Harnett County,
North Carolina

Cooperative Extension 

Can I cut the leaves off my daffodil plants when they finish blooming?

January 19, 2006

Question Can I cut the leaves off my daffodil plants when they finish blooming?

Answer It is amazing how much the daffodil leaves bother folks. Why aren't people bothered by canna, daylily, or purple coneflower leaves? Some ornamental plants aren't anything but leaves (sweetpotatoes, kale, grasses, etc...). People don't rush to bushwhack them. Why do the daffodils trigger such a "must do something" response?

We may never know what triggers this foliar discrimination. People plant daffodils because they pop out of the ground in late winter. They are the first signs of spring. Daffodils represent warmer weather, longer days, Easter, and all that is good about Spring. People pick the yellow flowers and use them to heal themselves of cabin fever.

We have all heard the collective cheers of people admiring this brave little flower that proudly blooms in the face of old man winter. Every year people wonder whether the poor daffodil has bloomed too early. Has it jumped the gun this year? Will it be able to withstand the cold temperatures yet to come? Our concern for it's safety is as punctual as an atomic clock.

Ironically, people have another punctual behavior that is quite different. This behavior is triggered by the absence of yellow flowers. When the last yellow bloom fades, people immediately fail to recognize their symbol of spring. Instead of concern, folks turn on the defenseless daffodil.

Believe it or not, the daffodil foliage has a purpose. These green leaves are conducting a process called photosynthesis. Basically, they are making energy from the sun's light. This energy is stored in the plant's bulb. Next year's flower is also stored in this bulb. Therefore, these plain green leaves are nurturing the flowers that will heal people of cabin fever next year.

Resist the urge to touch the daffodil leaves until they turn yellow or brown. Don't tie them in a knot, braid them or clip them together with clothespins. Braided daffodil leaves have got to be making a reference to psychological health.

Some folks see gardening as a never-ending battle. There's always an ongoing war with weeds, diseases, and insects. Gardeners with this attitude are very likely to launch an attack on the daffodil. I

describe these gardeners the same way the History channel describes Abraham Lincoln. "He fought two wars. One was in his head."

Relax. Gardening is about releasing your mind and reducing stress. Don't think of the dying foliage as ugly. Think of it as natural. You can win the battle in your head. Feel free to deliver daffodil flowers to my office as a symbol of gardening bliss. If you want to know more about spring flowering bulbs, then call me at 910-893-7533, write me at PO Box 1089, Lillington, NC 27546 or email me at gary_pierce@ncsu.edu More info can be found on the web at http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/hortinternet/flowering_bulbs.html

 
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