Why Do My Daffodil Buds Die?

Why do my daffodils buds die? They come up normally with a wonderful bud and then fail to open and die?

Doug says:
If it’s an older variety, the do tend to get bud blast (for which there is no cure) and have to be dug out and thrown away.

Some of the modern varieties will do this if the bulbs are overcrowded.

Dig them up this fall, divide and replant immediately if they are overcrowded.

There is also a disease called “Fire”

This causes the flowers and foliage to rot away but doesn’t bother the bulbs. Cleanliness is next to godliness on this one along with some serious spraying with lime/sulphur to control the fungus.

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Bulb Mites

Bulb mites will also do this causing the buds/flowers to deform or not open.
The cure here is to dig the bulbs and soak them in an insecticide (soapy water) for 24 hours that kills off spider mites. Dig in the fall or after the leaves have yellowed.

That’s roughly your choices. I also note that environmental stress is the primary cause of flowering problems but it may not be here.

How to tell which is the problem?

Personally, I’d be looking for the overcrowding first if the daffodil bulbs are over 5 years old.

Spraying the daffodil buds with lime-sulphur is a good idea in any case to knock back any fungal problems and you can do this immediately.

Then I’d check for bulb mites (maybe dig one bulb up and examine with magnifying glass in all the little cracks and under the bulb scales). Spraying with lime-sulphur is a good idea in any case to knock back any fungal problems and you can do this immediately.

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How You Can Easily Clean Up Pollen From These Lilies

You know a plant is wonderful when you see a football playing jock carefully harvesting the blooms of lilies because “They look pretty good.”  And with that direct approach, a large armload of flowers trucked off to an unnamed university town somewhere in Ontario to grace a student apartment.

While it is too late to plant lilies for blooms this year, there will be boxes of them at your favorite garden center this fall. It is important to recognize a few differences between the more than 100 species and 7000 registered varieties available on the horticultural market.  While those are the ultimate choices, a garden center is likely to carry the four major groups: Asiatics, Orientals, Longiflorums, and LA hybrids with a choice of varieties in each of the groups.

And I do have to admit that the garden, now minus a few blooms, was spectacularly lovely with its display of lily blossoms and didn’t miss that armfull.

Asiatic Lilies

Asiatic lilies have medium height stems with a massive display of brightly colored flowers and make the best cut flowers of any of the lilies on the market.

Their flowers vary in shape from simple bowl-shaped to fantastically recurved petal shapes so do examine the photographs on the packaging to ensure you like the flower you are planting.  Not only shapes vary with the Asiatics but also the color range goes from the softest pastel shades of the French watercolorists to the most dramatic and fiery reds and oranges imaginable in a flower.

Asiatics normally produce five flower clusters per stem and they are usually the cheapest of lily bulbs.  With this economy, you can buy enough to give you massive displays that will be the envy of the neighborhood.

The only negative with Asiatic lilies is they are not fragrant.

Oriental Lilies

Oriental lilies, on the other hand, are prized for both their large flowers and the heady fragrance.  These are flowers the way flowers are meant to be!  Recurved petals gracefully roll away from the main flower body, the flower is one of the largest of the lilies, the colors are flamboyant, the long stamens mark them as different and the center markings down the throat of the blossom are quite distinctive.

These are show-stopping plants both in the gardens and in floral arrangements.  They are also the most expensive of the lily bulbs.  This is the story of my gardening life; it seems I always want the most expensive of plants.  I console myself with the fact that plants are cheaper than bingo or booze.

Madonna Lilies

I’ve written about Madonna lilies or Lilium longiflorum before.  This will be the first lily I’ll replant in my new garden.  Fragrant, a wonderful cut flower (although I resist and resent anybody who would cut one of my Madonna lilies) and a classic white flower shape and form make this one of the longest cultivated flowers in world history.

Remember they throw an evergreen rosette in the fall that resembles a weed and in my younger gardening days, I actually tried to weed this rosette out of lily patch. It was not one of my finer horticultural moments.

