What to Do with Spring Bulbs that are Past their Prime

Author: Loretta Wilken, Master Gardener

Cheery spring blooming bulb plants will soon be peppering the garden beds in Lakeside. They’re always a welcomed sight and a teaser of much more color to come. The question often arises of what to do with these beauties once they’re past their prime. Here are a few pointers…

  • Cut the stem of the spent blossom near the base of the plant, but don’t cut the green leaves back. They’re responsible for making food for next spring’s bloom.
  • Fertilize right after blooming with a complete fertilizer (10-10-10) around the plant base. Let the bulbs dry out in the beds once the foliage has yellowed, browned and gently tugged away at the base.
  • Dig, divide and replant every three to four years for maximum bloom. This can be done in the summer. Refrain from trying to hide plants once done blooming by tying or mulching over the still green foliage, just plant around them.
  • If you pick up a little beauty at the store or receive a potted bulb plant as a gift, once it has finished blooming, stop watering and let it die back on its own. Remove it from the pot and gently tug at the old foliage. If the old leaves resist, let it dry a bit more. Dust off the bulbs and plant right in the ground. Or if you would rather plant them in late September to early November, lay them on paper in a cool dark place until ready to plant. Do not be discouraged if they do not bloom for several springs. Forced bulbs need to store up a lot of depleted energy. One exception to the rule for a possible re-bloom are paperwhites; save time and discard these used bulbs.

If after several established years the bloom count in your bulb bed is still very low, too much nitrogen fertilizer may be the culprit. Another problem may be the area is too shady. Also, don’t forget that critters find some bulbs a delicious snack.

Find a packaged bag of bulbs in your garage that you purchased last fall? Check them for quality. Any mushy or dried up bulbs should be discarded and the rest planted now in your garden with some high phosphorus fertilizer.

Have more questions about caring for your home garden? Be sure to stop by the “Ask a Gardener” booth at the Farmers’ Market in Lakeside this summer.

Originally posted April 2018.

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