! I guarantee some flowers next year if you continue with what you did and letting nature run its course.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2008 at 1:40AM
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buyorsell888(Zone 8 Portland OR)

I don't fertilize mine either except for a layer of compost that is applied as mulch over the entire garden.

I still have many mid and late season daffs not blooming yet.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2008 at 1:54PM
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I think you may have been right in the first place- the late-planted bulbs didn't have time to develop a very extensive root system last year, so didn't get normal growth. The flowers were already formed in the fat bulbs you planted, and all it takes is a short cold period to induce flowering (akin to forcing). This year's better growth tells me that your soil is OK and that the bulbs are "establishing."

About fertilizing- adding extra nitrogen is generally a bad idea (manure makes them rot) but daffodils do appreciate a sprinkling of wood ashes.

PS- I'd buy your wife a few pots of blooming daffodils from the garden center, then plant them in with your others when the flowers fade.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2008 at 2:00PM
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It's March 15th, 2008 as I type this. I planted 80 King Alfred daffodils last year in one big raised bed. I plant other things over the top of them the rest of the year. Looks like all 80 came up. Nice show. I cut a lot of them for bouquets for myself and friends. Then I probably cut off the foliage too soon. This year, at this time, only about 20 have come up. (None have flowered yet, probably because it's too early anyway; we're at 700 ft. above sea level and we're a few weeks behind Portland, Oregon in growing season.) So yeah, not a lot of my original 80 daffodils are doing much. I also happened to have planted them quite deep; almost 12" below quite rich soil (long-composted manure).

Will they continue to grow in years to come? If I cut the flowers off for bouquets, does that have anything to do with flowering the next year? I.e., perhaps they weren't blooming long enough to get fertilized? Or does it not work that way with daffodils?



    Bookmark   March 15, 2008 at 6:51PM
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Katy, cutting off the foliage too soon, before it had time to ripen and replace the bulbs' energy stores could certainly have an impact on how well they come back this year. Another issue could be the soil conditions in the existing bed. Heavily organically enriched soil like you describe has an ability to hold moisture better than less enriched soil. This feature, combined with the possibility that this area received pretty frequent summer irrigation, could very well be a factor. Daffs and most other spring flowering bulbs like to be on the dry side during summer - too much irrigation then or the soil holding too much moisture over winter could cause the bulbs to rot.

Cutting off the flowers will not affect blooming in following seasons, everything else being equal. In fact, an argument can be made for the removal of flowering stems increasing the potential for future blooms, as the plant will expend less energy in seed development than if the flower stems were left in place until the foliage died back.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2008 at 12:20PM
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Of the 150 King Alfred Daffodils I planted in the Fall of 06, only about 10 percent have returned. They look like they will bloom, but I'm confused as to why so many bulbs didn't make it. I think I cut the foliage off too soon: I was told that you could trim the foliage to 2 inches without damaging the bulb. I also used alot of the type of fertilizer that you use in a sprayer on the end of a garden hose last summer.

I planted 700 more Kind Alfreds last fall, and don't want to make the same mistakes. Do you have to wait until the foliage has completely withered to remove it? Should I cool it with the sprayer type fertilizer?

    Bookmark   March 16, 2008 at 4:57PM
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Best not to cut daffodil foliage off at all- I know this makes you have to wait to cut the grass, but that's what's best for the plants. That advise about cutting to 2" is incorrect, if you want flowers in years to come.

Also, 12" is way too deep. 3X the diameter of the bulb is the general rule.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2008 at 3:57PM
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I cannot get daffodils to bloom at all... perhaps my soil is too sandy for them. Other bulbs bloom just fine.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2008 at 12:00PM
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Seems a bit early for the daffs to bloom. I have growth and everything, and I expect blooms in the next week or so, but I have them in morning to noon time sun.

