Why don't daffodils last?

07 May 2019

DAFFODILS

Image of daffodils wilting in a field

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Question

Why did my daffodils flower in February this year and are now dead already?

Answer

Izzie Clarke asked plant ecologist Howard Griffiths, from the University of Cambridge, to provide a blossoming answer for listener Sarah.

Howard - Well, it just shows what clever things plants are because they always find a time and a place to be able to flower and produce seeds. And so the key thing to do is to wait and they'll come back next year because what they're doing at the moment with the leaves is they're now making reserves that they’re storing and putting back into the bulbs that will sit out and allow the plants to last right the way through maybe a hot dry summer in the Mediterranean or maybe a summer here, or maybe the shade of a forest canopy over and above when we are talking about bluebells for instance.

Bluebells are just about to start flowering, they have a similar response. These plants are called vernalised plants because they flower in the spring. And sometimes we have equivalent ones that flower in the autumn, the autumn crocus for instance. So they avoid competition from either environmental conditions or shade by flowering out of synchronisation with the main growing season for other plants, so they're vernalised plants. But one thing I would council is when your daffodils have finished flowering don't cut the leaves off.

Izzie - And why's that?

Howard - Because those leaves need to be carrying on making sugars to store to put back into the bulb for next year.

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