Care and maintenance

Flower bulbs are low-maintenance plants. Many kinds of bulbs can even be left in the same place for years. They increase in number all by themselves by producing seeds or by spontaneously producing more flower bulbs. This process is called naturalisation. After so many years, daffodils, crocuses, winter aconites, anemones, snowdrops, squills and grape hyacinths can form an unbroken carpet of plants.

Other flower bulbs such as tulips and hyacinths will bloom profusely the first year after planting but produce fewer and fewer flowers thereafter because their bulbs gradually become exhausted. Botanical tulips, however, are an exception.

Here are some tips for enjoying your flower bulbs longer:

  • During a dry spring, provide late-flowering bulbs such as tulips, hyacinths, ornamental onions and irises with some water now and then. 
  • Once the flowers have faded, snip them off.
  • Don’t trim off the leaves back straightaway. Instead, let the leaves and stem turn yellow (die back) first. This allows nutrients in the foliage to feed the bulb (if it is one of the kinds that naturalise) so that it can emerge again next year.
  • Provide flower bulbs that naturalise – such as daffodils, crocuses, squills, anemones, grape hyacinths and winter aconites – with fertiliser after they have flowered. Fertilising stimulates the formation of flower buds during the summer months.

Flower bulbs that have finished flowering
The flowers produced by flower bulbs have made the garden sparkle with colour for weeks – they’ve made it so inviting! But now that they are finished flowering, what should you do with the flower bulbs? The sight of their flowers withering and their stems and leaves turning yellow isn’t very attractive. But is it best to cut them back now or not?

Two choices for flower bulbs that have finished flowering
What to do with flower bulbs that have finished flowering is entirely up to you. Would you like to enjoy the same flower bulbs again next year, and do you enjoy gardening? If so, you can store them. If you want to avoid some work and try new varieties and colours next year, you don’t have to do anything.

Storing flower bulbs for next year
People who really enjoy gardening more often choose to store the flower bulbs they lift after flowering so that they can enjoy them again next year. The most important rule to follow is to leave these flower bulbs in the ground until the foliage (stem and leaves) they produced dies back. This allows these flower bulbs to reabsorb the nutrients from the foliage so that they will have enough strength to grow and flower effectively again next year. Once both the leaves and stem have died back entirely, the flower bulbs can be removed from the ground. They can then be stored in a cardboard box placed in a cool dry location until they are planted in the ground again for next year’s growing season.