If you aren't getting any growth, it might be the depth. If you have mulch on top of the bed, you need to back out the depth of the mulch from the depth of the soil the bulbs need to be placed. So if your bulbs is required to be planted 6" deep and you have 2" of mulch over the bed, plant the bulb at 4". Also add some good organic matter to the bed. It can't hurt.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   March 19, 2008 at 1:07PM
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johnh_or(Portland OR Z8)

Just an update.....thanks for all the great advice!

eskota.....I think I agree with your diagnosis. The Daffs are fully leafed out....at least 12 to 14 inches tall. Nice and green and healthy. But still no blooms. I'll just have to wait till next year!

    Bookmark   March 25, 2008 at 6:05PM
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After some research, here's what I've found about daffodils and their return engagements:

1. Do NOT cut the foliage.
2. Lay off the high nitrogen fertilizer: it causes the bulbs to rot.
3. Daffs need 5-6 hours of sun. Your new planting bulbs will bloom the first year almost anywhere, but if you want them to come back and bloom you will have to transplant any bulbs in deep shade to a sunny locale (and they will skip a year of blooming) and replace the deep shade bulbs EVERY year. I will do this and think of the non bloomers as a type of "bi-annual". I'm going to mix in the off year bulbs with existing bloomers in the sunny locations. You can never have enough daffodils!

    Bookmark   March 29, 2008 at 4:46PM
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Why bulbs donÂt growÂÂ.or why they donÂt bloom

Bulbs donÂt bloom for one reason. There isnÂt enough energy in the bulb to form a bud.

Now, why did this happen?
Perhaps the summer before there wasnÂt enough sunlight and the bulbs didnÂt get enough light to form a bud.
You say the sunlight they were given was full. So that let's that out.

Maybe somethingg cultural?
Perhaps you overfed them or overwatered them? This will mostly often result in the bulb dying rather than not flowering but hey, anything is possible.

Maybe you tied up the leaves of the bulbs rather than letting the leaves wither naturally. Bulbs have to have their leaves left alone until they are yellow and fading. Leaves produce the energy bulbs use to produce buds.
With first year plantings, maybe you planted the bulb too early last fall and it started to produce a flower stalk last fall. That flower stalk coming out of the bulb would have frozen off last winter and all youÂll see this year are leaves. (if that)
Early arrival of foliage which is killed off by hanging-on winter, may not give the bulb sufficient energy to produce a bud. This may account for one or two plants but not generally affect many in the same bed. Usually, leaves that might sprout early have the sense to stop further growing and it doesn't affect how the bulb does for flowering.

Is it a disease? Some bulb diseases will stop flower production but the majority of bulb problems simply kill the bulb.

If the mulch was removed from the surface too soon and foliage that has appeared was badly affected, then it might prevent budding.

As you say though, if it doesn't show this year, like baseball fans repeat eternally in October.....

"Well, there's always next year!"

    Bookmark   March 30, 2008 at 11:05AM
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I have several daffodils an most of them bloom. Several of them come to bud, but never open up. This has happened for several years. I leave them hoping they will open, but no luck. Can you tell me why is this happening

    Bookmark   April 3, 2011 at 11:57AM
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katob Z6ish, NE Pa

If they are double daffodils it's likely bud blast. Hope for a cool damp spring and they may open ok.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2011 at 8:46PM
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pippi21(Z7 Silver Spring, Md.)

I planted 80 or 90 Kind Alfred daffs in 2009 and I know not that many came up in 2010. I swear the squirrels were watching me plant them and dug them up. The next day there was signs where the squirrels had disturbed that soil where I had planted. This year I bet I only have less than 10 blooming, it's just been too cold I think. I can't imagine planting 700 bulbs without a lot of other people helping! That boggles my mind but I bet it is a pretty sight when they bloom. What else do you plant with the daffs? Never heard of fertilizing bulbs after they bloom. What kind of fertilizer does one use? Please mention specific brand or include a picture of the product you use.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2011 at 9:03AM
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Ed, first off, I suggest you rid yourself of the identity via your e-mail address--there's too many things that can come across your table when people know your address--put something else such as your gardening zone in place of, or your state, or county...but leave personal addresses out.

