Fading Bulb Foliage

at Reiman Gardens in the events plaza with red tulips in spring

Every spring we wait eagerly for our spring bulbs to put on a dazzling show, but once the blooms have faded and fallen, we are left with yellowing foliage. Many gardeners are tempted to cut off the foliage, but this removes the bulbs source of food and makes them less likely to bloom the next year. Instead, try hiding the foliage with other plants. This method gives your bulbs time to store up energy for next year and provides a way to mark where bulbs have been planted.

Plant bulbs behind spreading perennial plants like hostas (Hosta sp,) or peonies (Paeonia sp.). These plants are just starting to come up when bulbs are in full bloom and will cover the foliage while it naturally ages and fades. Daffodil (Narcissus) foliage in particular blends in well with daylily (Hemerocallis sp.) foliage. When planting bulbs in fall, place them under the dripline of these plants to ensure coverage in spring.

Bulbs start yellowing right at the final frost date in Iowa, which means that summer annuals can be installed to cover the foliage. Using annuals instead of perennials allows for continuous color and control over how much of the foliage is covered immediately. One of the downsides is that annuals may need to be protected if a late frost hits.

Of course, yellowing foliage is a natural part of plant progression and it isn’t necessary to remove or hide it. Bulbs that naturalize may become too dense to cover up, or may spread away from the cover plant in subsequent years.

Enjoy the spring blooms while they are here and soon enough the foliage will die back to the ground and be forgotten.

Prepared by Lindsey Smith, Collections Curator