Narcissus is a genus of predominantly spring flowering perennial plants of the amaryllis family, Amaryllidaceae. Various common names including daffodil, narcissus, and jonquil are used to describe all or some members of the genus. The botanical name of daffodil is Narcissus spp. . The English word "daffodil" appears to be derived from "asphodel", with which it was commonly compared. Native to areas of Europe and North Africa, daffodils are best-planted in mid-to-late autumn and will begin to rear their heads in early spring, reaching peak bloom about a month before the average last frost date.
Most varieties have blossoms in shades of yellow, but there are also white, orange, pink, and bicolor cultivars. There are more than 40 Narcissus species and over 32,000 registered cultivars. Daffodils contain phenanthridine alkaloids and calcium oxalate crystals that make them toxic to both humans and animals. Fatalities are possible if large quantities of bulbs are eaten, and severe skin reactions can occur when the bulbs are handled. The daffodil is the national flower of Wales and the symbol of cancer charities in many countries. The appearance of the wild flowers in spring is associated with festivals in many places.
Table of Contents
6 - 30 inches
6 - 12 inches
6.0 - 6.5
Growth Nutrition of Daffodil
By nature, a daffodil is not what we call a “heavy feeder,” or consumer of excessive quantities of nutrients. However, even light feeders require key macronutrients, nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K), and micronutrients like calcium, copper, and zinc.
Types of Daffodil
Breeders have classified daffodils into 13 different divisions, with many, many cultivars within each division, based on the form of the flower. The divisions include:
Division 1, Trumpet: The Trumpet daffodil boasts a center cup at least as long as its petals, with one bloom per stem. Examples include Dutch Master, Mount Hood, Yellow River, Rijnveld's Early Sensation and Goblet.
Division 2, Large-cupped: The cup on this daffodil variety is more than one-third the length of the petals, but not as long as them, with one bloom per stem. Examples include Ice Follies, Professor Einstein, Orange Progress, Red Devon and Pink Pride.
Division 3, Small-cupped: As the name implies, the cup on this variety is no more than one-third the length of the petals, with one bloom per stem. Barrett Browning is a popular small cup daffodil.
Division 4, Double: This daffodil varietal features clustered cups and petals, with one or more blooms per stem. Popular double daffodils include Delnashaugh, Golden Ducat, White Lion, La Torche, Sherbourne, Double Smiles, Lingerie and Tahiti.
Division 5, Triandrus: The flowers on the Triandrus daffodil have a hanging bell shape, usually boasting two or more blooms per stem. Thalia is an outstanding example of this type of daffodil.
Division 6, Cyclamineus: This daffodil varietal features swept-back petals and one bloom per stem. Examples include Jetfire, Tete a Tete, and Baby Boomer.
Division 7, Jonquilla: The Jonquilla daffodil has small, fragrant flowers with flat petals and narrow leaves. Typically, you'll see one to five blooms per stem. Examples of jonquilla daffodils include: Beautiful Eyes, Golden Echo, Pipit, Silver Smiles and Martinette.
Division 8, Tazetta: Fragrant clusters of florets dot the Tazetta daffodil, with anywhere from three to 20 blooms per stem. The leaves and stems are also broader than usual. Garden-worthy examples include: Cragford, Falconet and Golden Dawn.
Division 9, Poeticus: Pure white petals surround a flattened, crinkled cup on the Poeticus daffodil. Its cups generally have green centers circled in yellow and rimmed with red, and one fragrant bloom per stem. Actea is an award-winning heirloom and makes an excellent cut flower.
Division 10,Bulbocodium: This daffodil varietal features small petals and a "hoop petticoat" shaped cup.
Division 11, Split-cupped: The cup on this varietal is split open, usually at least halfway. Examples include Cassata, Lemon Beauty and Love Call.
Division 12, Miscellaneous: These do not fit into other categories, including inter-division hybrids.
Division 13, Species, wild variants, and wild hybrids.
All divisions may include cultivars described as "Miniature." These have the same features as their full-size counterparts but have smaller blooms, usually less than 2 inches in diameter.
