Tulips and daffodils are the two most common spring flowering bulbs, and they are blooming.
Now it is time to allow the bulbs to restore the nutrients lost during the blooming process. Once the plants are finished blooming, the leaves are collecting energy and storing the energy in the bulb for next year’s flowers.
The plants should not be cut down or removed until the leaves turn yellow and easily pull off from the main stem, which is a couple of months away. It is time to remove the dead flower and stalk. The flower is now forming a fruit called a capsule. This is taking away energy from next years’ bloom, so remove the flower stalk as soon as possible, but do not remove the leaves.
Later, after the plants have gone dormant, there are two schools of thought regarding care of bulbs.
The first is to leave the bulbs in the soil to naturalize. This is less work, but if the bulbs are left in an area you continue to water, they tend to rot. Also, they are a favorite food of gophers and other rodents, who can wipe them out in a few hours. Finally, bulbs have special roots called contractile roots, which can pull the bulbs deeper into the ground.
The bulbs do this to overcome the soil shrinking during the winter as the soil freezes. Since our soil does not freeze in the winter, or not very deep, over a few years the bulbs have been pulled so deep they cannot bloom. If you plan to leave your bulbs in the soil, try to buy bulbs that state they are naturalized or easily naturalized. I find daffodils often naturalize and survive, they are poisonous, and gophers normally leave them alone. Tulips and hyacinths are very hard to naturalize.
The other school of thought is to dig up your bulbs after they have gone dormant. This prevents the disadvantages of leaving them in the ground. However, the bulbs could dry out while they are being stored or even get too hot if stored in a warm area, like a garage. And mice will eat the bulbs if they can get to them.
If you plan to dig up and store your bulbs, first let them go dormant, dig the bulbs and place in moistened sawdust or green moss. Not too wet or the bulbs will rot. Store bulbs at 50°F or so. Check the bulbs occasionally to make sure they have not dried out or rotted.
Another alternative is the combination of the two, after the bulbs have gone dormant, dig up your bulbs and replant at the appropriate depth. This is called lifting your bulbs. This counters the bulbs being pulled deeper into the soil. The soil can be cool, especially if mulched.
Any way you plan to treat your bulbs is fine, the key is to allow the plants to grow normally as long as possible, to store up food for next years’ flowers.
Next Saturday at Antelope Valley College will be a free landscaping workshop on how to use rocks and boulders in your landscape. This free workshop will be in building TE3 which is on the north end of the campus. The workshop starts at 9 a.m. and goes until 11. No advance registration required; just come by.