CO-Horts

CO-Horts

Monday, June 2, 2014

Leave Those Leaves!

By Micaela Truslove
Broomfield County Extension


There is nothing more delightful than early-blooming spring bulbs pushing through the snow; the first sign that spring has arrived. What is less delightful is when the flowers begin to fade, the leaves discolor and flop, and you are left with a clump of sickly looking foliage that is begging to be ripped out and tossed into the compost pile.

But wait! As tempting as it is to tidy things up by chopping off the yellowing foliage, these spring beauties need those fading leaves to feed the bulb for next year's blooms. When the foliage is removed too soon, bulbs may fail to bloom next spring. Tying or braiding the foliage may make things look a little more orderly, but it also reduces the amount of leaf area that is exposed to sunlight, which can interfere with photosynthesis and food storage (and it sounds horribly tedious).
As unattractive as the fading leaves of these tulips are, 
remember to leave those leaves to ensure you'll have 
gorgeous blooms next year.

Do remove the flowers as they fade. This will keep things looking neat longer and helps to conserve the bulb's energy by redirecting that energy back into the bulb and not into seed production. This will also prevent the more unruly bulbs, such as Muscari, from running rampant throughout the garden.

If the weather is warm and dry and the leaves are still going strong, continue to water. It may take four to six weeks before the foliage dies back and is ready to remove. Once this happens, remove it by gently pulling it from the ground (it should come away easily), or trim with scissors.

If you enjoy having spring flowering bulbs, but don't want to look at the unsightly foliage once they are past their prime, consider planting them among perennials that will leaf out in time to disguise the senescing leaves. Try mixing bulbs with coral bells (Heuchera spp.). These come in an ever-growing assortment of colors. Alison's last post has some great suggestions. Bearded iris (Iris germanica) is a great accompaniment to taller bulbs, such as daffodils. Others to try are Oriental poppy (Papaver orientale), Hosta and daylily (Hemerocallis).

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