Daffodil Blindness and what to do about it

 In Bulbs, Gardening, Gardening tips

Daffodil blindness – that is apparently healthy daffodil bulbs but without flowers- is a puzzle to many gardeners. It can be easily rectified and here’s how.

This phenomenon can be caused by quite a few issues and more often than not several of them together!

Shallow planting and planting depth

daffodil blindness

Bulb Planting

Perhaps the most common reason for daffodil blindness is too shallow planting. However this doesn’t account for those bulbs that have been undisturbed for many years suddenly failing to perform.

Generally, bulbs should be planted two to three times their height. That is standing the bulb on its base and measuring from the root pad to the very tip where the leaves and, hopefully, flower will emerge. So a bulb measuring 5 cm from bottom to top needs 10-15 cm of soil on top of it when planted! If your soil is sandy, free draining and rather ‘poor’ then it is wise to plant even deeper.

Daffodil bulbs that are planted shallowly tend to divide and grow many small bulbs. These are too immature and small to flower. If, when you dig a blind clump up, you find a lot of these small bulbs it might pay to plant them in your more fertile vegetable patch. Here they can increase in size before moving them back to where you want them to flower.

Other causes of daffodil blindness

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Daffodil ‘Fortune’

But there are other reasons that might cause daffodil blindness of flower bulbs. High on this list is our urge for tidiness! After blooming, bulb leaves are not very attractive and the temptation to cut them off early or to tie them up in knots should be resisted! Those leaves need to work hard at producing food that creates next year’s bloom. So until the leaves start to fade and turn yellow naturally, hold back with the shears and leave the knots to keeping your shoes on!

Give them feed

During the period after flowering you can help all bulbs to build up strength to form the next spring’s flowers by feeding. A tomato feed watered on is perfect for the job and an application at the same dilution as for tomatoes will make all the difference if applied at 7–10 day intervals for about 6 weeks.


Don’t let them go to seed

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Plant deeply!

Many bulbs waste energy by trying to form seeds and, whilst that is highly desirable with those that naturalise readily, in others that are more highly bred this is wasted effort. Nip the dying flower off at the top of each stem.

They like moisture

In some springs a dry period before flowering can lead to the immature flowers aborting. More often than not, dryness after blooming will cause the bulbs to fail to initiate flower buds for the following spring. Bulbs planted under trees that have grown bigger can result in daffodil blindness occurring. This is due to the soil becoming drier than it originally was when the tree was smaller.

Bugs don’t help

Occasionally narcissus bulb fly will attack the base of daffodil bulbs and eat the developing flower bud within. This too will cause daffodil blindness. Daffodil eelworm can have the same effect. In both cases the bulbs should be dug up and binned. Do not add them to the compost heap!

Be on time

Planting too late can also contribute to daffodil blindness. Daffodils should be planted by late September at the latest as they will begin to make roots as early as August.

Give them space

Of course overcrowding of bulbs is a common cause but easily remedied by lifting when the leaves turn yellow and replanting the bulbs again but at wider spacing.

More reading

If you care to read more on daffodil blindness I recommend reading this. 

There’s more on daffodils here.

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