When to Plant Daffodils
Plant daffodil bulbs in the fall—about 2 to 4 weeks before the ground freezes.
Choosing and Preparing a Planting Site
Select a site that offers full sun or partial sun, at the least. Daffodils will bloom best when given adequate exposure to early spring sunshine!
Most daffodils tolerate a range of soils but grow best in moderately fertile, well-drained soil that is kept moist during the growing season. They are susceptible to rot when kept too wet, so make sure that you plant them in a well-draining spot.
Many of the popular species prefer neutral to acidic soils, but some prefer slightly alkaline soils, so consult the supplier of your bulbs to see which is best for your daffodil variety.
Over time, daffodils will produce new, “daughter” bulbs that are attached to the main bulb which you planted originally. This results in nice little clumps of daffodils that stay relatively contained to where you planted them.
How to Plant Daffodils
Select high-quality daffodil bulbs that have not been dried out. The larger the bulb, the better.
Plant with the top or pointy end up about 2 to 3 times as as deep as the bulb is high. For example, the top of a 2″ bulb is at least 4″ deep (measuring from the bottom of the bulb) while a 3-inch long bulb should be planted 5 inches deep.
Daffodils will tolerate some crowding, but they prefer to be spaced about 3 to 6 inches apart.
It may help to sprinkle a little bulb fertilizer in the hole during planting.
Where winters are severe, make sure there are at least 3 inches of soil covering the bulb.
Resist the temptation to uncover spring-flowering plants such as daffodils and tulips. You can loosen mulch, but the shoots will still benefit from protection against cold, drying winds in early spring.
Daffodils contain something called oxalic acid—a substance that makes them unpalatable to most rodent pests. However, if yours are being bothered, consider adding sharp sharp pieces of shells or a pelleted rodent deterrent into and around each planting hole.
How to Get Daffodils to Bloom
Daffodils are usually reliable spring bloomers if they have their basic cultural needs met, as outlined above. When daffodils fail to bloom, look for one of these reasons:
Daffodil foliage was cut back too soon. Daffodil foliage generally persists for four to six weeks after the blooms fade, and during this time, the bulbs are being replenished as the leaves continue to conduct photosynthesis. If the foliage is cut back too soon, the result can be weakened bulbs that fail to bloom the following spring. This can be a notable problem when daffodils are naturalized in a lawn setting; if you mow your lawn too early in the spring, it can cut away the foliage before it has a chance to replenish the bulbs.
Bulbs were planted upside down. If you planted good large bulbs but they failed to flower in their first season, it's possible they were planted upside down. The proper orientation: pointy side facing up.
Bulbs are too young. Especially after division, the smaller offset bulbs often do not flower for a year or two. With extremely small bulbs, it can take even longer.
Soil is poor. Daffodils don't require terribly rich soil, but they do need some nutrition. Topdressing with a handful of bulb fertilizer in the fall may help prompt flowering the following spring. Be careful, though, as too much fertilizer can damage daffodil bulbs.
Not enough sunlight. As surrounding shade trees grow larger, increasing amounts of shade may cause your daffodils to bloom less. Pruning surrounding bushes and trees to restore sunlight may help.
How to Grow Daffodil From Seed
It can take as much as five or six years for daffodil seeds to grow into plants that have viable bulbs, so this method is rarely undertaken, except by professionals or very serious amateurs experimenting with hybridization. But should you have the patience to try it, seed propagation begins with harvesting seeds from the marble-sized pods that are left behind after daffodil flowers fade. When these seed pods shrivel and turn brown, you can break them open to extract the seeds inside.
Save the seeds until fall, then plant them about 1/2 inch deep in small pots or seed trays filled with potting mix or seed starter mix. Set the pots in a sheltered outdoor location to receive a winter chill period. In the spring, the seeds will germinate and sprout into tiny, grass-like seedlings. Continue to grow them in their small pots for at least three years. After this point, the plants will have small bulbs that will need to be systematically repotted into increasingly large containers each year. By year five or six, you will have bulbs that are sufficiently large to plant in the garden.
