A Guide to Tulip and Daffodil Post-Bloom Care

Our tulips and daffodils heralded spring in the loveliest ways, and now It’s time to tuck them in for summer dormancy. A few care techniques promote perennialization for additional seasons of spring flowering. Follow along with gardening expert Katherine Rowe for guidelines on caring for tulips and daffodils post-bloom.

tulip daffodil post bloom. Close-up of blooming daffodils and tulips in a sunny garden. Tulip plants showcase a striking display of vibrant colors and graceful elegance. Their slender, lance-shaped leaves emerge from the base in a tidy cluster, forming a lush green backdrop for the tulip flowers. The flowers are bright red. Daffodil plants present a charming sight with their graceful, strap-like leaves forming neat clumps at the base. Rising from amidst this foliage are sturdy stems crowned with cheerful trumpet-shaped flowers, each boasting a distinctive central trumpet surrounded by six delicate petals. The flowers are bright yellow.


Daffodils and tulips burst forth with pure joy in the frosty spring garden. By planting varieties with staggered bloom times, tulips and daffodils provide riotous bloom colors and forms throughout the spring season.

Post-bloom care is key to perennializing daffodils and tulips, promoting an infusion of color the following spring and beyond. The goal for perennial spring-flowering bulbs is to maximize energy storage for the following seasons, including summer dormancy and overwintering.

With a few techniques to promote strong tulip and daffodil bulbs after flowering, the chances of naturalizing and perennializing improve. Daffodils and tulips are easy to grow and carefree garden performers with similar cultural conditions, though their post-care varies slightly as tulips are shorter-lived.

Select Perennial Bulbs

Tulips and daffodils grow best in areas with cool, moist winters and warm, dry summers. Hardy in USDA zones 3-8, they bloom for successional seasons where they naturalize and perennialize. Post-bloom care for tulips and daffodils is similar, though there are differences in their longevity.

Tulip Overview

Close-up of blooming tulips in a sunny garden. Tulip plants feature long, slender stems crowned with vibrant green, lance-shaped leaves that alternate along the length. Rising from the foliage are striking, cup-shaped flowers of bright red with an orange tint around the edges.
Choose perennial tulip varieties for enduring spring beauty.
botanical-name botanical name Tulipa spp
plant-type plant type Bulb, perennial or annual
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
water-needs water needs Moderate
height height 6-30 inches
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-8
soil-needs soil needs Organically rich, well-drained

Tulips bring grace and color to the springtime garden with their cupped blooms in single, double, or frilly forms and waves of color. Native to the Orient, tulips grow in the wild in mountainous steppes where winters are cold and wet, and summers are dry and warm. They grow during the cool season and flower in spring, entering dormancy during the summer. Flowers decline when soil temperatures warm above 70°F (21°C).

Tulips are short-lived flowering bulbs that bloom for a few years before fading. Most of the popular large tulip hybrids aren’t true perennials. Because their vigor is best the first year, many gardeners grow tulips as annuals or short-lived perennials. Tulips decline after each bloom season, so flowers aren’t guaranteed, but there are a few post-care techniques to give them the best shot at several spring flowering seasons.

The first step to growing tulips as perennials is to select varieties that naturalize or perennialize well. Species tulips are true perennials, generally shorter with an earlier bloom time than modern hybrids. Here are a few strong tulip selections to consider.

Tulipa fosteriana

Close-up of Tulipa fosteriana 'Orange Emperor' in bloom. Tulipa fosteriana 'Orange Emperor' is distinguished by its sturdy stems adorned with glossy, lance-shaped leaves. The large, goblet-shaped flowers boast vibrant orange petals with a slightly darker base and contrasting dark stamens at the center.
Vibrant petals of fiery hue illuminate the spring garden.

Fosteriana tulips originate in the mountainous regions of Central Asia. These perennial tulips feature elongated cupped blooms with slightly flared petals. Also known as emperor tulips, favored varieties include ‘Orange Emperor’ in muted orange hues, ‘Purissima’ in white, and ‘Madame Lefeber’ (or ‘Red Emperor’) in brilliant red.

