Baffled by Bloomless Bulbs?

Tulips in full bloom

Tulips in full bloom

“I think every gardener must have done this at least once.  Even experienced gardeners that know better try it.  I’m talking about cutting back the dying foliage of blooming bulbs.” This tip is by garden guru Marianne Binetti in her book, Tips for Carefree Landscapes.

She reminds us that despite our best intentions, when we grow weary of those ugly, lingering yellow leaves from daffodils, tulips and other spring-flowering bulbs, we MUST be patient and let them die back naturally so that they can regenerate. Otherwise, we’ll risk not having any blooms in subsequent years.  Sure, the following spring we’ll get signs of hope, with green foliage popping up everywhere.  But that will be it . . . no blossoms, no delightful spring color, no glorious bouquets.

The best solution for dealing with unsightly spring bulb foliage is to plant them at a distance where you can’t notice the mess, or interplant them with large-foliage perennials like daylilies, echinacea, ornamental grasses, hardy geraniums, Volcano phlox, or small shrubs like Flower Carpet roses, etc. That way, as the perennials and shrubs grow up, they’ll hide the spring bulbs’ foliage but will still allow them to go through their natural die-back process without interruption.

daffodils and azaleas

Daffodils interplanted with azaleas helps to conceal foliage die-back.


obscured with foliage

The old daffodil foliage is barely noticeable when surrounded by Flower Carpet Amber and Scarlet

Rainy weather – prevalent throughout the US this spring – lengthens the time it takes for spring-flowering bulbs to die back. So, hang in there, put up with the mess and you’ll be rewarded two times over next spring!

interplanting bulbs

Daffodils are interplanted with Flower Carpet Scarlet.

Flower Carpet Scarlet

By early July the remaining daffodil foliage is almost impossible to see.

For more great gardening tips and a question and answer forum, check out Marianne Binetti’s blog on



4 Responses to Baffled by Bloomless Bulbs?

  1. Free2bme July 2, 2013 at 7:12 pm #

    Thanks for this – great ideas about planting among Flower Carpets as they are such early prolific bloomers (I have a planting of Amber at the base of my driveway that is the envy of all my neighbors!)

    Wanted to share this trick my grandma taught me to deal with bulb foliage while it’s re-nourishing those bulbs. Using the strands of foliage themselves, I tie it all into a low knot along the base at the ground — so it stays in a little ball until it dies off. It can be tricky to do – but just takes a bit of patience. Now it makes way for my perennials or I can add in a few of my annuals and I don’t have to look at all those old / yellow spikes …

  2. Your Easy Garden Team July 3, 2013 at 1:49 pm #

    Thanks for the tip. We’ll use it next year.

  3. David Pearsall April 18, 2017 at 8:28 pm #

    I have tulips that have been bloom-less for several years in a row. I believe I have let them die down each year, but I’ll surely do it this year.
    Does the age of the bulb have any effect? If I hold them back one year before replanting will they still bloom?

  4. Your Easy Garden Team April 19, 2017 at 1:30 pm #

    Hi David, it sounds like you’re doing everything correctly, but it’s not unusual for tulips to stop producing flowers over time, even if they’re fed each spring and fall. You can try to dig and replant them in the fall but you may be better off buying some new ones. The Darwin-hybrid varieties tend to last longer than the other varieties.
    The online/catalog sources we recommend for the best quailty bulbs are Colorblends and Easy To Grow Bulbs, both of which offer Darwin hybrids.

    Happy spring!

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