All things considered, daffodils are a great entry-level plant for novice gardeners developing their green thumbs. When selecting daffodil bulbs, choose ones that have a large, firm shape with a dry papery covering. Plant the bulbs pointed end up, about 3 to 5 inches deep. For an immediate, denser impact, the spacing between bulbs can be about 5 inches apart. If you're more patient, space them about 12 inches apart, as the bulbs will spread and fill in spaces within a few years.
Daffodils will not bloom more than once in a season, so when you notice the petals fading, allow the foliage to turn yellow and dry up. Do not cut the foliage! It's important to leave the leaves, as they absorb sunlight that helps feed the bulb for next year's blooms. Some gardeners like to use this opportunity to dig up the bulbs, then save them until fall replanting time. This approach allows the space vacated by fading daffodils to be filled with other plants for the summer. Most gardeners, however, leave the daffodil bulbs in the ground, lifting and dividing every fourth year or so.
Daffodils require little care, other than watering during the active growing season and topdressing with bulb fertilizer in instances where the bulbs are not producing ample flowers.
Daffodils thrive best when planted in full sun (at least six hours), though they can withstand a bit of partial shade or dappled light. These are spring bloomers that often are done with their display by the time deciduous trees have leafed out, so they can work well when planted in areas that will be shady by midsummer but which have plenty of sun in the early season.
Daffodils prefer a neutral to slightly acidic soil pH of around 6.0 to 7.0 . They thrive in rich, moist soil but, as with most bulbs, they require excellent drainage or they will rot. Daffodils should not be allowed to sit in waterlogged soil.
Daffodils like to be watered regularly in the spring and fall. But stop watering in mid to late spring, beginning about about three to four weeks after the flowers fade. Daffodils go dormant during the summer and prefer a drier soil at this time.
Temperature and Humidity
Daffodil hardiness will vary slightly depending on variety, but most daffodils are reliable. Most daffodils need a cold dormant period, which is why they're planted in the fall. Most types are not well suited for warm southern climates unless planted as annuals. However, certain divisions of daffodils (such as division 8, the Tazetta group) will grow in warmer climates, especially if given sufficient water. Overall, daffodils do equally well in humid and arid atmospheric conditions, provided soil moisture is appropriate.
Daffodils are pretty self-sufficient, but if you have poor soil or the plants are not flowering as much as they should, top dress with bulb food when the leaves first emerge. Lightly feed again when they flower. For the amount to use, follow the product label instructions.
Harvesting Daffodil Flowers
Using Daffodils as Cut Flowers
When cut, daffodils should be kept alone in a vase, as their stems secrete a fluid that promotes the wilting of other flowers. If you must combine them, soak them by themselves for as long as possible, then rinse them and add them to the arrangement last.
Note that contact with the sap of daffodils may irritate skin or aggravate skin allergies.
Pruning and Propagating Daffodil
As the blooms fade, the top portion of each flower stem can be removed to prevent seed formation. But leave the foliage in place until it begins to yellow, as the plants are restoring the bulbs during this time.
The easiest way to propagate daffodils is by lifting and removing the offshoot bulbs that form underground. This division is usually not necessary for the health of the plants, but it can be done every fourth year or so if colonies are becoming overgrown. Here's how to do it:
In summer after the daffodil leaves have turned yellow and died, carefully dig up the clump and shake off the dirt.
Set the bulbs in a shady location for at least two days to dry, then use your hands to carefully separate the bulblets from the parent bulbs. Discard any bulbs that are soft or notably damaged.
The parent bulbs, as well as the offsets, can be replanted immediately, at a depth 2 to 3 times their diameter, spaced 10 to 12 inches apart. Or, they can be stored until late summer and fall planting time, which can begin in late August.
Be aware that very small offset bulbs will likely take several years to develop the vigor to produce flowers. Small bulbs will produce foliage for several years as they gain size, then begin to flower once they are sufficiently large.
Potting and Repotting Daffodils
Daffodils can grow well in containers for up to three years if the pot is deep enough for their roots to fill out. With proper timing, you can grow potted daffodils for indoor winter flowering, simply by controlling the timing of the chill period. To successfully plant daffodils in containers, follow these easy steps:
Choose a pot that is about 2 gallons for standard daffodils and 1 gallon for small bulbs or miniature daffodils. Make sure your chosen pot has drainage holes. Fill the container about two-thirds of the way with a standard commercial potting mix.