Tulipa kaufmanniana

Top view close-up of blooming Tulipa kaufmanniana 'Ancilla' in a sunny garden. Tulip 'Ancilla' showcases elegant, broad leaves with a distinct gray-green hue. The blooms feature large, star-shaped petals with creamy white outer edges that gradually transition into soft shades of apricot and pink towards the center.
Ancilla’s delicate petals blush with soft springtime elegance.

Kaufmanniana tulips (water lily tulips) feature large blooms on short stems. Flowers are cupped, trumpeted, and slightly open with long stamens and a yellow eye. Popular varieties include ‘Ancilla’ with creamy white petals with red centers and ‘Guiseppe Verdi’ with red and yellow streaked flowers.

Darwin Hybrids

Close-up of 'Pink Impression' tulips in bloom in a sunny garden. Tulipa 'Pink Impression' presents a captivating display with its robust stems supporting broad, lance-shaped leaves. Each flower features large, cup-shaped petals in a soft, delicate pink hue with hints of peach, gradually deepening towards the center. The inner base of the petals exhibits a subtle flush of darker pink.
Rosy-hued blooms offer a striking impression in springtime gardens.

Darwin hybrids bear the most potential of the modern hybrid tulips in perennializing and are also long-blooming. Their true tulip form is simple and elegant, with cupped blooms in rich shades and vivid colors. Flowers are large on tall stems. Cultivars range from pure pink (‘Pink Impression’) to clear yellow (‘Golden Parade’) and bright red (‘Parade’).

Daffodil Overview

Close-up of blooming Daffodils in a garden against a blurred background. Daffodils boast sturdy, upright stems crowned with bright green, strap-shaped leaves. Each flower features a trumpet-shaped corona surrounded by six petals, known as the perianth, which are bright yellow.
Year after year, these resilient bulbs paint gardens with beauty.
botanical-name botanical name Narcissus spp
plant-type plant type Bulb, perennial
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
water-needs water needs Moderate
height height  4-20 inches
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-8
soil-needs soil needs Organically rich, well-drained

In their hardiness zones (the same as tulips in North America, zones 3-8), daffodils are carefree garden growers that bring spring flowers year after year. Long-lived daffodils colonize in the right conditions, producing new bulbs and plants for seasons to follow. These beauties grow wild in old homesteads and historic gardens, persisting through the years.

Unlike tulips, they’ll grow and bloom for years with the appropriate cultural conditions. They are low-maintenance bulbs in the landscape, though post-bloom care promotes plant vigor.

Choose the Right Garden Location

Close-up of blooming red tulips and yellow daffodils in a garden under full sun. The tulips display bold, goblet-shaped blooms in vibrant shades of red, ranging from deep crimson to bright scarlet. These blooms rise on sturdy stems amidst a backdrop of slender, green leaves. The daffodils boast sunny yellow petals surrounding a trumpet-shaped corona, set atop sturdy stems adorned with strap-shaped leaves.
Choose a sunny spot with well-draining soil for healthy bulbs.

The best foundation for growing tulips and daffodils as perennials is the proper planting location. They grow best in full sun to partial shade, including the dappled light of a tree canopy. Sunlight promotes the best flowering and health.

Well-draining soils are essential, especially during the bulbs’ dormancy period. Prolonged periods of soggy conditions in the summer or winter make plants susceptible to bulb and root rot. Evenly moist soils with good drainage are best during the growing season, while drier conditions in the warm season promote perennializing.

Tulips and daffodils do best with fall planting to allow a necessary chill period, or vernalization, for bulbs. At planting, add a layer of compost and mulch to help regulate soil temperatures, retain moisture, and suppress weeds. Mulch helps keep the soil cool during warm spells (bulbs are fine with cold temperatures within their hardiness zones) to keep leaves from popping up too early.

Fertilize in Spring

Close-up of fertilizing tulips in a sunny garden. A woman's hand in a blue glove pours white granular fertilizer onto the soil. Tulips display long, narrow leaves that emerge directly from the bulb. These leaves are smooth and glossy, often with a slightly waxy texture.
Spring fertilization boosts bulbs for seasons of blooms.

Healthy soils with fresh compost at fall planting may need no additional fertilizer. For perennial bulbs, especially short-lived selections like tulips, an application in spring helps bulbs uptake and store energy for the seasons to come. 

