Hide Bulb Leaves in Decline

After they finish blooming so beautifully, spring bulbs, such as crocuses, daffodils, tulips and hyacinths, go through an ugly duckling stage. While their leaves remain green and healthy for a few weeks, they then start to yellow and die, not so nice to see. Sure enough, they eventually decompose entirely, but in between, they don’t look that great.

The usual advice is to leave the leaves intact as long as they are green (after all, you do want them to “charge their batteries” for next year’s bloom), but then to cut them off when they turn yellow. However, that’s quite a job! As a laidback gardener, I prefer the other option: to simply hide the yellowing leaves from view, leaving them to decompose on their own, out of sight and out of mind. 

And to hide them, I use other plants.

I never plant bulbs all on their own. I mostly mix them with deciduous perennials, ones that come up later in the spring, such as hostas, daylilies, grasses, yarrows, delphiniums, ferns, phlox, asters, brunneras, and my favorite, giant fleeceflower (Persicarai polymorpha). (I can hide an entire bed of bulbs behind one giant fleeceflower plant!) Their new leaves sprout just as the bulbs stop blooming and quickly hide the bulbs’ leaves from sight even before they start to turn yellow. So, no clean-up, yet the bulbs can slip into dormancy sight unseen.

You can use deciduous shrubs, especially those with arching stems, in much the same way: plant bulbs so they’re perfectly visible during their flowering, but where their yellowing foliage will be hidden from view as the shrub fills in with leaves.

So simple!

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, laidbackgardener.blog will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

2 comments on “Hide Bulb Leaves in Decline

  1. Pingback: How to Rev Up Curb Appeal – Laidback Gardener

  2. Don’t braid daffodils! Who ever thought that was a good idea?! It only draws attention to what should be obscured.

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