I have made no secret of my affinity for daffodils on my blog.
In order to feature them even more prominently in my spring landscape, a few years ago I started planting daffodil bulbs in planters around my porch and driveway. When, at the end of summer, I’m cleaning up the planters, I tuck daffodil bulbs into each planter for an early spring surprise.
It’s a dramatic show when they burst out of the planters- and I enjoy a beautiful burst of blooms in my planters before most gardeners even have a pansy out- but the challenge I faced the first year I tried this was what to do with the daffodil bulbs when the blooms were done and I was ready to do spring planting? For maximum growth and health, daffodils need to be able to grow, without being cut back, until they die back naturally in mid summer. I think many who plant planters for spring blooms simply treat their bulbs like annuals and discard the bulbs after blooming or relocate into a permanent spot in the yard after their bloom, but I’m too frugal for this approach.
I’m a fan of cultivated varieties of daffodils, and I wanted to be able to enjoy my bulbs year after year. So two years ago I decided to experiment with “oversummering” my bulbs in an out of the way corner of the garden, in onion bags, and thought I’d share about how well this method works for me.
How to Reuse (And Propagate) Potted Daffodil Bulbs
1. Start with quality, healthy daffodil bulbs, planted in your planters anytime before mid-February. (Yes, the gardening guru’s say to plant in the fall, but I like to shop for Daffodil bulbs on eBay after christmas, when many garden centers clear out inventory cheap.)
I like to plant my daffodills in early fall, when I change out the summer flowers for Mums. Here’s a photo of mums companion planted with daffodil bulbs:
2. Your container daffodils will come up and bloom in early spring. When they stop blooming, lift them by the root from your container one at a time. First place one hand on the base of the foliage and with the other hand use a trowel to loosen the dirt underneath the bulb. Lift the bulb (foliage, roots, and all) gently and set aside.
3. I cluster 6-12 plants together, depending on how big the bulb/plant is, and pressing the cluster gently together, stretch a mesh produce bag over the roots and bulbs, making sure the plant settles in the bottom of the bag. (It is important that the upper portion of the bag remain above the soil line when planted)[I don’t have photos of this part, but they should look like green onions in the sleeve of the onion bag, with bulbs at the bottom of the sock-shaped mesh bag]
4. Once all my bulbs are in bags, I dig a trench in a sunny spot of the garden and place the bags of bulbs in the trench at the same depth the were before being dug. I then cover them with soil and water them deeply and often until they are re-established. Thankfully, the cool temperatures and frequent rain of late spring make transplanting daffodils mid season fairly painless for the plant.
5. Daffodils like to be fed, and transplanted daffodils particularly appreciate gentle feedings once they’ve perked up a bit in their new home in the garden.
Here’s a photo sequence of digging the bulbs back up in the fall. In an out of the way corner of the garden, they’ve almost been overgrown by late summer. With greens naturally long dormant by fall, the above ground portion of the bag is crucial to locating and recovering the bulbs with as little disruption as possible.
The nylon mesh onion bags are cheap and work great to make recovering the bulbs easy.
You can see from this photo that the bulbs have thrived and set lots of new roots after being re-planted (evidenced by roots that reach through the mesh) Most bulbs dug and replanted through this method propagate, and even if you don’t want to move the daffodils from one spot to another, the mesh bags make it super easy to pull bulbs up, split, and replant.
Nylon or Polypropylene Mesh Produce Storage Bags
A review of the instructions above:
When the daffodils have finished their bloom in late spring and you are ready to plant your planters with late spring/summer flowers, remove the bulbs from their temporary home and place into large onion storage bags. Ideally, you want to disturb the roots as little as possible, but realistically, it would waste a lot of bags to bag entire root balls, so I shake off most of the dirt and place bulbs about 8-12 per bag.
Dig a trench in your yard or garden (pick an easy place to water) about as deep as the hole you removed your bulbs from. Place bags in the trench, foliage all leaning to one side of the trench, and cover with dirt. Be sure the tops of the bags are several inches above the soil line. Water well, and continue to water regularly. Plants disturbed like this in the middle of their growing season will need plenty of water to reestablish roots and grow. I go ahead and feed mine a few times during the summer, until they die back completely.
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Lindsayanne is a professional artist, writer, and serial-DIY-er with a knack for solving problems creatively at home, in the studio, out in the garden, and even online. Learn more about Lindsay, her training, and her background here.