Apply a low-grade organic fertilizer (like a 5-10-5) after flowering. Avoid getting fertilizer on the foliage, and give a cleansing rinse after applying. Weeds become competitors for nutrients during this time, and hand weeding often benefits the bulbs.

Cut Off Spent Blooms

deadheading daffodils in the garden. Close-up of a woman's hands pruning faded daffodil flowers using red pruning shears. Daffodil plants present a graceful appearance with their sturdy, upright stems rising from the soil, each adorned with a cluster of vibrant green, strap-shaped leaves arranged in a tuft at the base. Atop these stems, nodding or upright blooms emerge, featuring withered buds. Their petals gradually droop, forming delicate, papery structures that gracefully bow towards the ground.
Deadhead spent blooms for healthier bulbs and prolonged flowering.

I’ll admit I’m not always good at following through with this when it comes to masses of daffodils, but spring-flowering bulbs benefit from deadheading spent blooms. If you’re hoping to extend the vigor of tulips, this is especially helpful for the plant.

Removing faded flowers prevents the plant from producing seeds. The energy that would go into seed production goes instead into food storage for the bulb. If flowers are wilting and dropping petals, it’s time to cut off the flower head or the entire stem. Remove only the flower parts and stalk – the foliage needs to stay in place.

Leave the Leaves

Close-up of a field of tulips with cut flowers. Between the rows of plants, the paths are covered with cut tulip flowers with bright red petals. Tulip plants boast elegant, upright stems that emerge from the soil. Surrounding the base of each stem are several long, slender leaves that fan outwards in a graceful arc.
Keep fading bulb foliage intact for healthy, prolonged growth.

While the strappy leaves of spring-flowering bulbs aren’t as attractive post-bloom, it’s important to leave them in place so plants continue to photosynthesize. Tulip and daffodil foliage continue to absorb sunlight and nutrients for the bulb, and removing leaves too early means halting bulb growth.

Remove leaves (if necessary) when they turn yellow and brown and easily separate from the top of the bulb. Yellow leaves mean they’re no longer working to support growth, and the bulb is entering dormancy. Leaves usually fade within six to eight weeks of flowering. If you hope to keep the garden bed tidy, this seems like a long time, but the transition is necessary for promoting healthy perennial bulbs.

To conceal tulip and daffodil foliage as it fades, plant bulbs among other perennials that emerge in spring and cover declining leaves. Hosta, astilbe, epimedium, lady’s mantle, and ferns are a few that bring fresh growth to the display and tolerate dryer conditions during the warm season once established. Additional plants also suppress weeds that crop up in warming temperatures.

If a late spring frost damages young tulip and daffodil leaves, keep them intact. After a cold snap, the foliage may turn partially white or straw-colored, but the green portions continue to process sunlight and store energy.

Dig, Move, Divide

division of the bush of wild daffodil. Close-up of female hands in blue gloves dividing a daffodil plant in a sunny garden on a green lawn. Daffodil plants present a distinctive appearance with their sturdy, upright stems, each adorned with a cluster of vibrant green, strap-shaped leaves arranged in a tuft at the base. The daffodil bulbs are characterized by their smooth, papery outer layers and firm, rounded shape.
Post-bloom is a great time to move and divide bulbs.

If you’re ready to divide groups of bulbs or to transplant them to other areas of the garden, it works to do this post-bloom. You can also move and divide bulbs in the fall (the ideal time for planting tulips and daffodils).

To move and divide tulips and daffodils, dig about six inches away from the bulb or cluster of bulbs. Dig the shovel, spade, or fork deep enough to lift the bulbs with a push. Separate any bulbs into singles or smaller clusters for transplanting. Small baby bulbs remain attached to the mother bulb; if they’re ready to grow independently, they’ll separate easily with a tug. If not, leave them attached to continue growing and plant the group together.

While daffodils spend the summer in place, some gardeners dig up tulip bulbs in the spring to preserve them for planting the following fall. Digging, or “lifting,” tulip bulbs for the summer spares them extreme summer temperatures and overly wet conditions, though it doesn’t guarantee reblooming. If your climate is hot and wet or you’ll be irrigating the site often and don’t want to risk leaving bulbs in place, lifting is a helpful technique.

