Produce > Non Edible Plants

Narcissus Problem


Garden Manager:
Ive just discovered a problem with a group of daffodils planted in an area of my garden.

A couple of years ago I planted some surplus bulbs in down the side of my friut patch, where a hedge used to be (now replaced by a fence).

Last spring the bulbs came up fine and flowered well. This year however less than 50% have come up. A couple of clumps down one end are going to flower fine, the rest have come up with just a few pathetic leaves and no buds, and a few leaves look distorted.

This sight reminded me of an article on a telvision programe a few years ago where a spectacular bank of daffodils was slowly dying out. One of two things wee suspected. A virus or narsissus eelworm. I remembered the TV expert digging a few bulbs up and cutting them in different ways to try to identify the cause. One cause produced a brown horizintal ring throuhg the bulb, the other vertical markings could be seen. Trouble is i cant remember which was which.  My bulbs are showing a brown ring when the bulb is cut horizintaly. I think this is eelworm, but i am not sure.

Could anyone shed any light on this? Has anyone else had this problem?  What should i do now (dig them all up i suppose?)

The affected area is largely self contained, but i am worried it might spread to other areas of narcissus planting in the garden.

Any help or advice would be appreciated.

This sounds as though it could well be the narcissus eelworm - Ditylenchus dipsaci - an infestation of which causes layers in the bulb to go brown.  If you cut the bulb horizontally there will be a brown ring on the cut surface, and if you cut it vertically you will see a brown layer following the vertical profile of the bulb. If the infestation is severe there are often yellowish swellings on the leaves.

The normal (and simplest) treatment is simply to dig up all the infected bulbs and any others nearby and burn them - the nematode spreads through the soil.  However, narcissus eelworm, like chrysanthemum eelworm, can be eradicated by heat sterilisation if you have the equipment and patience.  In the case of narcissi this consists of immersing the bulbs in water at a temperature of 45 deg. Centigrade for 3 hours.  For the treatment to be effective the water temperature should not drop during the treatment - any lower temperature will not kill the pests - and a few deg. higher will kill the bulb.  Unfortunately, although this operation kills the eelworm, the affected layer will often rot anyway and the bulb still dies.

Whatever method you adopt, narcissi should not be planted in the same spot for a minimum of 2 years

Garden Manager:
Thanks Hugh. You have confirmed my suspicions.  I dont really have the time or facilities to sterilise the bulbs and so on, and as you say it often doesnt work. I shall have to dig them up and get rid. Cant burn though. Dustbin OK for disposal?

Not a problem If i cant replant. the bulbs were spare ones any way, and can easily grow something else there in future. I fact I have been using the space in the summer for pot grown tomatoes, perhaps now I will be able to plant direct. I assume the eelworm poses no threat to such plants?

I suppose I should remove the bulbs as soon as possible. Thing is a few of the bulbs are going to flower. Can I leave digging them up until they are over?

Thanks again.


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