‘It doesn’t help them at all!’ Alan Titchmarsh warns of pruning daffodils too early

Alan Titchmarsh shares tips for caring for daffodils

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Daffodils, also known by their botanical name narcissus, are easy and reliable spring-flowering bulbs. This means by May, they can start to look a little worse for wear and may need some extra care to guarantee they bloom next year. What gardeners are often left with is green stems with ugly brown heads on them. Alan Titchmarsh spoke about how you can make sure your daffodils return next year to their former glory in a video for Waitrose & Partners in 2014.

He said: “The trouble with daffodils once they finish flowering is they’re not a thing of beauty.

“They do seem to last like this forever but it’s important that you make sure that next year’s flowers will be just as brilliantly produced as this year’s.”

For daffodils to remain healthy, Alan said there are several ways to do this.

Firstly, the brown flowers need to be pulled off with your finger and thumb as this stops them from setting seed, saves their energy and channels that energy right down into the bulb.

Alan warned against cutting daffodils off at ground level as this can affect whether the plant will flower next year.

Pruning them right away can disrupt their growth.

He said: “The other danger is that you think it’s really so tatty, ‘I’m going to have to take a pair of shears to it and cut it off at ground level’.

“Stay your hand. What it’s doing, both stalks and leaves with the help of sunlight, is producing food that’s sent back down into bulbs to fuel next year’s flowers.

“So leave it a good six weeks. At the end of six weeks you can scissor it off.”

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“If you’re even more patient you wait until it all dies down and then just pull it away.

“Don’t be tempted to tie them into pigtails or put elastic bands around them – it doesn’t help them at all.”

To give daffodils a further helping hand ready for next year, the gardening pro recommended giving them a feed.

Alan chose to use blood, fish and bone as his food of choice because he is an organic gardener.

He said the food contains the main three plant nutrients: nitrogen, phosphates and potash.

Alan added: “A handful or two of this stuff, which smells wonderfully earthy, sprinkled around each clump of grass that surrounds it and allows the rains to wash it in.

“A couple of handfuls to a clump is not too generous and that way the combination of taking off those seed heads allowing the sun to photosynthesise through the leaves and stalks that feed the bulbs, and using fertiliser around them will guarantee you flowers next year.”

However, if you really don’t like the look of your brown daffodil heads, then you can put them in plant beds with other foliage.

This means when the daffodils flower, they will look vibrant and beautiful.

However, once they start to brown and look “embarrassing” the foliage from the other plants will mask them.

The gardening expert added: “And any food you give the daffodils is also benefiting the border plants – nifty eh?”

Experts at Gardening Know How explained that daffodil leaves should not be cut back until after they have turned yellow.

They said: “Daffodils use their leaves to create energy, which is then used to create next year’s flower. 

“If you cut back daffodils before the leaves have turned yellow, the daffodil bulb will not produce a flower next year.”

Love Your Weekend with Alan Titchmarsh airs at 11am on ITV.

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