Are your daffodil bulbs not flowering this year? Spring bulbs lacking or failing to bloom are not uncommon. Learn what causes it and how to fix it with these simple tips.


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.

Did your spring flowering bulbs fail to bloom too this spring?

In this post, you’ll learn why that happens and how to fix it.

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Understanding How Daffodils Grow

Daffodils grow from bulbs and are considered an easy-care flower. The bulbs are planted in the fall, about 2 to 4 weeks before the ground freezes. After staying in the cool, dark ground throughout the winter, they bloom in spring. They are typically one of the earliest spring flowers to appear in my garden each year.

How Many Years Will Daffodils Bloom?

Daffodils are spring-blooming flowers that typically bloom for about 2-4 weeks, depending on the variety and environmental factors.

After blooming, the foliage will continue to photosynthesize and gather nutrients for the bulb, which will allow the daffodil to bloom again in subsequent years.

With proper care, daffodil bulbs can continue to produce blooms for many years, often 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 Are My Daffodil Bulbs Not Flowering?

Spring flowering bulbs like daffodils, tulips, crocuses, and hyacinths are a delight to see in gardens and landscapes, providing a burst of color and cheer after the long, cold winter months.

However, sometimes these bulbs may not bloom as expected, leaving gardeners puzzled and disappointed.

There are several reasons why this may happen, including improper planting, insufficient sunlight or water, disease, or pest damage. In this context, it is important for gardeners to understand the factors that may impact bulb growth and to take proper measures to ensure successful blooms.

yellow and white daffodils

Why Do My Daffodils Have Leaves But No Flowers?

According to Iowa State University Extension, if daffodils have leaves but aren’t flowering, the plants likely weren’t able to store enough food in their bulbs in the previous year.  

Daffodil foliage typically lasts for about 4 to 6 weeks after blooming. During this period, the daffodil foliage is manufacturing food, which will allow the bulbs to bloom the following year.

If you cut off this foliage before it dies back naturally, the plant may not be able to store enough food in its bulbs and may not flower the following year. Make sure you let your daffodil foliage die completely before removing it.

If you don’t love the look of the foliage that’s dying back, there are a few options: conceal the foliage by planting perennials or annuals around it or braiding the foliage so it neatens up the plant’s appearance.

Since I prefer an easy-care approach in my gardens, I prefer the former and plant other perennials and flowering annuals around my daffodils to hide the dieback and spruce up the beds.

close up of daffodils in garden with green fence

What Do I Do If My Bulbs Don’t Bloom?

If your bulbs don’t bloom, there are several things you can do to encourage them to bloom in the future.

  • Ensure that the bulbs were planted at the right depth and spacing in well-draining soil with enough nutrients.
  • Make sure that the bulbs are getting enough sunlight and water, as well as any necessary fertilizer.
  • Check for any signs of pest infestations or disease, and take appropriate measures to address them.
  • Be patient -it’s possible that your bulbs simply need more time to establish themselves before they bloom.
  • Consider dividing or replanting. If your bulbs are overcrowded or have become too old, they may need to be divided or replanted to encourage blooming.

When evaluating what is affecting daffodils and other spring flowering bulbs, we must review the causes of bloom failure. And several things can impact flowering.

close up of tulip 'creme upstar'
Tulip ‘Creme Upstar’

12 Reasons Why Spring Flowering Bulbs Fail To Bloom

  1. If bulbs were planted in fall and there were no blooms or foliage in spring, a critter, like voles or squirrels, may have eaten the bulbs.
  2. Bigger bulbs produce better blooms. When purchasing bulbs, seek the largest bulbs possible.
  3. Bulbs should be fed with 5-10-10 fertilizer granules when planting in fall and when leaves emerge.
  4. 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.
  5. Lack of sun – bulbs need full sun to grow (roughly 6-8 hours per day.)
  6. 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.
  7. Check the drainage where bulbs are planted because they need well-drained soil so they don’t sit in water and rot.
  8. 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.
  9. If bulbs were transplanted, they may be stressed from the move and need time to re-acclimate.
  10. 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.
  11. Environmental conditions from the prior growing season.
  12. If they have been located in the same place for several years, bulbs should be dug and divided after the leaves yellow in spring.
My Early Spring in the Garden Tour with gorgeous pink tulips in the front yard garden

Troubleshooting Common Spring Bulb Problems

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

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.

Look at the Environment

Consider the impact that the environment had over the last year to see if something may have impacted flowering.

For example, 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.

white Daffodils at sunset

Fertilizer

Have your spring flowering bulbs been fertilized lately? 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.

tulip pink perennial at sunset by stone wall in garden

Foliage and Its Care

Did you leave the foliage be and allow them to yellow before cutting them back?

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?

tulips that bloom like peonies

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

After going through this thought process and ruling out any obvious issues, 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. Learn more about how to divide perennials.

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

Read my post to learn how to plant bulbs in the fall.

light pink tulips and daffodils

Common Problems with Other Spring Bulbs

Why Did My Tulips Come Up But No Flowers?

Spring-flowering bulbs require a cold stratification period of 8-16 weeks to encourage flower buds inside the bulb. Without that chill period, you may only see foliage with no blooms.

Why Are My Crocuses Not Flowering?

Crocus plants need precise soil conditions to grow well. If your crocus bulbs aren’t flowering, check your soil quality first. 

The soil pH should be between 6 and 7. Make sure they’re getting enough water too, especially if you live in a very dry region. Finally, check the density of your soil and make sure it’s not too tightly packed. This can make it hard for the delicate crocus shoots to break through.

purple crocus flowers
Crocus

Why Are My Hyacinth Not Flowering?

Most hyacinths need their bulbs to experience a chill to bloom, so they do best in areas where winter temperatures are consistently in the 30s (like New Jersey!). 

If you live in an area with warmer winters, you may have trouble getting your hyacinth bulbs to bloom like perennials. Instead, you can pre-chill bulbs your bulbs in the refrigerator and treat them as annuals.

purple and white hyacinth flowers
Purple and White Hyacinth Flowers

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.

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.

white narcissus bulbs in the backyard garden with green garden fence

More About Spring Flowering Bulbs Not Blooming

Do you have any tips for fixing the lack of blooms? I would love to know more in the comments below.

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narcissus planted en masse

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daffodils in bloom
daffodil garden in early spring

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Happy planting – enjoy your day! xo

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Want to learn more about me? I’m a master gardener who’s been gardening and growing things for over 25 years and author of the best-selling book, The Bricks ‘n Blooms Guide to a Beautiful and Easy-Care Flower Garden. Get the inside scoop about my background as a master gardener, education, and experience, as well as why I started blogging here.

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15 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?

  6. Stacy
    I never knew you shouldn’t cut back the daffodils until the foliage is completely dead. I’ll be sure to follow your tips in the future. Thank.