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What to Do with Daffodil Leaves After They Bloom

Daffodils are synonymous with spring, and you can do so many things with this beautiful plant to keep it healthy and strong season after season. It all begins with knowing how to care for it properly. They produce beautiful, usually yellow blooms. Some types can have orange or white blooms, as well. Most daffodil varieties do best in hardiness zones 4-9, but some varieties can stretch beyond other zones. Make sure the variety you plant is right for your area’s climate. 

These plants will self-propagate, forming new bulbs under the main parent bulb. You can help them along by dividing the new bulbs every few years. But what about the foliage of the daffodil? You can also do things with the leaves after they bloom and die off. Are you asking yourself what to do with daffodil leaves? I have just the answers you need.

daffodil flowers and an inset of bundled daffodil leaves.
Image credit: Backyard Garden Lover.

Daffodil Flowers

yellow daffodil flowers around the base of a tree.
Image credit: Backyard Garden Lover.

First, let’s cover the basics. Daffodils (Narcissus spp.) are a beautiful flower that is often known for heralding in the season of spring! Daffodil is the common name for all members of the genus Narcissus. Depending on who you ask, there are between 40 and 200 different species of daffodil and cultivars.

A spot with full sun is the best place for planting your daffodils, and the narcissus bulb will grow in seeking that sunlight for the plant’s health. The first thing you will see in the garden bed is that little bit of green, and you’ll know your pretty flowers will be on their way soon.

Daffodils are perennial bulbs that should return each year with additional blooms. In the best growing conditions, they can last for many years, returning every spring. Some of the daffodil bulbs will die off, but new bulbs will grow in, continuing the plant’s life. But what about the daffodil leaves?


Daffodil Leaves

Daffodil leaves are the green part of the plant that grows from the stalk. They serve an important function for the daffodils because they allow the plant to soak in the sun, giving it nutrients. This is essential for the bulbs to grow beautiful and strong. And what you might not know is that these leaves continue working to help produce a strong growing season the following year. The bulbs will grow again in early spring the following spring.

However, after flowering, the foliage will usually last 4-6 weeks (up to 2 months at most) and then die off. Before it completely dies, it will get droopy and floppy; many people consider this unsightly and want to do something with it. They may cut or tie them back with rubber bands; some people even braid them.

However, it’s best to leave it alone until it completely dies. It still provides a vital function to the plant, and it is needed. Much like a rose has thorns, this is just part of having daffodils. Let’s talk about this in more detail.

Should you braid or tie off the daffodil foliage?

When the leaves become droopy and unsightly, some people try to remedy this by braiding or tying them off, but we don’t recommend this because it prevents the leaves from being able to do their job and provides an adequate food supply to the bulbs.

You must deal with the leaves if you want those beautiful full blooms. If you braid them or tie them together, you reduce the parts of the leaves that get exposed to the sun, cutting off the food supply. Plus, it’s just a lot of work that’s not needed. You can spend your time and efforts on more important plant maintenance tasks.

What to Do with Daffodil Leaves

What can you do with daffodils when the flowers have died? Your heart might sink when your beautiful daffodils are dying. They lose their shape and start to droop and turn brown. They need to remain in place until they ripen and die alone. This is important because they provide a vital function: feeding the plant’s bulbs so they can continue to produce flowers next spring, too.

Cutting back or tying up the foliage can interfere with the bulbs’ ability to rebloom. You may see landscapers do this, but they are then paid to replant the next season, which accounts for the fact that they kill off using this “tidying up” process. By not doing this, you can maintain the new growth in the next season.

However, if you don’t like the unsightly look of the dead and dying leaves, you can disguise them in other nearby plants. Some good plants for this are daylilies, hostas, bee balm, peonies, and poppies. You can simply tuck the dying foliage behind and around the other plants, and you won’t notice it as much.  The best time to clean up this foliage is when it is already starting to brown and die off on its own.

How to care for daffodil bulbs

daffodil bulbs

The daffodil plant has different parts – the root, the bulbs, the leaves, the stems, and the flowers. The bulb is a very important part of the plant because this is where the food is stored, and food is essential to the growth of the daffodil now and in future seasons.

