When to cut back daffodils?

If you love a neat flower bed, you may be wondering when to cut back daffodils – we have the answers below

close up detail of daffodils
(Image credit: Leigh Clapp)

Depending on where you live, your spring flower beds may already be starting to look a little faded, but if you are wondering when to cut back daffodils, you will need to wait a little longer.

'While you can safely remove spent daffodil flowers as they die off, you should not cut back daffodil leaves just yet. Unlike deadheading, cutting back daffodils too early will damage the plant,' says Rachel Crow, Homes & Gardens' gardening expert. 

So, while you have already mastered how to plant daffodil bulbs in fall, now is the time to discover when to cut back daffodils in spring to ensure they return next year, as they will if treated properly.

When to cut back daffodils?

daffodils naturalized in grass under blossom trees

(Image credit: Leigh Clapp)

You can cut back daffodils only once the leaves have turned yellow. 'It's important to leave daffodils to die down naturally to put energy back into the bulb to produce the following spring's flowers,' continues Rachel Crow. 'If you cut the leaves back before they have turned yellow, you will not get any flowers next year.'

If you are looking for a more accurate timing for cutting back daffodils, the experts at the American Daffodil Society (opens in new tab) suggest that this will be 'from six weeks to six months, depending on where you live and the cultivars you grow.'

They clarify: 'Daffodils continue to absorb nutrients for about six weeks after the blooms have died. During this time they need plenty of sunshine and a regular supply of water. As daffodil bulbs are built, the leaves on the plant turn yellow and eventually die back.'

When should daffodils be deadheaded?

Daffodils can be deadheaded as and when the flowers die off. Doing this will help keep your flower beds looking neater and won't hurt the plants, though it won't encourage more flowering either. That said, if you see seedpods forming, remove them, since they will 'steal' energy that could be better directed back at the bulbs. 

Should I tie up daffodils before cutting them back?

You should not tie up daffodils while waiting for the foliage to yellow before cutting them back, as this will inhibit the leaves' absorption of sunlight and water. Instead, let them die back naturally. 

If you find the daffodils' yellowing leaves are spoiling the look of your flower beds, the best option is to surround daffodils with other spring plants that will hide the dying leaves.

Lucy Searle
Global Editor in Chief

Lucy Searle has written about interiors, property and gardens since 1990, working her way around the interiors departments of women's magazines before switching to interiors-only titles in the mid-nineties. She was Associate Editor on Ideal Home, and Launch Editor of 4Homes magazine, before moving into digital in 2007, launching Channel 4's flagship website, Channel4.com/4homes. In 2018, Lucy took on the role of Global Editor in Chief for Realhomes.com, taking the site from a small magazine add-on to a global success. She was asked to repeat that success at Homes & Gardens, where she has also taken on the editorship of the magazine.