How To Grow And Care For Daffodils

Beautiful white, yellow, and nearly orange daffodils (Narcissus) are often the very first harbingers of springtime.

These hardy, cheerful flowers survive and thrive in a wide variety of settings and are available in many varieties.

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In this article, we explore types of daffodils and their care.

Plant Description:

Where Do Daffodils Come From?

Daffodils originally grew wild in Northern Africa and Europe. Many species are native to the Algerian and Moroccan mountains and the Iberian Peninsula.

In the 1800s, Europeans began cultivating them as garden plants. Since that time, they have been developed and hybridized to produce a massive number of cultivars. [source]

What Family Do Daffodils Belong To?

Narcissus (Daffodils) are members of the Amaryllidaceae (am-uh-ril-id-AY-see-ee) family of plants.

Is The Daffodil An Annual or Perennial?

These hardy perennial blooming plants survive, thrive, spread, and return in most parts of North America.

What Is The Botanical Name?

The botanical name for the entire genus of approximately fifty species is Narcissus (nar-SIS-us).

The genus is named for the mythical Greek youth who pined away admiring his own lovely reflection in a pond. [source]

What Are The Common Names?

The botanical name for the entire genus of approximately fifty species is Narcissus (nar-SIS-us).

The genus is named for the mythical Greek youth who pined away admiring his owYou may hear all sorts of daffodils correctly referred to as either “daffodil” or “narcissus.”

These terms are interchangeable and can be applied to most family members, except for Jonquils, a specific type of Narcissus, sporting reed-like leaves, and powerfully scented blooms.

In fact, Jonquil flower essential oil is used to manufacture some perfumes.

You may also hear daffodils referred to as Paper White, Paperwhites, or Tazettas. [source]

Daffodils Care

Size And Growth

Depending upon the type of daffodil, height may range from 6″ inches to 2 ½’ feet.

Daffodils do not typically have a widespread. Instead, individual bulbs may reproduce and spread in bunches about a foot across.

Flowering And Fragrance

All daffodils are sweetly scented to one degree or another.

Therefore, all daffodil blooms are made up of distinct components.

The center of the flower is the corona. Depending upon the type of daffodil, this center may be a flat disk, a long tube, or something in between.

If the corona is long, it is called a trumpet. If it is short, it is called a cup.

Surrounding the corona is the perianth, which typically consists of three sepals and three petals, although there are some double varieties.

The petals vary in length depending upon the type of daffodil in question.

The flowers of members of this genus range in size from small and dainty to large and bold.

Colors range from pure white to bright orange with striking color combinations, such as orange corona with white petals.

Some varieties produce only one flower per stem in flower production, while others (eg, Jonquils) may produce several.

Varieties such as Tazetta can produce as many as twenty flowers on a single stem. [source]

Foliage

Daffodil foliage ranges from medium to dark green. It may be broad and strap-like, slim and needle-like, or anything in-between.

The foliage’s length, color, and formation depend upon the type of daffodil in question.

Light And Temperature

Daffodils need a minimum of a half day’s sunlight to grow and multiply.

They can be planted under trees as long as they receive several hours of direct sunlight daily, along with filtered or dappled sun throughout the day.

Don’t plant them under very thick trees or bushes or on the northern side of a building as this will prevent them from getting enough light.

Daffodils are winter hardy in USDA hardiness zones 3-9.

Watering And Feeding

Water your daffodil bulbs well immediately after planting them.

Keep them well watered through the autumn and right up to the first frost.

If you have good rain through the spring and summer, you may not need to water much (or at all) once your bulbs are established.

Daffodil bulbs must be planted in an area that remains slightly moist but not soggy throughout the hot summer months when they are dormant.

Excessively wet soil will cause the bulbs to rot.

Don’t fertilize with manure because it also tends to cause the bulbs to rot.

Instead, amend the soil with an all-purpose garden fertilizer (NPK 6-24-24) at the planting time.

If you are planting your daffodils in clumps, rather than in a garden bed, mix a bit of fertilizer with sand and then incorporate it with the soil at the bottom of the hole.

Never allow pure fertilizer to contact the bulbs as this will burn them.

Bulbs planted under trees may need more water and fertilizer because of competition from the tree roots.