Daffs still have a time to come to something but perhaps they have been subjected to more intense drainage of snowmelt or rain and bulbs do not like being submerged for even small amounts of time....you might look at their drainage by digging one or two of them up and replant and if necessary, improve their draiange. They might still provide you something.

Squirrels don't normally eat a daffodil but if there is something that is close to them that they might investigate, they might dislodge the daff, turn it on its edge or otherwise provide some hardship to the bulb.
Again, a digging might prove out nothing.
Not enough sunlight to push them to provide bloom.
Fertilizing is not necessry to 'true' bulbs...they have everything they need to bloom. Still when the foliage is up, they can be given some compost/superphosphate/bone meal to help them along.

If they do not bloom this year, most definitely dig them up and see if anything has occurred to maybe give you an inkling why they did what they did.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2011 at 5:27PM
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wynswrld98(z7 WA)

Regarding investigating why bulbs didn't come back by digging in the area, how can one tell a rotted bulb (e.g., too much water or too much nitrogen fertilizer) vs. the narcissus bulb fly issue with bulbs getting destroyed?

    Bookmark   April 7, 2011 at 12:50AM
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wynswrld98(z7 WA)

Re: Daffs need 5-6 hours of sun. Your new planting bulbs will bloom the first year almost anywhere, but if you want them to come back and bloom you will have to transplant any bulbs in deep shade to a sunny locale (and they will skip a year of blooming) and replace the deep shade bulbs EVERY year. I will do this and think of the non bloomers as a type of "bi-annual". I'm going to mix in the off year bulbs with existing bloomers in the sunny locations. You can never have enough daffodils!

I'm loving this idea. So when is the time to do the transplant of the bulbs in shade to the sunny area?

    Bookmark   April 7, 2011 at 12:52AM
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wynswrld98(z7 WA)

Yet another question... What is a guesstimate of how many years daffodils are in the ground whereby them multiplying will cause them to stop blooming and the bulbs needing to be lifted and divided and replanted? Also, which part of their growth cycle would be the time to do the division?

    Bookmark   April 7, 2011 at 12:54AM
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I have a book on bulbs here and it says that the most prolific of daffodils needs to be divided every five to six years. Some daffs are slower to increase, in which case you can also just divide them every decade or so. I grow Mount Hood, this is the second year they will bloom and already the flowers on each bulb have tripled and there are bulbils in sight as well. I might have to divide mine every four years...

I guess it is best that you keep a journal for your daffs and monitor closely how much they increase each year. If you have trouble seeing how more new growth could come up in the limited space between this year's growth, that would be a sign that it is time to divide.

I can't find the bit about when to divide these, but I gather all bulbs are best divided during dormancy, which would mean any time between the moment the leaves fall off and the moment the ground freezes, although I think earlier is better. I think that fall is a bad idea because by then, the plant may have grown more roots that reach deeper, and it will be that much harder to lift them, plus the new root growth would be wasted and it wouldn't have enough time to regenerate properly by next spring. But this is just my admittedly not perfect logic speaking.

I would try to do it as soon as the leaves fall off. That way, you do it before new growth starts but after the plant is done producing for the current year. It would then be about to start using its gathered reserves to grow new roots, so your newly transplanted daff would be nicely nestled into place by the time spring comes.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2011 at 11:11AM
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Some varieties do well in some areas and do not do well in others. A King Alfred will bloom a year or two in this area, but just quit blooming. (The folliage will come up, though.) Ice Follies will repeat very nicely. If you buy your daffs at a big box store (Lowe's or Home Depot in our area), the varieties are not necessarily the right ones for your area. Still, my local Home Depot has King Alfred every year. You might check with the extention service in your area for the correct varieties for you.


    Bookmark   April 8, 2011 at 5:43PM
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wynswrld98(z7 WA)

I've had great luck with King Alfred Daffodils here in Seattle/Tacoma area, come up every year except in shady areas for obvious reasons.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2011 at 6:36PM
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