L.A. Hybrids

LA hybrids are a modern introduction and are a mating of longiflorum (L) and Asiatic (A) lilies and not the city of Los Angeles as is sometimes suggested.  These are wonderful general use lilies but do check the packaging to ensure you get the growing habits you want.  As you might imagine, some are fragrant while you could spend all afternoon with your nose stuck up others and still not smell anything. They are, however, excellent garden performers and make superb cut flowers.

Cut Flowers

If you have lilies in the garden and you want to cut them for flowers or you want to buy a few stems, let me suggest a few simple techniques to make them last longer.

  • Cut or purchase the lilies with buds that are just about to open but showing a bit of color.
  • A flower or two being open is OK but resist those whose stems are covered with open flowers.
  • When you get the stems home, recut the bottom of the stem taking about one-half an inch off and immediately put the stem into a vase of water.
  • Do use a floral food but cut back the amount by half.  Lily blooms are light feeders in the cut flower world.
  • And know that a cut flower arrangement featuring lilies can last upwards of two weeks if you change the water every few days.

How To Deal With Lily Pollen

One drawback to lilies is their sticky pollen.  This yellow sticky stuff can indeed stain upholstery or other fabrics if untreated.  The International Flower Bulb Centre passes along these tips for dealing with lily pollen.

  • Do not brush the pollen off the fabric with your hands.  Oils from your skin will set the pollen into a stain as will the use of water or a wet cloth.  Instead, let the pollen “dry” for a bit and then carefully brush it away with a soft tissue or brush.
  • Sticky tape also works really well.  Gently dab bits of tape on the pollen to pick it up.
  • Use this magical trick if some pollen remains on the fabric after this cleaning; put the fabric in direct sunlight for a few hours and the pollen should disappear.  Don’t ask me where it goes, I’m as intrigued as you are.
  • And last but not least, the solution of choice for cleaning gardening clothes is to use one of the enzymatic detergent pre-cleaners.

I note that using or growing the first pollen-free lily ‘Tiara’ will solve all these problems.
The only problem it won’t solve is how to shoehorn yet another lily into the garden.  But that is a problem for another day.

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How To Grow and Overwinter Caladium Bulbs

Let’s dispel some myths about this plant

A Caladium is one of the most misunderstood bulbs in our tender bulb growing arsenal and I’d like to dispel a few myths and tell you how to successfully grow and overwinter this bulb.

  • To begin with, it comes in a stunning variety of leaf colors (you grow it for the leaves and not for the flowers).
  • The second thing, while it does grow from seed, it’s best to start with tubers.
  • The main thing to understand is this is a serious heat-loving plant but you have to ensure the variety you’re growing will take the full sunshine (many won’t and get burned leaves in the full hot sun)
Image courtesy at Pixabay

Growing Details

Plant when the soil temperature in your area hits 70F. (Yes, this is a late date in many areas)

Do not try to grow on clay soils — they really want a well-drained soil.

Shade is good for Caladiums. Seriously, when you see the leaf edges turning brown, the odds are it’s either too much sun or perhaps a lack of water. They’ll keep their leaf color all season in the shade.

Only plant in sun with 6–8 hours a day of sunlight if they’re a guaranteed full sun variety. Any more and they’ll burn.

Feed regularly and/or grow on a well-composted garden area. (they grow well when fed well)

What About Planting Them?

  • Plant in any direction. There’s a “top” that’s knobby and a “bottom” that’s smooth but the reality is they’ll grow when planted in any direction.
  • Put in ground so you cover the tops with one and a half to two inches of soil.
  • Soak after planting.
  • Plant bigger bulbs 12-inches apart and smaller bulbs 6–8 inches apart

(Do not put anything down the hole and do not enrich the soil with anything at planting time.)


When the soil temperatures go lower than 60F and before the first frost, harvest the bulbs by digging them up.