Summer Storage for Lifted Bulbs

Close-up of a woman cleaning tulip bulbs in the garden. On the grass there is a dirty plastic round tray with several tulip bulbs. Tulip bulbs exhibit a distinctive appearance with their firm, rounded shape and papery outer layers.
After bloom, dry tulip bulbs for optimal storage.

If you decide to dig up your tulip bulbs to replant them the following fall, do so post-bloom and as foliage fades. Dig bulbs and gently shake off and remove excess dirt. It’s fine to leave some soil on the bulbs, as they’ll have the opportunity to dry. Check the bulbs for soft spots and moldy areas, and toss any with signs of these. Select only solid, firm bulbs to save – the bigger, the better for flowering.

To dry tulip bulbs, lay them in a protected ventilated area out of direct sunlight. The aim is to remove excess moisture so bulbs won’t weaken, get moldy, or rot in storage. Bulbs take a week or two to dry thoroughly. The bulbs are dry enough to store when the outer skin is papery.

Tuck the tulip bulbs in for the season in a mesh bag (like a citrus produce bag), shallow tray, or open crate. Keep them in a warm, dry spot like a garage, and inspect the bulbs periodically. Hang bagged bulbs for increased air circulation. Tulips are accustomed to warm summers and don’t need to be kept overly cool (like in a refrigerator) during their dormancy. Ideal storage temperatures are in the 60°F (16°C).

Gardeners use refrigerated cooling to “force” tulip bulbs to bloom in areas that lack winter chill periods for vernalization. Tulip bulbs need a period of cold temperatures to produce flowers, so fall planting is ideal in areas with cool winters. Planting in the fall provides the necessary vernalization period over the winter for spring blooming. Forcing with cooling is also beneficial for bulbs planted in the spring. If you missed fall bulb planting or prefer to plant bulbs in the spring, provide artificial vernalization through cooling or purchase bulbs “pre-chilled.”

Leaving Bulbs in Place

Close-up of a gardener digging up tulip bulbs in a sunny garden. Tulip bulbs with dry stems and leaves exhibit a dormant appearance, with the once-green foliage now brown and withered. Amidst this faded foliage, the bulbs themselves retain their firm, rounded shape, covered in papery outer layers.
Let tulip foliage fade before pulling them up post-bloom.

Leaving bulbs in place is the best bet for daffodils and, for many of us, for tulips, too. It’s best to reduce watering after the bulbs bloom and foliage fades. Stop watering a few weeks after flowering. Tulips and daffodils rely on regular moisture during the spring growing season, but upon dormancy, they don’t need excess moisture (again, their natural habitats experience arid summers).

You’ll know tulips have finished their life cycle when you have a season of large foliage but no flowering. Pull them up, add them to the compost pile, and start fresh in the fall. When growing tulips as annuals, remove them right after flowering. I’m also not good about removing masses of tulips, but it minimizes the rotting bulb factor by plucking or digging them.

Bulbs in Containers

Close-up of Narcissus bulbs after flowering in a brown plastic pot on a wooden surface. The stems, previously adorned with cheerful blooms, become brown and brittle, while the leaves lose their color and texture, appearing desiccated and papery. Amidst this fading foliage, the bulbs themselves retain their firmness, covered in papery outer layers.
Container-grown daffodils thrive post-bloom with proper care.

Tulips and daffodils grow beautifully in containers. After blooming, treat the bulbs the same way you would in-ground plantings by stopping watering and lifting them (tulips) for storage or transplanting them into the garden (daffodils). 

Final Thoughts

Daffodils and tulips bring a long season of fresh beauty to the garden, starting in late winter and lasting into late spring. Daffodils are reliable perennials with hardy selections tailored to both cold and mild climates. Tulips are short-lived perennials with certain strong varieties more suited to reblooming season after season.

A few post-bloom care techniques for tulips and daffodils promote healthy bulbs for multiple seasons of color. Daffodils, especially, are durable growers. Some gardeners win with tulips that rebloom, but for many of us in variable climates, we’ll appreciate their annual grace of form and color.

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