About Daffodils 

"There is magic in the garden.  I cannot create a daffodil in all its color and grace.  No one can.  I do not know how a daffodil is created. Yet each spring thousands and thousands of them are seen dancing in our gardens.  There is law in the garden.  It is the law of creation. If we follow the law we deal in magic.  We cannot see the stuff of which a daffodil is made, we need not care by what process it comes into being.  If we take the brown bulb, plant it accordingly to the law at the right time -- we achieve a miracle."
~ Roy E. Biles 

Species: Narcissus spp.
Family: Amaryllidaceae
Common Names: Daffodil, Narcissus, Jonquil

Your grandmother may have called them jonquils and your mother said they were daffodils, but the horticultural texts all call them narcissus, its botanical name.

Daffodil, Narcissus and Jonquil were once separate flowers. Thanks to plant hybridizers who have been busy bees over the last 150 years, there are more than 5,000 different varieties of daffodils.

>> Glorious photos of the thirteen divisions of daffodils

Colors include yellow, orange, red orange, pink, cream, green,  yellows, greens, white, coppery and bicolor shades. They come in many forms, including doubles and miniatures.



I wish more people would grow daffodils.  Here are some easy instructions for you so you may plant a cluster or two this fall: 

How hard are they to grow? 

Daffodils are perhaps the most carefree flowering plants I know.  It's hard to go wrong with them, as they almost never let you down.  Trust me, they are so easy to grow!

  • They are exceedingly low-maintenance. You can pretty much plant them as bulbs and forget them. Some seem to even thrive on neglect. 

  • They multiply freely. What a great investment!  Hard to believe, but in those humble onion-looking bulbs are daffodils coiled within its genetic layers and even more amazing, it is programmed to do the trick year after year, almost indefinitely. Amazing! 

  • They are hardy. In the spring, these marvels sprout with the greatest of ease, coming back through all variations of weather and circumstance short of a layer of asphalt. 

  • They are pest-resistant.  Unlike tulip bulbs, squirrels, chipmunks and deer usually stay clear of daffodil bulbs, which is reported to be the vilest tasting bulbs, besides being poisonous.  Bugs hate them and they are relatively disease-resistant as well.

When should you plant daffodils? 

As spring-flowering bulbs, daffodils must be planted in the fall. Daffodils should be planted as soon as they are purchased in the fall; poor storage can damage the flower bud or actually kill the bulb. 

The bulbs require time to develop a good root system before cold weather sets in and the soil freezes so for this reason, planting before the end of November is generally best.

Soil essentials:

With good drainage they thrive in most soils, although they prefer a medium-heavy loam. The bulbs tend to rot in wet areas. Choose a well-drained area.  

To get your soil free-draining, modify the soil with the addition of organic material, plenty of grit or sharp sand and extra drainage. If drainage cannot be improved, raised beds should be built.

Sun or shade? 

Simple rule of thumb: give it as much sunlight as you can, but plant it anywhere other than the deep shade.  Avoid the north sides of buildings. 

The bulb wants at least a half day of sunshine.  Although they will grow in partial shade, they always thrive in full sun. 

Bunches or singles?

Bunches. Bunches and bunches.

"Try to avoid being safe all the time.
 Safe is a hairsbreadth away from boring and utterly forgettable. 
If in doubt, go a bit overboard. 
Better to make an impact with your flowers 
than to have them go unnoticed." 

~ Carolyn Roehm

Unlike hyacinths and tulips, daffodils are not at their best in even rows or geometric beds.  They look best when planted with light-fingered abandon in clumps. A single daffodil just doesn't have the same effect.  More is better.  Yes, it is.  And if you plant them all together in one mass bed, they will be spectacular. 

Give the bulbs room; plant the bulbs 3-5 inches apart. Overcrowding will reduce the bulbs' ability to produce more bulbs and flowers each year. This ability to spread is called "naturalizing."

Whether you've plant them in a rock garden, open field, formal bed, along paths, or in pots and other containers, they will brighten up your spring like no other flower can.  

How do I plant the bulbs?

As Mrs. Gene Bauer does it: one at a time. 

A rule of thumb: measure the length of the bulb and plant it two to three times as deep as it is long. If it is three inches long, plant the bulb so its top is six inches deep. Generally, the bulbs are planted with the "neck" area 4 or 5 inches beneath the soil. Deeper is better on the planting-you don't want to plant too shallow. 

