After a daffodil has bloomed, should it be deadheaded or should the flower be left in place until it withers and disintegrates? I know you are supposed to leave the green leaves in place until they turn brown, but sometimes a large bulge will form at the top of the flower stem. I'm not sure if this is a good thing and should be left on, or if it should be removed. The same thing often occurs on tulips as well.
- Linda McCarron
Answer: There are two reasons to deadhead plants: to prevent seed production (which takes energy from the plant) and to have a more attractive situation.
As for the first, it is true that most daffodil flowers are not successfully pollinated and thus do not go into seed production. Even when there is successful pollination and a seed pod develops (the swelling you mention), the effects on the plant are relatively minor. If you leave a developing seed pod on to ripen, there is the chance of a seedling where the seeds drop - which will take several years to reach blooming size and which is likely to be very ordinary. Unless you are hoping for seedlings (I say don't bother), there is no reason other than the time involved in deadheading to leave the seed pods on.
As to the second reason, I always try to deadhead my daffodils since the withering, drying flower is unattractive. I just pull them off and immediately drop them, and they decompose in situ.
With tulips - that is, big showy hybrid tulips, not species - seed production is even less likely, but the flower stalk is even more unsightly than daffodils'. I don't expect tulips to look good more than two years, so the first year I remove the stalk and the second year I dig up the bulbs and compost them. (This is not extravagance, because in the fall, tulip bulbs are cheap.) Species tulips - the charming, small varieties such as Tulipa bakeri and T. clusiana - will often self-sow and a few years later be of blooming size, usually coming true.
Q: Will hollies whose lower limbs were removed by "creative" landscapers - creating holly topiaries - produce replacement limbs on the bare part of the trunks?
- Catherine Walsh
A: If the pruners left stubs of the limbs, those may very well sprout. But if they were good pruners, they should have cut almost flush with the trunk, and sprouting is less likely. Give the hollies a couple of months to see.
Q: When is the best time to transplant daisies, and what is the best way? I'd like to make a living fence with them and my also-rapidly-multiplying daylilies.
- B. Keffer
A: The mostly reliable rule (there are always exceptions) for transplanting perennials is to move spring bloomers in the fall, and fall and late-summer bloomers in the early spring. Daisies are in between, but should be treated as fall bloomers and transplanted and divided in early spring, just when they are showing new growth.
You could try now, especially if you get solid soil clumps to minimize root disturbance - but you'll have to be zealous about watering until they are established. Regardless of when, give daisies, which nervy botanists have moved from the genus chrysanthemum to leucanthemum, excellent winter drainage, rich soil, and good air circulation. When dividing in early spring, discard older, tired-looking sections and keep the robust rosettes of basal growth.
Daylilies are so tough that you can transplant any time. With a big and solid-enough mass around the roots, it can be done even in summer, but early spring is best. Division should be delayed till after they have bloomed. Always remember that ordinary orange daylilies (including the double form) are incompatible with nice hybrid daylilies. The ditch lilies, as a friend has dubbed them, will quickly take over and obliterate the reds, pinks, yellows.