Protect from any frost!

Let sit with leaves on in a well-aerated spot out of the sun until the leaves go br

At this point, the leaves can be snapped off — each will leave a small, smooth scar.

  • Store warm (no colder than 60F) for the winter.
  • They prefer a high humidity during storage.
  • Do not put them in a warm, dry spot.

Note if your bulb is growing — but really poorly — it’s likely been exposed to a bit of too-cold temperatures during storage.

A big problem with overwintering this bulb is gardeners don’t allow the bulb to “cure” with the leaves on before putting in storage.

The second biggest problem is they bulbs are not kept warm enough or in high enough humidity during the overwintering stage.

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How To Improve the Life of Cut flowers

Here’s how you can keep cut flowers alive even if the relationship doesn’t last longer than the weekend.

First Important Step

The most important thing to do after you’ve unwrapped those gorgeous messages of romance is recut the stems while keeping the stem-ends under water.

Stems that are dried out, even for an instant, will kill the cells at the stem end, preventing the flower from drawing water and shortening bloom life.

Cutting on a diagonal increases the surface area from which the flowers can absorb water up.

Moving to a Vase

Once you have made the cut under water, immediately move the stem to the water-filled vase.
Remove all foliage that will be underwater.

Underwater foliage will rot quite quickly, allowing bacteria to grow in the water and these, in turn, reduce the bouquet’s bloom time.

Changing Water

Plan on changing the water daily (at the very least every second to the third day) to reduce the water bacterial counts.

Each time you change the water, do snip a short bit off the end of each stem (underwater) – this will further extend the life of the cut flower.

Floral Preservative

Floral preservative is good stuff for flowers. It contains anti-bacterial water conditioners along with flower food and acidifying agents.

If your florist gave you some, use it.

If you don’t have it, a dash of clear sugar-based drink like Sprite will work.

Aspirins, contrary to most popular lore, don’t do anything for cut flowers although they may work very well on post-Valentine Day party heads.

Placing the Vase for Success

In placing the vase to admire, avoid full hot sunshine, drafty, too-warm places, next to heat ducts or the top of appliances such as televisions.

Any place that has heat or sucks moisture out of the bloom is to be avoided.

Grocery Store Cut Flowers

If you buy the flowers yourself from the grocery store (always a good idea because it shows you’ve spent the time yourself and you can get several for the same price as a florist arrangement) do think about the vase you’re going to put them in. I note that old jam jars and peanut butter jars work well but yogurt containers are too light and wide-mouthed to hold up a good bouquet.

If you have decided on one of those really tall arrangements, don’t insist on placing it on the dining room table during dinner. Nobody can see through it and eye-to-eye contact is the rule over a flowery yet meaningful dinner.

The old rule of thumb was that one-third of the height should be the vase and two thirds the flowers. I’m reliably told that designers ignore this rule now but our grandmothers never would have. You choose – modern designers or your grandmother.

One tip I will suggest you follow is to make sure the vase is the appropriate size for the flower. For example, if you try to force a single gladiola bloom into one of those tall, thin rose-bud vase thingies, you’ll find you have to water the darn glad every hour on the hour or it will wilt.

Ensure your vase contains enough water for at least 24 hours.

The corollary to this is not to squeeze so many flowers into a vase that there is no air space between the stems. This squeezing also supports bacterial growth and shortens flower life.

Having said all that, the flowers and the thought are the thing here. I’ve never had a complaint when I bring flowers no matter if I use an old mason jar to hold them.

Designing for Neophytes

Now I know that every reader is a designer at heart and doesn’t need to get instructions from me.

However, for those non-designers, let me make a few suggestions.

If you have a tall flower such as a delphinium, snapdragon or gladiola, use a tall vase. The lines of the flowers should be extended by the long lines of the vase. Short, dumpy vases make the tall flowers look out of proportion.

