Why Do Daffodil Bulbs Not Open? 6 Reasons

Daffodils are some of the most attractive flowers that you can grow in your garden. However, sometimes, their bulbs don’t open into the beautiful blossoms that we expect to see. What causes these stubborn bulbs to remain shut when they should be blossoming?

Daffodil bulbs may fail to open due to environmental causes like changes in temperature, lack of nutrients, or being planted in inhospitable surroundings. Disease, damage, or clipping flowers or leaves too early can also cause daffodils to stay closed.

Wondering how to give your daffodils the best chance of growing successfully? Read on and I’ll go over the common causes for your flowers to have this issue, as well as some tips for how to ensure your flowers open into the beautiful blossoms that you desire.

Reasons Daffodils Fail To Open

Wondering why your daffodils aren’t opening as you expect them to? Use the information below to identify the root cause.

1. Changes in Temperature

As with all plants, seasonal changes have a big impact on how daffodils grow. First-year daffodils need an adequate ‘chill time,’ where they’re exposed to temperatures between 35 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit (1.7 – 7.2 °C) for 13 – 15 weeks, in order to grow successfully and give you the blossoming flowers that you’re looking for.

In years after that, temperatures in the previous season can also impact the daffodil’s ability to bloom. Extremely hot or cold weather that follows after daffodil blooms may cause the following year’s blooms to fail to open. If possible, plan on how to shelter your plants from harsh weather to avoid this issue.

2. Daffodils Planted in Shallow Soil

Gardeners know that the soil you plant your flowers in is crucial to their successful growth. In the case of daffodils, you need to plant your flowers at an adequate depth to help them grow to their full potential. 

To give your daffodils the best chance of success, plant them in soil that is between 6 and 8 inches (15.2 – 20.3 cm) deep. Planting them too shallow can result in the stalks growing but no bulbs opening into the blooms you’re looking for. Planting them too deep can also be counterproductive.

3. Removing Foliage Too Soon

When daffodil blooms and leaves begin to fade and wilt away, you may have the understandable reaction to want to trim them away. After all, the drooping blossoms don’t really add to the healthy look of your garden. However, resist the urge to begin trimming the leaves right away.

It is generally fine to nip off spent flowers with 2 inches (5 cm) of their stalks using your fingers to save the plant’s energy. Leaving the flowers on the plant will require energy for seeding. Removing them will redirect that energy to food production for the bulb.

Meanwhile, daffodil foliage needs time to gather energy from the sun to prepare for next year’s bloom. Cutting the leaves too early prevents this important work from happening. Give the foliage about six weeks after they begin to shrivel up before cutting them away.

4. Bulbs Are Suffering From Disease

Sometimes, it seems like you’re doing everything right but still end up with daffodils that won’t open. In such cases, the health of the bulbs may be the issue. You might notice this issue if the bulbs don’t open at all, or open very briefly but then die prematurely. Chlorotic foliage, or sickly, pale-yellow foliage, is another sign of disease in your daffodils.

Checking for a disease is simple. Either before planting the daffodils or after carefully removing the bulbs from the ground, check for a soft, dark brown spot at the basal part of the bulb where roots emerge from. 

You should also look for white, pink, or reddish-purple coloration when you pull back the first few scales of the bulb. These are the common signs of diseases caused by F. oxysporum var. narcissi that will cause a bulb to fail to grow healthily.

5. Daffodils Have Inhospitable Surroundings

The area where you’ve planted your daffodils can also prevent them from opening fully. Evergreen trees can prevent daffodils from blooming. Their year-round foliage blocks out the sunlight that daffodils need to gather in order to bloom fully.

Swampy, marshy ground can also be inhospitable for daffodils. While you may think these surroundings will provide the flowers with the water they need, the overly-waterlogged ground can actually have a negative impact. The damp surroundings leave your bulbs at risk of a fungal infection that will prevent their healthy growth.

6. Fertilizer Not Giving Adequate Nutrients

Daffodils need the right nutrients in order to grow successfully. While natural processes allow plants to generate much of what they need to thrive, you also need to provide them with the right fertilizer to encourage their growth.

In the case of daffodils, low nitrogen fertilizers are the best way to help the plants flourish. The bulbs can benefit from high-potassium fertilizers to encourage root growth and health so their buds can open in spring.

Ways To Ensure Healthy Growth for Daffodils

Now that we know the reasons that may cause daffodils to fail to open, we can better determine how to successfully grow these flowers in your garden. Use these strategies to give your daffodils the best chance of success.

Plant at the Right Time

Planting daffodils too late in the year is a common reason that these flowers fail to bloom. Spring-blooming flowers like daffodils need something known as a chill time to grow properly. For daffodils, this stage of growth should take between 13 and 15 weeks. During this period, the plants should be exposed to temperatures between 35 and 45 °F (1.67 – 7.22 °C) Fahrenheit.

Planting daffodils in the early fall helps the plants have adequate chill time so that they can bloom in full once warmer spring weather comes around. However, if you planted your daffodils too late, you can still correct this issue.

To give the plants their chill time if you planted too late in the season, you’ll need to first dig the bulbs up. Then, carefully transport them to a spot in your house that has the correct temperature like your basement, garage, or even your refrigerator. 

Keep these bulbs in the dark to imitate natural conditions and water them once weekly until you see shoots begin to emerge. This is your sign that the bulbs are ready for higher temperatures and more light.

Choose Your Spot Wisely

Planting your daffodils in a good location is essential to seeing the blooms you desire. These plants need at least six hours of sunlight daily in order to get the energy they need. You should also plant them in an area that gets adequate drainage as the flowers won’t thrive in waterlogged soil.

You can plant your daffodils under deciduous trees as these springtime flowers will often bloom before a tree’s leaves fully come in. Just ensure that the area gets adequate sunlight despite the shade the tree creates.

If you planted in an inhospitable area, you can still successfully grow your flowers. You’ll need to carefully dig up the bulbs and transplant them to a better part of your garden for them to flourish.

Provide Adequate Nutrients

Just like people need the right nutrition in order to grow to their fullest potential, plants need to be nourished properly in order to grow strong and healthy. First-year daffodils usually won’t require additional nutrients as the bulbs typically come from the nursery with the nutrients they need to thrive.

In the years that follow, adding more nutrients to your bulbs is necessary to help them thrive. As we covered before, a low-nitrogen fertilizer is ideal for healthy daffodil blooms. Use this when planting your bulbs for the season to give them the boost they need.

Once the plants begin to sprout, you can stimulate their growth with additional nutrients. Bone meal can help your daffodils achieve their fullest potential. Sprinkle it at the base of your plant after they begin to grow to give the roots an added boost of nutrients.


With the right information on your side, some good fertilizer, and a bit of gardening work, you’ll have everything you need to help your daffodils thrive. All of the effort you put in will feel well worth it once you see your beautiful blooms begin to emerge.

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the principal creator of TheGrowingLeaf.com, a website dedicated to gardening tips. Inspired by his mother’s love of gardening, Alex has a passion for taking care of plants and turning backyards into feel-good places and loves to share his experience with the rest of the world.

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