You can apply a bit of fertilizer that is high in potassium and low in nitrogen to the soil’s surface in the early springtime.

Soil And Transplanting

Well-draining soil with a neutral to slightly acidic pH that maintains just the right amount of moisture is key to successful daffodil growth.

In addition, the soil should be light and airy, containing lots of loam.

Follow these steps:

  • Work the soil very deeply before planting.
  • If your soil has quite a bit of clay, you’ll want to amend it with organic matter, such as leaf mold, peat moss, and coarse sand.
  • It’s good to mix your fertilizer with the sand when adding it to the soil.
  • Bulbs should be planted 5″ or 6″ inches below the soil’s surface in mid-autumn, long before the first hard freeze. They need to have time to develop roots before winter sets in.
  • Space the bulbs as close as six inches apart or as far as a foot apart. They may also be randomly naturalized with varying spacing.
  • After planting, mulch over the bulbs with aged sawdust, wood chips, shredded bark, or even pine needles. This will help prevent the bulbs from freezing during the winter.

Grooming And Maintenance

Heavily blooming varieties may need to be staked to prevent toppling.

Remove faded flowers promptly to prevent them from going to seed.

Don’t be too quick to remove your daffodils’ foliage after bloom time is complete.

The bulbs need the leaves for their ability to photosynthesize and produce food.

This enables the bulbs to get started on the flowers they produce in the coming year.

Allow the foliage to stay in place for a couple of months after blooming is completed. After that, you can remove the foliage by hand.

This is preferable to using scissors or a knife because you are less likely to spread viruses with hand removal.

When your daffodils become crowded, you should dig up the bulbs and divide them.

If your bulbs are far spaced, you may only need to do this every 5 years.

It’s best to divide the bulbs when the foliage dies back.

Then, use this opportunity to turn and amend the soil to improve its quality.

How To Propagate Daffodils?

Daffodils are most easily propagated by division.

Even though daffodils can be grown from seed, this is not desirable. [source]

After dividing your bulbs, you can immediately relocate the extras, or you can store them for planting at a later date.

Here are the steps to follow:

  • If you choose to store them, you should first brush off excess soil and put them in a cool, dry, sheltered setting to begin to dry.
  • Don’t pile them up or crowd them. Make sure they have plenty of space for good air circulation.
  • Allow them to dry for several weeks before packaging them up for storage.
  • Once dried, you can separate “daughter” bulbs from their “parents”.
  • Properly dried daffodil bulbs can be kept in open airy packaging, such as old nylon stockings or the net sacks in which onions and oranges have been packaged.
  • Extra bulbs can be prepared to be “forced” for a spot of lovely indoor color in the early spring.

Daffodils Pest Or Disease Problems

You needn’t worry about pests with daffodils. Insects, and even deer, are not attracted to them, but they are very subject to bulb rot.

So you must be sure to choose your bulbs carefully.

Examine them before planting, and don’t plant any that show signs of decay.

Remember not to over-fertilize, and never use manure as fertilizer. Take care not to overwater.

Plants that are compromised by rot may become susceptible to infestation by the following:

  • slugs
  • narcissus nematodes
  • bulb scale mites
  • narcissus bulb flies

Are Daffodils Considered Toxic Or Poisonous To People, Kids, Pets?

Daffodil bulbs, foliage, and flowers contain Phenanthridine alkaloids (calcium oxalate crystals and lycorine), which are toxic to living creatures.

This is the quality that works to keep pests away, but you should also keep your daffodils out of the reach of kids, pets, and livestock.

Remember to wash up after handling or pruning daffodils because their sap can cause skin irritation.

Is The Daffodil Plant Considered Invasive?

Daffodils are not considered invasive and do not tend to spread uncontrollably or usurp native plants.

Suggested Daffodils Uses

Raised bed planting is an excellent choice for daffodils because the soil quality is so easy to control in this setting.

You can start with great quality soil and amend it as needed. Simultaneously, a raised bed setting allows for excellent drainage.

Other good options include planting as a border around a flowerbed or along a pathway.

Daffodils make a marvelous addition to a cut flower garden.

In the right light setting, daffodils do well when planted between shrubbery.

In woodland settings with good drainage and ample light, daffodils are lovely when randomly naturalized.

A host of golden daffodils in a sweeping drift is classic in open fields.

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