On the other hand, if you have a wild bunch of varied height flowers, use one of the shorter vases with a bulbous bottom or heavier bottom to allow flowers to appear wider and full in the arrangement.

There are a few special rules for cut tulips and daffodils:

Recut under water like all other cut flowers. Unlike most other cut flowers, tulips keep growing in the vase and over their lifespan on your kitchen table they’ll grow about an inch taller.

They’ll also move around in search of the light creating a ballet of slow-motion. While I think this is part of their charm, some folks like to keep them straight and here’s the trick for doing that.

Remove the tulips from the vase and roll the tulips in a newspaper so that the paper extends above the flowers but leaves the bottom third of the stems bare.

Recut the stems under water and, still wrapped-up, place in a container of cool water for an hour or two. This will allow the tulips to soak up some water and being held in place, the stems will straighten up.

An interesting bit of floral magic!

Don’t bother using cut flower food on tulips. Research has shown they don’t need the food but they do require lots of fresh clean water.

Change that water every two days and your tulips will last significantly longer than if you don’t change the water.

Longest Life Trick for Cut Tulips

For the longest life, keep the tulips in a cool spot away from direct sunlight or heat sources.

Don’t put them next to radiators or heat vents for sure.

Daffodil Warning

And if you decide to add some daffodils to your cut flower mix, you have to “prep” the daffodils before you use them in a mixed arrangement. A cut daffodil secretes gummy substances from the cut stems and this gum blocks the stems of other flowers causing them to die early.

If you use daffodils, cut their stems under water and soak them in a vase all by themselves for an hour or three. After this soaking, they can be added to the mixed cut flower bouquet with no danger.

Three Rules You Need To Understand For Great Tulip Care

Tulip care is a simple thing

Tulip care is (luckily for us) a fairly simple thing. This plant really isn’t bothered by any serious insect pests so we can pretty much forget about that. So what is it that you have to do to ensure you have great tulips from year to year?

Rule of Leaves

Grow the leaves, not the flowers. If you concentrate on making sure your gardening grows great leaves on your tulips, then those leaves will produce superior flowers year after year.

You do that by not cutting the leaves down, tying them up, or doing anything else to them until they turn yellow. Yellow leaves on your tulips are a sign that the bulbs have stored enough energy and are now ready to go dormant until next spring.

If you cut the leaves off before they go yellow, the bulbs will not get enough energy to produce a large flower. They may get enough energy to survive a winter and produce a smaller flower. And every time you cut the leaves off too early, you weaken the bulb so it either doesn’t produce flowers or it simply dies.

Allow the leaves to go yellow before cutting them back.

The Simple Tulip Care Rule For Watering Tulips


Watering bulb gardens in the summer is a major cause of tulip death. You think you’re doing a good job of tulip care because everything needs water. Right? Wrong!

Tulips are genetically designed to grow on high mountain slopes where there is adequate spring water but absolutely no water during the summer months. They go dormant to preserve water inside the bulb and get ready for the following spring. When you water them, they rot.

So folks who plant annuals over top of bulbs and then water to keep the annuals flowering can expect this damp soil to rot out their tulips.

This is why many gardeners have a short-lived tulip bulb show. Too much water.

Rule of Feeding

Tulips don’t require yearly fertilizing. There isn’t too much plant food available up in the mountains on steep slopes and bulbs have developed so they do not require a lot of plant food.A feeding of compost over top of the bulbs in the spring and/or fall is all the average bulb requires. Some folks like to feed their bulbs bone meal thinking the phosphorus is good for bulbs and roots.

Given that phosphorus is relatively insoluble and relatively immobile in the soil, putting bone meal on the soil surface means it not only doesn’t break down but what does break down stays on the surface. Tulip roots are a good 8 inches below the surface so the fertilizer doesn’t get there.

Applying bone meal to the surface of the garden makes the gardener feel better (and the garden center that sold the product) but doesn’t really help the bulb. It’s a good feeling though.