Disperse the bulbs in the pot—close, but not touching—so that their points are just below the rim of the pot. Lightly cover the bulbs with soil and water well.
Move the container to a cool, dark spot where the temperature remains steadily around 40 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit for 12 to 16 weeks. Water whenever the soil feels dry. In colder regions, this chilling period can be conducted outdoors; or, the pots can be chilled in a refrigerator for the required time.
After the chilling period when yellow shoots emerge, move the container to a sunny but cool spot (around 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit) and continue watering.
When the shoots turn green, the container can be moved into brighter sunlight (around 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit). Top dress with a handful of fertilizer or bone meal. Continue watering whenever the soil feels dry and be sure to turn the containers to promote even growth.
When the leaves die off, place the pot on its side and let it dry out. Then start all over again. Potted daffodil bulbs can bloom for two to three years in the container, but will do better if you move them to a spot in the ground and pot up fresh bulbs each year. While they are in the pot, however, remember that daffodils will need the required chilling cycle each year. They cannot be grown as perpetual houseplants.
When planted in their acknowledged hardiness range, daffodils usually don't require any winter protection against cold. But overwintering recommendations can very according to region. In regions with very cold winters but where there is no snow cover, growers often find that a layer of mulch will help ensure the survival of the bulbs.
Pests and Plant Diseases
Daffodils are famous for being almost immune to serious pest and disease issues. But on rare occasions, one of the following problems may occur:
Bulb rot is possible if daffodils are planted in badly drained soil. Daffodils can also be affected by narcissus yellow stripe virus, which causes brown and yellow stripes on the foliage. Affected plants will need to be removed and destroyed.
Narcissus flies lay eggs at the base of plants, which hatch and cause larvae to bore down into bulbs. You may well notice soft bulbs with worms inside during routine bulb division. Affected bulbs will need to be thrown away.
Bulb mites cause weakening of daffodils and are most likely with daffodils being grown indoors for seasonal display. Various spray pesticides will control them.
Nematodes cause lumpy lesions on the foliage. There is no treatment for these microscopic soil worms, and you may even need to give up growing daffodils in soils where they are present.
Common Problems With Daffodil
Daffodils are usually very reliable plants that cause few problems. One common complaint, though, is that the plants are not at all attractive once the flowers fade, leaving gaps in the landscape and wilted, floppy foliage. This is unavoidable, as it is necessary to allow the foliage to die back naturally completely before removing it. One solution is to plant daffodils within gaps between other late-developing perennials, whose leaves will gradually cover the gaps left once the daffodil foliage has finally died back.
Benefits of Daffodil
Daffodils are wild flowers that can be found in the US and Europe, particularly in the United Kingdom. In the past daffodils are used not only as decorative elements but as a medicinal plant. Daffodils are also able to grow in the wild while other people choose to cultivate them for the cut-flower industry and for its various health benefits. The following are benefits that people can get from daffodils:
1. Stimulation of vomiting
In the past, daffodils are traditionally used for its emetic properties. The flower bulbs are the ones that contain the chemical, narcissine, which helps stimulate vomiting. The narcissine content helps people expel food or medicine that may be toxic to the body. For this purpose, daffodils are boiled before ingestion of the liquid to stimulate the vomiting reflex.
2. Wound healing
Daffodils are also commonly used for its astringent properties that make it good for wound healing. People in the past have crushed daffodils and applied them onto cuts and wounds for faster healing and drying. People who suffered from burns in their skin may also benefit from direct daffodil application.
3. Pain relief
People suffering from arthritis and other joint pains also get relief from daffodils. As with wounds, the bulbs are pounded and applied onto the affected areas. The swelling and pain that comes along with gouty arthritis for example is able to respond well to topical daffodil application.
4. Relief for pulmonary problems
Daffodils made into powders or syrups have also been used to treat people with congestion in their pulmonary airways. Through the chemicals found in daffodils, people are said to get almost instant relief from their pulmonary-related concerns.