Water well and spread some compost after planting, and keep them watered if you are having a dry spell. As a general rule of thumb, do not water daffodils during the summer. 

Mulch is fine to use after planting, especially in the colder climates. Mulch can be pine needles, leaves that have been sitting and are moist and starting to decompose, wood chips or shredded wood, even grass clippings can be used.

There’s more to it than just throwing down a bunch of pine needles. Topsoil can crack in extreme heat.  Mulch can prevent this thus saving your plants' roots from stress, dehydration, and eventual death. Natural mulch breaks down, adding organic matter to your soil and thereby enriching it over time.  

What's this about inter-planting for succession blooming?

Inter-planting is a good idea. Plant the daffodil bulbs alternately with daylilies. The brilliant golden colors of the daffodils dominate the walk in early spring, but as the daffodil flowers fade and the leaves yellow, the daylily foliage emerges and masks the spent daffodils. The daylily flowers provide a second season of brilliant color ranging from deep red and orange to palest pink and yellow.

Consider other adding other companion plants, such as kale for the fall and pansies or violas for the spring. 

Gardeners in mild climates can try pansies or violas in the fall, and they will likely bloom all winter long. Pansies in dark blues make a striking contrast to the yellow daffodils. Violas are also a good choice because they don't require as much light as pansies do. Just plant the companion plant directly over the daffodils. This is called over-planting. When the bulbs emerge in the spring, they will grow through the pansies and violas.

They are also good to plant beneath deciduous shrubs, so that after they have finished flowering the emerging leaves of the shrub will hide the mess of the daffodil leaves without swamping all light from them.

If your area is dry during the summer, you may leave your bulbs.  Just mulch the bed. If you water, or grow other things there, then you must dig them and store them. WARMTH + MOISTURE = BULB ROT.

Wash the bulbs thoroughly. Dry them for at least a week, out of the sun. Store them in onion sacks (or panty hose). Hang in a cool place with good air circulation. 

How should I feed my daffodils?  

Give it a shovel of compost every spring, and they will thrive.  Or, fertilize as you do your other bulbs, such as tulips and crocus.  

Daffodils do not require heavy fertilization. When preparing planting beds, incorporate from 2 to 3 pounds of a complete garden fertilizer such as a 5-10-5 into100 square feet of soil. Packaged bulb food is convenient to use, and it can either be soil incorporated or applied over the soil surface after planting. In established plantings, the bulbs will benefit from a complete slow-release fertilizer applied over the soil surface to give the bulbs a boost as they develop their new roots.

Never place fertilizer directly in the bottom of the hole. A high fertilizer concentration can kill newly emerging roots and promote rot. 

Shy away from using organic fertilizer such as bonemeal when planting bulbs as it can attract rodents (gophers and moles).   If you own a dog or have a yard frequented by your neighbor's dog or other animals, it might be advisable to use superphosphate rather than have the animals dig for the "bones" they think they have buried in your garden.

Then what do I do?

Then sit back and wait for spring for a glorious display of bright sunlight yellow  and demonstration of why daffodils are the traditional symbol of spring. 

Oh yeah, and don't pick them singly or  bring them in the house if you raise chickens or goslings.  And PLEASE do not eat the bulbs!  (see Daffodil Lore for details) 

Tell me about daffodils as cut flowers.

Daffodil blooms last two to three weeks.  

When you cut daffodils from the garden, do so at an angle, so that the inner tissue is exposed and water can be drawn up better. They will last longer if you leave the stems in shallow, tepid water for a couple of hours in a dark room before arranging them. The vase-life is four to eight days.

What do I do when the flowers are spent?

After flowering, the foliage of the daffodils should not be cut back until it has browned naturally, nor should it be allowed to die back too early from lack of water. 

Do not bundle leaves with a rubber band or braid them together—you want as much of the leaf surface exposed to the sun as possible. Through photosynthesis, leaves provide the bulb with crucial energy for the next year's flowers.

And come back to this Web site to ease your daffodil withdrawals.  (Bookmark this site.)

 And remember: 

"There are no gardening mistakes, only experiments."
                                                          ~.Janet Kilburn Phillips

Links to P. Allen Smith's web site:

 >> Next:  Daffodil Lore (Fascinating!)


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