Garden Dilemmas, Delights & Discoveries, Ask Mary Stone, New Jersey Garden blog

Tidying Daffodil Foliage


Hello Fellow Readers,

Planting spring flowering bulbs brings the excitement of the anticipation of their emergence. Showing their little faces as dear Mom used to say, though I have no memory of planting bulbs as her gardening apprentice. Truth is, I’m a bit of a bulb newbie which may stem from mixed feelings about the daffodils I inherited. I adore them when they bloom. But after the flowers fade and the daffodil foliage begins to flop, well, they’re not pretty.


After the flowers fade, daffodil foliage begins to flop.


I recently learned of the standing ponytail technique…

Last fall we chatted about my trepidation prior to planting five hundred bulbs for clients. It was fun to plan the collection (check out Beautiful Bulbs Worth Waiting for on Thankfully, I had help with the first four hundred, making the solo planting of a hundred daffodils feel like a breeze. I planted them for an elderly couple who weekend in Stillwater.

“I used to have many daffodils in the lawn, but they’re mostly gone now,” Ron said. I suggested we plant new bulbs above their rock wall, choosing an assortment of daffodils (Narcissus) to offer blooms from early to late spring.

A few weeks ago, I dropped by to check on Ron’s gardens. As a mother in waiting, I was thrilled to find some of the new bulbs had bloomed and many others were about to. Then, during a second stop before Memorial weekend, I found all the daffodils were weed whacked down by the lawn service. I’m sure in the spirit of tidying up, not knowing the importance of leaving the foliage standing until it begins to turn yellow, about six weeks after the flowers are spent. I doubt the new daffodils had enough time to photosynthesis energy back into the bulb for next year’s display. Per the American Daffodil Society, “leaves removed soon after flowering by mowing or cutting back can severely deplete your bulbs.” Mystery solved why Ron’s original daffodil population was depleted.

While I usually just let the fading daffy foliage lay, there are tying up techniques to tidy the foliage. I loosely braid the foliage which reminds me of my long-braided locks as a kid. I recently learned you can take one long leaf and wrap it around a clump of others, a few inches above the ground, to create a standing ponytail. Then there’s the tie a knot with a clump of leaves making a donut looking thingy in the garden. Or, the fold over like folding socks and securing it with a loose rubber band or twine. The thing is if you tie too tightly the foliage will be restricted of air circulation and sunlight to photosynthesize, lessening the blooms next year. And so, my loose braids are my go-to in areas that I can’t stand the uglies of the flopping foliage. Though, I may give the ponytail technique a try. It’s always fun to try on a new hairstyle. Garden Dilemmas?


Loose braids are my go-to when I can’t stand the uglies of the flopping daffodil foliage.


Then there’s the tie a knot with a clump of leaves making a donut looking thingy in the garden.


… or, the fold over like folding socks technique…


Mary Stone, owner of Stone Associates Landscape Design & Consulting. As a Landscape Designer, I am grateful for the joy of helping others beautify their surroundings which often leads to sharing encouragement and life experiences. These relationships inspired my weekly column published in THE PRESS, 'Garden Dilemmas? Ask Mary', began in 2012. I dream of growing the evolving community of readers into an interactive forum to share encouragement and support in Garden and Personal Recoveries - seeking nature’s inspirations, stimulating growth, weeding undesirables, embracing the unexpected. Thank you for visiting! Mary