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!

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. After studies at the University of Toronto and Laval University where he obtained his B.A. in modern languages in 1978, he succeeded in combining his language skills with his passion for gardening in a novel career as a garden writer and lecturer. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He is a regular contributor to and horticultural consultant for Fleurs, Plantes, Jardins garden magazine and has written for many other garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening, Rebecca’s Garden and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 50 other titles in English and French. He can be seen in Quebec on French-language television and was notably a regular collaborator for 7 years on the TV shows Fleurs et Jardins and Salut Bonjour Weekend. He is the President of the Garden Writers Association Foundation and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. An avid proponent of garden tourism, he has lead garden tours throughout Canada and to the gardens of over 30 countries over the last 30 years. He presently resides in Quebec City, Quebec.

2 comments on “Hide Bulb Leaves in Decline

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

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

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