Daffodils at sunset
Garden

Why Aren’t My Daffodils and Spring Bulbs Blooming?

Did your daffodils or other spring bulbs struggle to bloom this year? Spring bulbs lacking or failing to bloom are not uncommon.

And there are a few reasons that could happen.

One of the things I love about my early spring garden is the blooming of my crocus, tulip, hyacinths, and daffodils.

They are the perfect beginning to color and a succession of blooms in my front yard cottage garden.

I planted all in groupings a few years ago.

The first year or two, the results were stunning.

But a few years ago, my daffodils did not do as well.

I assumed it was because we had a wacky winter that year, followed by a wacky wet and cold spring.

But judging from the foliage and lack of blooms, something else is the issue, so let’s take a look at why bulbs refuse to bloom.

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Early Spring Daffodils

Why Aren’t My Daffodils Blooming?

After researching the issue, I found a great article from the University of Illinois Extension called Bulbs that Refuse to Bloom.

Spring Flowers Garden Tour

In order to evaluate what is affecting my daffodils, we must review the causes of bloom failure.

  • If bulbs were planted in fall and there are no blooms or foliage in spring, a critter, like voles or squirrels, may have eaten the bulbs.
  • Bigger bulbs produce better blooms. When purchasing bulbs, seek the largest bulbs possible.
  • Bulbs should be fed with a 5-10-10 fertilizer granules when planting in fall and when leaves emerge.
  • Bulbs may be overfed with nitrogen which encourages leaf production instead of flowers. So check the first number on the fertilizer bag. And be certain lawn fertilizer is not seeping in where bulbs are planted.
  • Lack of sun – bulbs need full sun to grow (roughly 6-8 hours per day.)
  • If planted in a garden, bulbs might be competing for nutrients with other plants. Neighboring plants that overcrowd or shade spring bulbs prevent nutrients from reaching plants.
  • Check the drainage where bulbs are planted because they need well drained soil so they don’t sit in water and rot.
  • Foliage that is cut back too early the prior spring affects the following year’s blooms. Bulbs store energy and need that foliage to prepare for the following year. Fold, tie and rubber band foliage to neaten up the appearance instead of cutting back to the ground right away. Do not cut the foliage back until it is yellow. If it looks unsightly to you, plant other annuals and perennials around the bulbs to conceal foliage that is dying back.
  • If bulbs were transplanted, they may be stressed from the move and need time to re-acclimate.
  • When bulbs produce weaker foliage, stop blooming, or otherwise lose their vigor, suspect a virus. If leaves have mottled or streaking appearance to them, dig them up and toss them before they affect other bulbs near them in the garden. Do not compost them.
  • Environmental conditions from the prior growing season.
  • If they have been located in the same place for several years, bulbs should be dug and divided after the leaves yellow in spring.
Double flowering daffodils

How to Troubleshoot the Lack of Blooms

To pinpoint how to fix the issues, it’s important to troubleshoot why daffodils and other spring bulbs don’t bloom well.

Daffodils

Look at the Environment

My daffodils have been in my garden for several years. New Jersey had a very wet, rainy year during 2018.

We had snow through April 2019 and the temps were not ideal during the prior year’s growing season.

Since we had a very wet year, poor drainage waterlogged this area of the garden at times.

So I suspect lack of drainage and excessive moisture are part of the problem.

My daffodils are planted in a perennial garden but are not competing with other plants.

They receive plenty of sunlight and are not shaded.

Daffodils at sunset

Fertilizer

I have not fertilized my spring bulbs since planting them – I just let them grow.

There are annuals in the area that I fertilize – I will check the nitrogen number on the bag to ensure it’s not too high for the bulbs sited in the same area.

Next year, I will add some 5-10-10 fertilizer to my bulbs when they start to break ground to see if that helps.

daffodils and tulips

Foliage and their Care

I let my foliage die back every and do not cut them back until they are pretty yellow, dried out and almost gone.

Therefore, that is not the cause.

After analyzing the foliage, I do not believe it suffered from a virus.

The foliage looks green and healthy – it just lacks blooms, so let’s rule that out.

Early Spring in the Cottage Garden

Location and Time Spent in the Garden

Since my daffodils have been in the ground for several years, I will dig them up when the foliage yellows, divide and move them to another spot in my gardens.

Hopefully, they will find future success in their new locations.

Daffodils

Final Thoughts

After researching and analyzing potential causes, there were a few issues affecting my daffodil blooms.

Excessive moisture from both the rain and lack of drainage.

The bulbs need to be divided, relocated, and fed with a 5-10-10 fertilizer.

I also needed to check the nitrogen level on the fertilizer I used for my annuals to be sure those spring bulbs were not receiving too much nitrogen.

Early Spring Flowers

How are your daffodils growing this season?

There’s nothing prettier than early spring blooms after a long cold winter.

So don’t forget to plant bulbs in the fall!

I hope you found this post helpful.

Spring Flower Garden Tour

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7 Comments

  1. I’m so sorry you had a little failure with your daffodils. Mine started blooming in February and are just now starting to fade. (I live in Va. Bch, Va. so makes a difference). Usually voles, moles, etc. do not touch daffodils as they are very poisonous. If you put them in an arrangement with other flowers, the ooze from them can kill other flowers. I definitely would not fertilize but that’s my opinion.
    I have grown them in shade and I think they boomed as it was my beginning year of gardening and they felt sorry for me.
    Thank you for all your investigative work. It helps all of us.

  2. Your garden looks amazing!
    Such great tips. It’s so frustrating when you dream all winter long about your daffodils and then they don’t come up in the spring. Ugh!

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