Top 5 Reasons Daffodils Don’t Bloom – “Why Aren’t My Daffs Blooming?”

A customer recently wrote the following question about daffodils not blooming:

“I noted with great interest the instructions for encouraging bulbs to bloom in their first season after transplanting. Would this work for old-yard daffodil/narcissus bulbs? For years I’ve dug bulbs from old houseplaces around here, but I’ve never gotten many blooms for my efforts. I have no problem getting new bulbs to grow and bloom. But these—the ones I most want to bloom—seem just to sit in the ground and put up leaves and a bloom or two here and there. I’m a seasoned (too well seasoned!) gardener, but I’ve been timid around these bulbs, of which there are hundreds. This is the summer I have determined to do something about them.  I live in North Central Louisiana, which is pretty much like East Texas.” – Gaye in Ruston, Louisiana

Here are 5 top reasons why daffodils fail to bloom:

1.            Location, location, location – like real-estate. Daffodils require at least a half day of full sun in winter, with a whole day of full winter sun being most ideal. The more sun, the more energy the bulb has to produce not only foliage, but a BLOOM!

2.            Genetics – like with athletes. All daffodils are not created equal. Pre-World War Two daffodils that have been around for 75+ years bloom faithfully over decades (e.g., Grand Primos and Campernelles). Post-World War Two, non-heirloom daffodils are weaker genetically over the long-haul. Non-heirloom bulbs start the blooming marathon with a sprint, only to run out of steam, failing to thrive in the end. Weaker genes usually generate large blooms for 4-6 years and end up as mostly clumps of foliage after that time (e.g., Carlton and Ice Follies).

3.            Planting Depth - As a general rule, plant bulbs 2-3 times each one’s height (bulb heights and sizes vary.) Planting too shallow can result in freezing bulbs in northern regions and scorching bulbs in warmer areas. Planting too shallow can also result in smaller bulbs, increasing only foliage, and runs the risk of surface damage from automobiles, farm equipment, shovels, and weeding with a hoe. On the other hand, planting bulbs too deeply usually increases the size of bulbs, while decreasing their numbers. Planting a bulb too deep into the soil may make the bulb work too hard to produce foliage, resulting in fewer or no blooms (This being said, planting too deeply is generally not the primary issue for daffodils that won’t bloom.)

4.            Over-fertilization – Think green. Nitrogen-rich fertilizer and soil produce a lot of green (that’s why people fertilize lawns!) If you feed the green too much, only green will grow. Thus, no blooms. Therefore, fertilize bulbs 1-2 times a year with a low nitrogen (N) fertilizer that is high in phosphorous (P) and potassium (K). A good bulb mix of N-P-K would keep the N at 15 or lower (15-15-15, 10-25-25, etc.)  Apply fertilizer moderately when bulbs are first planted, and then once again when they are in bloom.

5.            SoilGenerally, most narcissus (such as daffodils) prefer slightly acidic soil and will perform best there. You’ll find this soil stretching from east Texas to the east coast. If your daffodils aren’t blooming, your soil may be too alkaline and need more acidity. Even if you are in the right zone for a bulb, you might not have the best soil pH conditions. Clay-like soils usually need a little more acidity and organic matter to promote the best daffodil growth. Adding acidifying fertilizer can increase clay soil acidity, and adding compost can increase organic matter, improving moisture retention and aeration.

“No universal statements about bulbs can be made – it’s nature, you never know for sure,” says Chris Wiesinger, The Bulb Hunter. Bulb variety, soil conditions, and climate make each situation particular.” This being said, the top 5 reasons given above should generally be helpful in troubleshooting slow-to-bloom daffodils. Leave us a comment below if you have found other solutions for daffodils that are struggling to bloom.

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Michael

This post was written by who has written 46 posts on Bulb Hunter Blog.

Michael Hardy is Operations Manager for the Southern Bulb Co. and has just about seen and heard it all while interacting with customers. Enjoy his educational responses and refer to www.southernbulbs.com for more info or contact him at info@southernbulbs.com.

