Why Don't Spring Bulbs Flower

It's very disappointing, after all the hard work in the autumn of planting bulbs, only to find they do not flower the next year.  The best time to resolve the problem is in the spring when the bulbs should be flowering and are in leaf. The most common reason for a bulb not flowering is that it has been planted too shallow. Whilst the plant is in leaf, but not flower,  is the best time to dig up the bulb and re plant to a greater depth. There can be different reasons for different types of bulbs and here are some tips to make sure the spring bulbs flower next year.

No flowers on daffodils - Blind daffodils

 

If daffodils come into leaf but produce no flowers they are known as blind daffodils the causes are:

 

  • Planting too shallow is a most common cause;  it is essential that bulbs are planted at least three times their height into the soil. This is the most common cause of daffodils not flowering. Mark the daffodils and then when flowering is over, dig up the bulbs and replant to the correct depth.
  • Very dry soil can cause blindness and it's a good idea if planting into dry soil to mulch the area to retain moisture and ameliorate the dryness. 
  • Planting too late daffodils can be a cause of no flowers. Daffodils need to be in the soil and planted by mid-September.
  • Mature clumps of daffodils can get overcrowded in which case lift and divide and replant. The time to lift is as the bulbs come into leaf and replant immediately. 
  • Defoliation and knotting can cause a problem. It may be tempting to make the tired foliage look more attractive but it inhibits the take up of nutrients by the leaves. It is important to  let the foliage die down naturally for at least 6 weeks post flowering 
  • If all else fails, feeding can assist in which case any suitable applied regularly after the blooms have faded.

No flowers on Tulips

It isn't easy to get Tulips to flower the following year,  and in this respect they are different to daffodils. Many Tulips should be treated as annuals but here are some tips to get Tulips to flower.

 

  • The planting depth is very relevant to Tulips which are more likely to come back the following year if planted more deeply. It is also not ideal to leave Tulips in containers year after year unless a deep container.
  • If planted too early Tulips may succumb to disease and, unlike Daffodils, Tulips should not be planted until late October and early November.
  • If you definitely want Tulips to return the following year, it is more likely the Darwin Hybrids will return than, say, the Parrots varieties. The page about tulip varieties has further information about perennial tulips.
  • Mice and squirrels love them. I have planted an entire container full of Tulips to find only a few stragglers bloomed and it was the pesky mice.
  • Tulips come from the part of the world with hot dry summers and cold winters under which conditions they return reliably year after year but those conditions are not prevalent in the UK hence it simply isn't easy to get Tulips to flower year after year. I treat them as annuals, because even if they do come back it is not usually with the same flourish as the first year's flowering.
  • Plant in an area of good drainage and after flowering take of the flower head and allow the foliage to die back naturally.

For most other bulbs, such as Crocus and Hyacinth a failure for the bulb to appear at all will be caused by predators such as mice and squirrels. A failure to flower is most likely to be planting depth, often planted too shallow. Advice on how to plant spring bulbs

Updated 14.10.2019