In modern times, daffodils that are powdered or made into syrup are more common compared to the traditional pounding of the flower bulbs. The powder and syrup preparations make it more convenient for people to get the benefits of this medicinal flower.
1. They Grow in Full Sun or Partial Shade
Since they grow in full sun or light shade, daffodils can be a very useful plant for those interested in forest gardening. There’s nothing more breathtaking than a sea of yellow sweeping through the forest.
The daffodils can take full sun when trees and canopy layers of the garden aren’t fully established. But they can also cope with a little light shade once the canopy does begin to form.
The fact that they can do well in full sun or partial shade can also make them a more flexible plant choice for other areas of your garden.
For example, daffodils are an excellent choice for containers or a garden bed on a lightly shaded patio or in a lightly shaded garden area.
2. Daffodils Catch and Store Nutrients
When daffodils grow in the ground, they catch and store nutrients in the soil. This is a time when spring rains can wash nutrients away. So catching and storing them in the ground helps us preserve the fertility of our gardens.
Unlike other plants, which may sequester and use those nutrients over the coming months, daffodils and other spring ephemerals last only a brief time.
Plant daffodils near the top of a site, and when they fade and die back after flowering, a portion of the nutrients in the plant will be released and flow down to other plants that may need them.
3. They Provide Nectar for Early Season Pollinators
When in bloom, early in spring (or even late winter), daffodils are an excellent plant for bees and other early-season pollinators.
They provide an important source of nectar for these beneficial insects when few other food sources are available.
Daffodils can be particularly useful for planting around fruit trees, or other edible crops that require pollination in the spring.
Since the daffodils come out a short while before the trees blossom, pollinators will already be snacking on the flowers. So they’ll be readily available to pollinate your fruit trees once the blossom is out.
For this reason, daffodils are the perfect companion plants for fruit trees such as:
And a range of other other temperate climate fruit trees.
4. Daffodils Take Little Care and Will Come Back Year After Year
Not all of us have time to take care of lots of annual, high-maintenance flowers. Daffodils, however, couldn’t be easier to grow and care for.
Once you’ve planted them, they’re an excellent low-maintenance plant.
They require little care and as a perennial, they will come back to enhance your garden year after year.
Choosing low-maintenance perennial plants like daffodils is a great way to reduce your garden workload. More color, less work.
And it gives you more time for the plants that make the biggest difference in your life – edible plants.
Due to their ability to attract pollinators (and for other reasons given below), daffodils are not only easy to grow, they can make other edible crops easier to grow too.
5. They Can Be Used To Suppress Grass Around a Fruit Tree or Garden Bed
Daffodils planted in a ring around the eventual drip line of a fruit tree help to prevent grasses from creeping in around it.
It’s important to suppress grass growth within the root zone of a young tree because the grass competes with the tree roots for water and nutrients. And as we’ve already discussed, the daffodils will give back any unused nutrients to the young tree.
Grass growth can also create a bacterial, rather than fungal environment. But a fungal environment is what you want for optimal fruit tree health, growth, and yields.
Similarly, daffodils can also be closely planted along the edge of a garden bed or border, to prevent the grass of a lawn from spreading into your growing area.
6. Daffodils May Help Repel Deer and Other Animals
Daffodils are poisonous not just to us but also to a range of other animals. There is evidence to suggest that animals somehow know this and will largely leave them alone.
The large bulbs are believed to repel burrowing creatures like voles, moles, and gophers; while the above-ground parts of the plant may help to encourage grazing animals like deer and squirrels to graze elsewhere.
7. They Help Prevent Soil Erosion
Early spring rains are rich in nutrients. But unfortunately, they often cause problems with soil erosion where they’re heavy.
Spring ephemerals like daffodils whose root systems are active during this time catch and store water and nutrients that will later be beneficial to other plants. But they also help to stabilize the soil and prevent topsoil from being washed away by spring rains.
The bulb, leaf, and flower are used to make medicine.
Daffodil flowers can be used to make a yellow dye.
Daffodils can be cut and used in decorative flower arrangements of fresh spring flowers inside your home.