Daffodil bulb care is not overly complex. Small bulbs will start to come up first in early spring. In some cases, if there are unusually warm temperatures, you may even start to see them too early. If this happens and the weather goes cold again, you should do what you can to help keep them warm and protected until the cold weather clears for good.

You can feed your daffodil bulbs in the early spring with a liquid fish emulsion fertilizer at the first sign of foliage. Some people also use granular food in the soil, but you must be careful not to overdo it and burn the bulbs. If you use it, be sure to water it well after.

When to remove leaves or bulbs

There is an exception to our advice regarding removing leaves and bulbs from your daffodils. If they are diseased, then you do need to remove them. Sometimes, you can catch diseased leaves or bulbs early and just snip them off before they spread to the whole daffodil patch.

FAQs about Daffodils after Flowering

Here are some commonly asked questions about what to do with daffodils after flowering.

How do you go about cutting back daffodil leaves?

There is no need to cut them back, and we’ve discussed why you may opt to leave them be. However, if you want to, cut them back to about 5 inches when the tips turn yellow. This removes the dead leaves but leaves some for next season’s regrowth.

When do you cut daffodils?

Daffodils will continue to grow long after the flowers have finished blooming and it’s important that you understand when and how you should cut the daffodils for optimal health and growth of the plant. Deadheading your daffodils is not always needed, but you may want to because of the following:

  • The seed pods (only some varieties have the seed pod)
  • To conserve bulb energy
  • Due to aesthetic reasons

Why do daffodil leaves turn yellow?

The daffodil leaves will turn yellow in a few weeks after the plant blooms. This is normal for daffodils and indicates that the leaves have absorbed enough sunlight to create energy for the bulbs’ growth. The leaves will die off once they’ve done their job for the season.

How long does it take for the leaves to turn yellow?

Usually, it takes the foliage up to two months to turn yellow. This is how long the bulbs take to get sugar from the leaves absorbing sunlight. This is essential to growth. The daffodil foliage manufactures food for great flowers, including next year’s flower buds.

Final Thoughts

Cutting back daffodil leaves does not have to be a daunting task. It’s simple once you learn how to do it and do it correctly. This will allow you to prune your daffodils and cut back the dying leaves as needed. With the right care and attention, you can have beautiful blooms year after year. The daffodil is a good flower to self-propagate, essentially spreading itself for free. This makes it a good choice for your flower gardens or landscaping around the property.

Aside from the usual, there’s not much you have to do for your daffodils, but it can help ensure there is adequate sun and partial shade when needed, that your plants get enough water, and that you fertilize if and when needed.

Some people braid the leaves, but we don’t recommend this method because you need to allow the leaves to do their job for as long as it takes each season for the bulbs to be healthy and strong. Once they have completed this, they will start to die off, and that’s when you can remove them. Do you now feel more comfortable about what to do with your daffodil leaves after they start to die? 

what to do with daffodil leaves after them bloom
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Lisa Clark is a freelance writer who grew up on farmland, then moved to the city, and has now retired back to her rural roots. She's having fun teaching her kids about gardening, planting flowers, and collecting houseplants.

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Tuesday 11th of April 2023

Dear sir or madam.. Thanks for your useful data on growing daffodils.. every time I go my daffodil garden, I see some leaves have been cut down from soil base for no reason, I am almost sure that some pests are doing so, but have not found any clue yet, may be they party nights.. need your help. Thanks in advance, wish you the best..


Wednesday 12th of April 2023

It could be slugs or snails.


Friday 31st of March 2023

I just bought two planters of daffodils that are done blooming. They are very tall. Can I put those in the ground now since I live in Ohio and tomorrow is April 1st? I would prefer not to wait until fall.I would like to put them in the ground now. The label States Zone 4. -20to -30° non Hardy in zones 1-3


Friday 31st of March 2023

Yes, that shod be fine. Just be careful to move them with their leaves, as they'll need them to get re-established. Might need to water them in the first few weeks.

25 Beautiful Companion Plants For Daffodils

Wednesday 10th of August 2022

[…] However, their golden-yellow blooms eventually die back, and the bulbs start feeding on the plant’s remaining green foliage in preparation for its dormant phase until the foliage turns an unsightly yellow mess which necessitates the need for companion plants. Here’s what to do with daffodil leaves after they bloom. […]