It’s not rocket science, y’all. Trimming and storing your garden bulbs is necessary for garden upkeep, and it’s easier than you think! Here’s what you need to know about trimming and winter storage to keep those beauties blooming brightly next year and the year after that—to infinity and beyond!

Trimming Your Flower Bulbs

Some bulbs can stay in the ground over the winter, and many require that period of cold conditions to bloom the following year properly. If you plan on leaving them in the ground, you won’t want to leave that foliage intact through winter! 

Dees Nursery-Long Island New York-Trimming and Storing Bulbs-cutting back bulb foliage
Spring bloomers typically require trimming before fall because the leaves will die and turn brown—not exactly a stylish look for the
fall garden. Summer bloomers often have foliage that doesn’t die until late fall. It can be tempting to leave it over the winter and save trimming for the spring, but we don’t recommend it! While many foliage plants, like ornamental grasses, look great through winter, tulips and daffodils will just get slimy and gross. Nobody wants to deal with that in spring when there are a hundred other cleaning tasks!

Tender bulbs that aren’t hardy to our USDA zone will require you to dig them up and store them safely until the weather warms up again. Trimming the leaves will make storage much easier and prevent accidentally bringing hidden insects indoors. 

Should You Cut the Leaves of Bulbs After Flowering?

Don’t start trimming the leaves off immediately after your blooms have faded! While plain green leaves may not be the most visually appealing plant to keep in the garden, it’s important to keep the leaves intact all summer and early fall until the frost arrives; your bulbs will continue to photosynthesize and create energy with their remaining leaves. They store that through the winter and use it to fuel their growth the following year. 

When Can I Cut My Bulbs Back?

We recommend waiting for the foliage to die entirely before cutting them down. Many garden experts recommend waiting a minimum of 6 weeks after your blooms have faded. As a general rule, if the leaves are brown and dry, they’re good to go. Late July or early August are usually good times to cut back flowers like tulips and daffodils. Summer bloomers are usually ready for trimming in late fall.  

Dees Nursery-Long Island New York-Trimming and Storing Bulbs-expired bulb foliage and flowersTrimming Cold-Hardy Bulbs, Like Tulips and Daffodils

Planning on keeping your bulbs in the ground? Using sanitized shears or hand pruners, cut back foliage all the way down to the base. Toss those trimmings in the compost bin—so long as they’re disease-free—and consider spreading a layer of mulch across the soil to insulate your plants. 

Trimming Tender Bulbs to Prepare for Storage

When the frost arrives, and the foliage dies, your tender bulbs are ready for trimming. Cut them back with sanitized shears, leaving a little bit poking out from the top, so you don’t forget where they are. Compost the trimmings, and you can proceed with digging up your bulbs for storage.

Storing Bulbs

If you’re planning on storing bulbs indoors, be very careful when digging them up from the soil! Work slowly and gently to prevent breaking or damaging the plant with your trowel. Brush off any excess dirt, then wrap the bulb in a piece of paper towel. Store them in an airtight container. 

Dees Nursery-Long Island New York-Trimming and Storing Bulbs-flower bulbs with sleeping faces

If you’re dealing with spring bloomers that require cold stratification, you can store them in the fridge! Plant them right after the snow melts or in containers in late winter. If your bulbs are summer bloomers that don’t need a cold period, store them somewhere dark and dry, like a shelf in the basement. 

Dees’ Nursery has your go-to experts for trimming bulbs in New York! Visit our garden center on Long Island or give us a call, and we’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have.