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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.

For 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 spring-flowering bulbs refuse to bloom.

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Early Spring Daffodils

How Many Years Will Daffodils Bloom?

Daffodils can bloom for decades after planting.

They are an easy-care plant that generally thrives and blooms year after year.

But sometimes, bad things happen to daffodils and other spring flowering bulbs that prevent them from blooming.

daffodils for a centerpiece idea

Why Did My Bulbs Not Flower?

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

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

And there are several things that can impact blooms.

Spring Flowers Garden Tour
  • 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.
daffodils and tulips
  • 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.
Tulips in my cottage garden
  • 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.

So let’s consider all of the factors that can impact daffodils and other spring-flowering bulbs so we can narrow down what went wrong.

Daffodils

Look at the Environment

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

It might sound like a lot of work to dig them back up and divide them, but the time and effort will be worth it.

Because it will keep the bulbs healthy AND I’ll get more flowers for free. And we all want more flowers for free, am I right?

Daffodils

So What Do You Do When Daffodils Don’t Bloom?

After going through this thought process, try digging the bulbs up when the foliage has yellowed.

Then separate them into individual bulbs.

You can replant immediately, spacing them roughly six inches apart at a six-inch depth. Or you replant them in the fall.

If you prefer replanting in fall, dry the bulbs in a cool dry spot and store in a mesh bag or perlite. Keep them cool until you are ready to plant in the fall.

CLICK HERE to learn how to plant bulbs in the fall.

My front yard garden at sunset in early spring

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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13 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!

  3. Stacy, really informative post. None of my tulips came up this year but they were completely overtaken by puppies. Not sure how the puppies ever got there but there are hundreds of poppies where my tulips used to be. There’s always something new to keep you on your toes in the garden !!

    1. Oh no! Not the tulips!!! But poppies are so fun! I guess the wind blew some seed over there? I can’t wait to see your garden this year Mary!

  4. Thanks for this! I have daffodils that aren’t blooming so this is helpful. I think most likely mine need to be divided.

  5. Thanks!!! Out of a hundred bulbs that bloomed last year after being planted in the Fall of 2020, I only had a few bloom this year. 🙁
    Also, a good tip for what to do with the stems after they bloom is to braid them in bunches and tuck the end into the ground. This allows the stems to restore nutrients back into the bulbs and looks much more tidy. A trick I learned from my mom.

    1. Yes I’ve done that too! Now I just leave them – I don’t mind the foliage so much because I plant other things around them. I’m sorry your blooms weren’t that prolific – did you narrow down what it could be?