And no. Do not put fertilizer down the planting hole. This only burns the roots and is a typical beginner gardening mistake. Trust me on this one, a feeding on the soil of compost in the spring is all the tulip care you need to do.

So that’s the deal. It may not have been what your average garden center wants to sell you but treating your bulbs with casual respect (allow the leaves to grow) and benign neglect (don’t water) will give you big healthy flowers for as long as possible.

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Additional Information Readers Ask

  • The average hybrid tulip may flower well for 4–5 years if not watered at all.
  • Finally, I’m sorry to say once a tulip stops blooming, it’s almost impossible in our garden settings to get it to rebloom again. (dig and toss it).

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Moving Flower Bulbs: When To Do It and When It’s Best Not To

I get asked all the time about moving flower bulbs so here are the general rules of thumb.

potted tulips
Photo by Amber Maxwell Boydell on Unsplash

If The Bulb Is In A Pot

If the bulb is fully grown, in soil, in the pot, then it can be moved at any time. Take it out of the pot and plant it at the same depth as it was in the pot – in other words, the soil in the pot should be at ground level.

Do not do this if there is a danger of frost and your bulb has been greenhouse grown.  It will be “burned” by the frost.  Wait until all danger of frost has passed before planting outdoors.

While growing it in the pot, give it full sunshine, feed at least once a week with a houseplant fertilizer and water whenever your finger comes away dry if you touch the soil.

Moving Bulbs In Your Garden

If the bulb is in the garden and you have an insane desire to move it (maybe you’re moving and want to take a few hundred tulips along for the ride) then the rules are slightly different.

(By the way, if you’re selling your house, you should check on your legal sales agreement before moving flowers, sometimes you can’t. If selling it is always a good idea to have it written into the agreement that you can move plants.)

Can You Move A Bulb If It’s In Bloom?

This is not a good idea – sorry to say. The flower will start to fade with the shock. And it will be a very sorry sight – very quickly.

Moving Spring Blooming Bulbs

You can move spring-blooming flower bulbs immediately after they bloom if you do it:

  1. carefully and
  2. replant them as soon as possible at the same depth as they were in the original planting spot.

They won’t like it but if you replant at the same depth, they will likely survive. They may sulk for a year (not throw a flower the following spring) but will then recover for subsequent years.

Moving spring bulbs before they bloom is a tricky operation because the bulbs are actively growing buds at this time and they’re usually quicker off the mark than you are.

You can do it but expect to lose more bulbs along with the flowers.

I have moved just about every plant in my garden out of season at one time or other and if you do it carefully, without disturbing the roots too much you can try. Just understand that you may lose spring bulbs this way.

Photo by Amber Maxwell Boydell on Unsplash

It’s a Waste of Time to Transplant Tulips

Let me inject a note of honesty here about moving tulips.

In general, it’s a waste of time to move a tulip   This bulb generally is a short-blooming bulb – 2-3 years in most gardens – so moving it shocks it and you won’t get many flowers from them.  Not worth the labor in my opinion.

And once a tulip stops blooming, it will not come back.

Moving Summer Flowering Bulbs

Moving flower bulbs like summer flowering lilies (or other summer flowering bulbs) follows the same guidelines. Dig them early enough in the spring. Again, they’re not pleased by this but they’ll survive and you’ll rarely lose a season’s bloom if you get them early.

If actively growing above the ground, it is best to wait until after they finish flowering and the leaves start to fade.

They can be easily moved in the fall when they are dormant.

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Another Factor Not Many Folks Who Love Flower Bulbs Consider

The cost of bulbs is relatively low for the flowers they produce. In the course of moving, you have enough to do and worry about. And moving a few flower bulbs just wouldn’t be high on my list given the number of other things I’d need to do.

The cost to replace them with bulbs in your new garden is low.

And with a new garden, you get to experiment with new bulbs and flower opportunities.

You can get many of your flower bulbs questions answered here.

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