VIU Milner Gardens and Woodland

What should I do with bulbs after blooming?

by Vancouver Island Master Gardeners Association

Question: What should I do with bulbs after blooming?

Answer:  After our spring bulbs have finished blooming and have accomplished their purpose of bringing beautiful colour to our gardens there are a few tasks we should attend to in order to ensure they are able to gather as much energy as possible for successive years' blooms.

Narcissus bloom Milner Gardens & Woodland 

Photo courtesy Milner Gardens & Woodland..

The first thing you should do as your flowers die back is deadhead them so they do not put valuable energy into producing seeds. Seeds use up the energy your bulbs need to bloom the following season. Do not remove any leaves, however, until they are completely yellow and die back naturally as they provide the energy that the bulbs need for next spring. 

The leaves can become quite unattractive as they die back and you may want to consider planting bulbs amongst other plants that will fill in where the bulbs were and hide some of the unsightly foliage.  Another option is to actually lift the bulbs from the area and transplant them somewhere out of sight, but plants do prefer to be left in place if possible.  If you do choose to lift bulbs use a garden fork to gently loosen the soil around the bulbs and try to keep as much of the root system intact as possible.

If you have bulbs that are not hardy, you will want to wait until all foliage has died back and then you will need to lift them before frost.  As bulbs go dormant for the winter they can be lifted carefully and stored in a variety of ways after allowing them to dry in a cool, dry space out of direct sun.  Gently brush as much soil as possible off the bulbs, but be careful not to peel away protective layers that surround the bulbs.  Store your bulbs in paper bags, perlite, or dry peat moss and place them in a dry, cool location (35-50 degrees Fahrenheit) and plant again in the spring when all danger of frost has passed.

By taking these simple steps you will have your bulbs producing gorgeous blooms year after year.

Fall Bulbs FAQ Milner Gardens Bulbs FAQ Milner Gardens & Woodland

Photos courtesy Wanda Brenton.

For gardening questions in the growing season, contact the Gardening Advice Line.