Faith Kaltenbach, New Mexico

Ripen leaves in artificial shade ? (Desert climate)

June 12, 2013

Category: Growing Daffodils

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I garden in the high desert northwest of Albuquerque.  My Early Louisiana jonquils bloomed around March 25th.  I knew they needed some shade — shade is just about unheard of in this new garden — and expected a nearby perennial to help.  That plant died.   So, as soon as the jonquil blooms withered I covered the little clump with an open-sided,  solid-bottom plastic basket.   (This is how I harden off new plants in general.)

Now (June 11th) all my bulb foliage has dried up except for the bottom of a very few daffodil and muscari leaves.  BUT when I uncovered the Early Louisianas  jonquil leaves under basket  060613 I found happy green leaves.  The basket is shown beside the jonquils.  I have since put it back.


1. Does anyone know of this as an intentional growing practice?  Would it be a good thing to try with more bulbs?  Am I right that those jonquils are growing some very fine bulbs down below?

2.  If I were to leave the basket on longer,  when would I take it off?  Will the leaves ripen naturally on their own?   I don’t think I want them to keep growing like this until frost, do I?

Where do I go with this accidental science experiment?  Thanks for any help you can give me.


8 responses to “Ripen leaves in artificial shade ? (Desert climate)”

  1. Lawrence Trevanion, Australia Lawrence Trevanion, Australia says:

    Hi Faith,

    The climates people grow daffodils in never ceases to amaze me. Early Louisiana descendants do fine for me in full sun so I don’t understand the need for shade. Here they would have died down by now but I can appreciate that if you keep them cool and watered they will hold their leaves. Here the best thing to do would be to let them dry off then water them again when the weather turns cool in the autumn. But if you have severe freezing that might not suit you. Here I reckon they would flower in August September.

  2. Clay Higgins, New Jersey Clay Higgins, North Carolina says:

    Faith and Lawrence,

    I’d like to offer my prospective.  I grow a lot of the jonquilla “Early Louisiana”.  My climate is almost zone 8 to zone 8, and we have long and excessively hot weather that lasts from May/June sometimes into late November.  Best planting time here is sometime before Christmas and sometimes between Christmas and New Year’s Holiday.  In the summer there is no moisture in the ground but the jonquils do well here.   My soil is Sand, Sand, Sand!!!  I always say that you can’t grow anything here without bringing your own “dirt.”  So essentially I have to add a lot of organic matter to the soil, and mulch heavily to protect the daffodils in the summer.  We are coastal, and since I’ve been to Albuquerque, NM I know that much of the land is at a higher altitude. and some consider it mountainous and much colder winters than I have in Northeast North Carolina.

    Lawrence, I think you live and grow your daffodils in a desert type environment. Are you near Graham Fleming?

    I grow the Early Louisiana in both shade and as directly in the sun as possible in my Garden.  The jonquil Early Louisiana in the direct sun is too early for our “Early Show” in NC, USA.  And also too early to find good breeding partners for it.  The Early Louisiana that I grow in the shady area is from a week to two weeks later and blooms about the time I need it for the show.

    At one time the area around me had a large cut flower (daffodils in the bud) business and because of the heat it was recommended to protect the daffodils by either heavily mulching or dig the daffodils before the heat of the summer came.

    I don’t think any of us answered Faith’s question. I’d say let the foliage die back 6 to 8 weeks after the bloom period and then remove the foliage.  I don’t know how long you keep the basket on the jonquils, but I would take it off and put a heavy mulch on the clump to give them some shade to cool the ground around the bulbs.



  3. Faith Kaltenbach, New Mexico Faith Kaltenbach, New Mexico says:

    Thank you, Lawrence and Clay.
    Lawrence: Partial shade was recommended by Old House Gardens. I suspect they’re right as this place is at 5600 feet with summer temperatures right close to 100 degrees, humidity in the single digits, and lots of wind. Why am I so nutty as to try daffodils? Because I grew up in the perennial business in Pennsylvania, love flowers, and daffodils are the ones that always opened on my birthday after a long Northeastern winter. And you can’t say that Early Louisianas aren’t really special.
    Clay: I too have sand/sand/sand which means compost/compost/compost. (A local Master Gardener says amend with 1/3 compost each year for ten years!) I have been here 3 years and tried to approach that. We do have a good mineral balance although the soil is somewhat alkaline.
    Mulch for bulbs is a bit of a puzzle because most anything blows around except large bark. And large bark discourages shoots in the spring. I have been experimenting with shredded bark which will often tangle into a bit of a mat and stay in place IF there are large perennials sheltering it. But there is no reason I can’t put large bark around the jonquil clump now.
    “Let the foliage die back 6 to 8 weeks after bloom” is just what I needed! I’ll take that basket off now and put on a heavy mulch. And I think I’ll experiment with baskets over a few bulbs after they flower next year. I’m quite sure many of the leaves don’t get a chance to ripen for 6 to 8 weeks here. Our spring is short and fast. Daffodils at spring solstice, high temperatures close to 80 a month later.
    Thanks again, guys. You have left me eager to do some more “science experiments”. Best to both of you.

  4. Linda Wallpe, Ohio says:

    Faith –

    It always seems to me that when you have a cultivar as close to the species as ‘Early Louisiana’  that one should look at the species original growing conditions.

    I am not an expert but Brian Duncan, Mary Lou Gripshover., Kathy Anderson or Kathy Welch can probably give a good description of terrain where they bloom freely in Spain.

    Linda W.

  5. Faith Kaltenbach, New Mexico Faith Kaltenbach, New Mexico says:

    Thanks SO much, Linda!  What a good idea.  I just looked through entries for Narcissus jonquilla online.  I was especially interested in pictures showing jonquils growing among rocks.  Many small plants do well here in cracks between flagstones. Now I have another “science experiment”.  I also learned  jonquils are native to open, damp places in SW Europe and North Africa. (It isn’t damp here but I can provide that.)  And I’m especially excited by the North Africa reference as the Atlas Mountains daisy (Anacyclus depressus) has naturalized for me in a gravelly ditch which catches water in our July thunderstorms.


  6. Loyce McKenzie, Mississippi Loyce McKenzie, Mississippi says:

    Faith, we are actually both Southern Region (though it seems logical that New Mexico should be in Pacific)

    I’d like for us to discuss this further, from a regional summer weather jonquil-growing angle. If you would email me at  title=, I would appreciate it.

    Loyce McKenzie, Journal editor

  7. Lawrence Trevanion, Australia Lawrence Trevanion, Australia says:

    Hi Clay,

    It is not really desert here but the climate is very erratic. Apparently I’m 34.83 degrees south with an elevation of about 1700 ft and an average annual rainfall (1898-2011) of 25.7 inches. Hottest day January 2007 – 108.5 F. Must have been close to that again this year but I have a good moisture retaining soil that bakes hard so most bulbs would not reach anything like that temperature.

    Graham Fleming’s conditions would be similar but I assume he is in a position to irrigate any daffodils he grows in the field.


  8. Clay Higgins, New Jersey Clay Higgins, North Carolina says:


    Thanks for the update on where you live now.  I have been reading some of the older ADS Journals, I must be slow, and some of the newer.  I didn’t realize you had written so many Excellent articles for the ADS Journal on miniatures.  Thank you.  I find them educational.

    I don’t know if you remember, but about 10 or 12 years ago we regularly exchanged email. Your wise council was appreciated.

    Hot and humid here with lots of Sand, Sand, Sand for soil.