Tulips and daffodils are the first signs of spring, eagerly anticipated after a long, cold winter. It’s a tremendous disappointment when, inexplicably, bulbs are not blooming. There are many possible reasons why your bulb plants are not flowering. Let’s do some investigating.
Reasons for No Blooms on Flowering Bulbs
Sunlight: Are your bulbs planted under the shade of a tall tree, or is something else blocking sunlight? Flowering bulbs need at least six hours of bright sunlight per day.
Poorly drained soil: Bulbs need regular moisture, but they won’t tolerate soggy soil. If you think this may be the reason why bulbs won’t bloom, dig up a couple and see if they have rotted. You may need to move your bulbs to a better location.
Poor quality bulbs: It doesn’t always pay to buy the cheapest bulbs, as they may produce small or scant blooms. Sometimes, poor quality bulbs don’t bloom at all.
Foliage was removed too soon: It’s tempting to remove foliage after flowering bulbs have bloomed, but green foliage absorbs sunlight that is converted into energy. Without the foliage, bulbs may not bloom the following year. It’s safe to remove the stems, but don’t remove the leaves until they turn yellow.
Fertilizer problems: Bulbs generally don’t require fertilizer unless the soil is very poor. If this is the case, it may help to feed them a 5-10-10 fertilizer as soon as foliage emerges, and again after the bulbs bloom. A high-nitrogen fertilizer may also be to blame when bulbs won’t bloom, as it may produce lush foliage but not flowers. For this reason, you shouldn’t feed your bulbs with lawn food, which is often high in nitrogen. Bone meal, however, works well at planting time.
Overcrowding: If bulbs have been planted in the same place for several years, they may be overcrowded. To resolve this issue, just dig the bulbs and divide them and plant some of them elsewhere. This can be done after the foliage turns yellow and dies down in late spring.
New bulbs: Sometimes bulbs don’t bloom the first year. This is normal and doesn’t indicate any particular problem.
Disease: Bulbs aren’t generally susceptible to disease, but it’s possible a virus may be to blame when bulb plants are not flowering. Viral diseases are usually easy to identify by mottled or streaky foliage. If you determine your bulbs have a virus, dig up all affected bulbs and dispose of them so the virus isn’t transmitted to healthy bulbs.