16 Responses to “Top 5 Reasons Daffodils Don’t Bloom – “Why Aren’t My Daffs Blooming?””

  1. Sally K February 25, 12 at 10:15 PM #

    I have read the five reasons daffodils don’t bloom and learned some new info. about bulb requirements. I transplanted mine in Dec. to a sunnier location. I have been gardening a long time on both coasts and I can definitely say that Dallas is a challenge. We have what my neighbors call black gumbo. I have amended and amended it. I am quite sure that the soil is not acid because my hydrangeas are mauve. I have added compost, green sand, garden soil and peat moss. My daffs did not bloom this year. Did I plant them too late? We have not had a hard frost this year and are in a drought condition. Can you offer any advice?

  2. Bulb Hunter March 5, 12 at 8:32 PM #

    Thank you for your comment! Moving daffodils in December most likely caused the bulbs to skip a year in blooming. The best time to transplant daffodils would be in late summer or early fall. They should recover just fine and bloom next year! We sympathize with you on attempting to amend your black gumbo soil. On a happier note the black soil you described is great for tulips who love to dry out completely in the summer. You may consider trying to grow them in your black gumbo!

  3. Helen March 7, 12 at 3:21 PM #

    Is it true that you have to leave the foliage to get a bloom the next year? I have always left mine to die back, but still have many non bloomers. I wonder if I should just dig them up ant try again in the fall. Also, if Dallas is like Tulsa we do not get a hard enough freeze for tulips to be anything but an annual. They must be fresh bulbs every fall.

  4. Bulb Hunter March 12, 12 at 8:48 AM #

    Allowing the foliage to die back should greatly help in seeing a bloom the next year! Are your daffs getting plenty of sun? It may help to divide them, separating them may stimulate more blooms. The best time to move them is during their dormancy or late summer. Thank you for your comment!

  5. Roy Knight April 22, 12 at 7:18 AM #

    I have some pots of daffodils on my patio, in plenty of sun when it shines. However, I have had very few flower this year, but plenty of green. I always leave them to die down naturally and also apply some feed at times.
    What can I do to improve for next year?

  6. bEN March 13, 13 at 1:31 PM #

    help! i’m afraid my soil is too hard for my spring-time bulbs to penetrate. They’re already planted and a couple are poking thru. How can i mix in peat moss or other without damaging up and coming bulbs?

  7. Bulb Hunter March 21, 13 at 8:32 PM #

    Hi, Ben! Thanks for writing in. I think at this point you need to let them go on their own. If some are already poking through, the others are most likely right below the surface so any kind of agitation of the soil might damage the bulbs. Wait for the bulb blooms and foliage to die down in late spring, dig the bulbs up, and go in there and amend the soil however it might need it. Not all bulbs like peat moss and fluffy, water retaining soil though! Just a little extra work (expanded shale, peat moss, some extra organic matter) will go a long way for bulbs.

  8. Bulb Hunter March 21, 13 at 8:51 PM #

    @Roy Knight…Roy, your comment was lost in some others and never approved! Our apologies and I hope the bulbs are blooming this year! It could be an issue of the pots…daffodils are dormant in the summer, but their temperature and moisture levels are well regulated by the earth. Hard to recreate that in pots some times–pots take every extreme (dry, wet, cold, hot) and magnify to much higher levels. Know this isn’t a great answer, but take some of the bulbs and put in them in the ground for a few years in full winter sun and see if they start blooming. Hope this helps!

  9. Larry Hill April 11, 13 at 10:34 AM #

    The daffodils were populating my yard when I moved in 28 years ago and have bloomed every year since – until this year. I have the long leafy greens but no flowers. Can’t figure out what happened> I don’t think I did anything different last year, unless i cut them back too soon and I only say that because of what i read about the danger of losing the photosynthesis by cutting back too early. I really don’t think that was the case.

  10. Bulb Hunter April 16, 13 at 8:40 PM #

    Thanks for writing in Larry. Any disturbances, weird dry, hot, extra cold weather throughout the year? New tree growth maybe shading out the leaves? Daffodils really like to try to get as much winter sun as possible. Hope we can help.

