Updated/Fact-Chacked on May 16, 2022 by John
When you plant daffodils, you expect them to bloom and thrive properly and even spread. However, this is not always the case. Some years, the daffodils don’t yield any or enough flowers although there may be lots of green foliage.
Daffodils that are all foliage and no flower are called “blind”.
Causes Of Daffodil Blindness
The following are the major causes of daffodil blindness:
Pests such as narcissus bulb fly and narcissus eelworm attack daffodils. These pests attack and eat up growing flowering buds, thereby distorting the growth of the flowers and leading to poor flowering.
With insufficient water, the growth cycle of the daffodil will be interrupted. This may result in the daffodil being unable to bud.
In the absence of enough light for photosynthesis, the flowers can dry off due to a lack of sufficient nutrients in the daffodil. Daffodils need at least six hours of daily sunlight, and a shortage of sunlight can lead to daffodil blindness.
In the first year of being planted, most daffodils will do well, regardless of soil quality. But in subsequent years, they may need added nutrition to do as well.
If you have planted bulbs under your lawn last November as I did, they will be competing with grass for nutrition, so give them a little extra – if you can remember where you planted them!
When you cut off foliage before it naturally dries off, the daffodil will be unable to store food in the bulbs.
When you plant the daffodil in a shallow way into the soil, the bulb will be encouraged to keep dividing but will be too small to flower.
If you plant too late – after December – you will likely see a reduced yield.
There are certain diseases that attack daffodils including Narcissus Basal Rot and a number of daffodil viruses such as Narcissus Yellow Stripe Virus. These can cause a lack of flowering or even bulb death.
When you plant daffodils closer to one another, for example in less than 3-5 inches, this may cause poor flowering.
How To Control Daffodil Blindness
There are different things you can do to help control daffodil blindness.
Improve The Quality Of Your Soil
Use fertilizer and some organic matter. However, avoid using excessive nitrogen fertilizer as this creates lush foliage that can hamper flowering.
Mulching, using organic matter around the bulbs in spring, will improve dry soil considerably.
Buy good quality bulbs. Remove any diseased bulbs immediately and destroy them.
Feed the Bulbs
A once or twice fortnightly high potassium liquid feed, such as tomato food, after the daffodils flower, this can help them thrive.
Plant Bulbs Deep Enough, Wide Enough Apart
Daffodil bulbs should ideally be planted about 2-3 times their length. Daffodils near trees and shrubs may struggle for light, water and nutrients. If overcrowded, replant them further apart in the summer.
After the daffodil has flowered, give it plenty of water until the foliage starts to die down.
Diseased bulbs must always be removed and destroyed. Insect-proof netting from mid-May to the beginning of July can help stop the spread of fly-born larvae.
- Always deadhead your flowers.
- Don’t remove or mow the leaves immediately after the daffodils flower. Wait at least six weeks before doing that.
- Don’t knot the leaves. Allow the leaves to dry off naturally, otherwise, the bulbs won’t be able to store the energy they need.
Daffodil blindness can strike without warning but there are some things you can do to help prevent it from happening. Your daffodils, just like every other plant, need enough food, light, water, space and soil quality to thrive.
Many gardeners are confused because their bulbs did brilliantly the first year they were planted and didn’t the second. Rather than curse the garden centre you got them from, consider that your soil quality likely needs to be improved so your daffs can thrive, year after year.
John Green is a 46-year-old graphic designer living in Durham. John is RHS level 3 certified and owns an allotment in Durham.