Garden Myth: to Make Narcissus Bulbs Ripen, Knot or Braid Their Leaves

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20170604A Suga, Bulbs Forum

What not to do: knotting narcissus leaves. Photo: Suga, Bulbs Forum

Now that spring bulbs (tulips, narcissus, hyacinths, crocus, etc.) have finished or almost finished blooming, depending on your climate, all that remains for you to do is let the foliage “mature” (turn yellow and dry up). Afterwards, if the dead leaves are still visible, you can remove them without harming the plant: their role is done. If at that point the yellowing leaves are hidden by other plants (and that’s often the case), you can simply let the old leaves decompose where they lay and enrich the soil.

So much for most bulbs, but narcissus (daffodil) leaves last longer than those of most other bulbs: often 8 to 10 weeks… well into July in some climates.

An old but persistent belief says that to hide narcissus leaves from view, you can simply tie them into a knot or braid them and push them to the ground. That way they’ll be less visible. Moreover, there are many gardeners who believe that this task is not optional, but something you really need to do: that you have to knot or braid the leaves after the plant blooms if you want a good display of flowers the following spring.

This well-meaning advice keeps popping up on gardening blogs everywhere: it’s too bad it just isn’t true!

Just Let the Leaves Be

20170604B Nancy Bremner, Pinawa Life.jpg

Braided narcissus leaves are less efficient. Photo: Nancy Bremner, Pinawa Life

In reality, twisted, knotted or braided leaves won’t be doing their job efficiently! After all, the underground bulb counts on the leaves above to capture sunlight and convert it, thanks to photosynthesis, into starches and sugars, thus ensuring nice big bulbs and good bloom the following year. If you tie or braid the leaves, you reduce the leaf area exposed to the sun and thus starving the bulb a bit, resulting in reduced flowering.

The best thing to do with the narcissus leaves after they finish blooming is… to leave them alone, period. They’ll disappear all on their own when their job is done!20170604A Suga, Bulbs Forum

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