  11. Angela May 2, 13 at 1:24 PM #

    I was given a 100 bulb bag of daffodils in the winter 2012. I planted them in the fall 2012. The bag spent the winter on the floor of my garage in St. Louis, MO. Some of the bulbs felt squishy, but most felt firm and papery. The bulbs have grown beautiful leaves, but very few of the bulbs flowered.

    I am not a gardener and know very little about bulbs. I plan to wait until the leaves turn yellow and tie them back to decay naturally. Do you think they will bloom next year or should I just try to dig them up?

    thanks.

  12. Bulb Hunter May 2, 13 at 9:29 PM #

    Thanks for writing in Angela. I’m not sure if I’d spend much time playing doctor on these unless their pass-a-along heritage has some value to you. You could probably coax them back into blooming for you, and healthy foliage is a good sign, but it still might be 2 years before they bloom for you. Also, be careful when tying up the foliage…it really likes to collect as much sun as possible and send that food back down to the bulb before it goes dormant for the summer. So, bottom line is that you might get some blooms next year if the foliage was really nice this year, but it might take 2 years and some TLC before they’re spectacular for you. Hope this helps, and if your curious what TLC is: don’t disturb the bulbs, give them some source of potassium and phosphorus, maybe even a little nitrogen when the leaves first come up, make sure they get full sun during the spring, and give them the 2 years without prematurely cutting the foliage back before you expect anything.

  13. Horace Edmondson March 26, 14 at 9:47 AM #

    About 5-8 years ago , I dug up all bulbs from a bed, carefully replanted in the original bed, started a new one that was successful for several years , then stopped blooming. I continue to get good growth on the blades ,but no blooms at all in the new bed. The old bed is fine. All original bulbs were purched & good quality. I don’t fertilize or give them any attention, I would appreciate any help you may suggest . North Georgia.

  14. Bea April 2, 14 at 6:44 PM #

    About 10 years ago I brought some paper white bulbs from my father’s yard in Illinois and planted them in my Tennessee yard. The first couple of years they bloomed nicely. After that the blooms were fewer and fewer. The past two or three years they have come up with plenty of foliage but have not bloomed. Do I need to replant them, fertilize them or what. They are planted where they get a lot of sun. I really would like to get them to bloom since they are from a flower garden I planted as a young teen. Any help you can give me would be greatly appreciated.

  15. Bulb Hunter April 14, 14 at 6:44 PM #

    Hi Horace! Apologize for our delay. With a lot of modern (post WWII) selections of daffodils, we find that they need a lot of energy for those big trumpet blooms. As a result, when the daffodils are happy and reproduce greatly, the soil/nutrients can’t supply enough of what the bulbs need to keep the big blooms coming. That’s usually why a division of the clumps after 3-5 years and replanting in new areas gets them blooming again. Remember, bulbs love Potassium and Phosphorus, and don’t need a lot of Nitrogen. Check fertilizer bags for their N-P-K ratios and try to get a low first number (Nitrogen).

    One of the things we love about the heirloom bulbs, is that even though the blooms are smaller, large clumps can still support lots and lots of blooms with little to no care. That holds true even after 30+ years of no division of the clumps. Check out more info on the campernelles, jonquils, Texas star, grand primos, etc on our fall bulb page at http://www.southernbulbs.com.

  16. Bulb Hunter April 14, 14 at 6:48 PM #

    Hi Bea…thank you for writing in. Paperwhites can be so frustrating when they start to do that to us, especially since we just watch the foliage all winter long with no reward. What sets a lot of paperwhites back, especially in more northern areas of the South, are those early freezes that will freeze the buds right before they open. Be on the lookout for that. If no freezes come and they still don’t bloom, then probably need to hit them with a fertilizer rich in Potassium and Phosphorus. Go to your local garden center or local feed store and look for a fertilizer label with a low first number and higher 2nd and 3rd number on the N-P-K ratio. They can be hard to find and we typically see a 15-15-15 ratio. That would do the trick but use it sparingly. Too much Nitrogen and you’ll get beautiful foliage but never any blooms! Your local feed store can sometimes custom blend fertilizers for you as well. Good luck!

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