All About Growing Narcissus Daffodils
There's nothing better than the cheery, charming blooms of Daffodils to mark the start of spring! Not to mention, with varieties hardy across the country, these easy-to-grow beauties happily fill gardens with deer-resistant reflections of sunshine. So, let's take a closer look at the brilliant bloomers we all know and love!
Narcissus and Daffodils and Jonquils, Oh My!
Narcissus is a genus of spring-blooming bulbs in the Amaryllis family, including Daffodils, Paperwhites, and Jonquils. They typically yield a single, bare stem with six-petaled flowers surrounding a cup or trumpet-shaped corona. While most varieties are yellow or white, some are bicolor, with orange or peachy pink accents. Some Narcissus species produce multiple stems per bulb, and still, others offer dramatic flower clusters on several stems. Similarly, their forms and fragrances vary, as some types exhibit a fully double form, others have split coronas, and some arrive with sweet, floral notes or even a heavy musk.
While there are countless varieties of Narcissus that thrive in nearly every climate, gardeners generally think of them as cold-hardy bulbs designed specifically for zones 3 to 8. When referring to Jonquils, they usually mean smaller types with several blooming stems. Paperwhite is a term used to describe the fragrant, white-flowering Narcissus that are often forced indoors for holiday decor. These snowy charmers are characterized by flowering clusters on several blooming stems per bulb and a heavy, musky scent.
Narcissus Daffodils and Wildlife Safety
Please keep in mind that all Narcissus bulbs are naturally toxic to feeding animals, whether it's deer, squirrels, and rabbits, or your beloved pets! While dogs and cats don't usually bother Daffodils and are generally mindful of their aroma, these bright bloomers will keep deer and rodents at bay!
How to Plant & Grow Narcissus Daffodil Bulbs
- Start with High-Quality Bulbs: Did you know that the flowers and leaves you see in spring are already tucked away inside each fall-planted bulb? Well, it just goes to show how important it is to choose high-quality bulbs!
- When to Plant Narcissus Daffodil Bulbs: Daffodils should be planted in the cooling soils of fall, which in some climates starts in early September, and in warmer areas, in late November. While you can hold onto your bulbs for a few weeks or even a couple of months before planting them, we recommend planting them shortly after arrival. Avoid refrigerating your bulbs, but store them in a cool, dark, dry place with good air circulation until it's time to plant.
- Sun Exposure for Narcissus Daffodils: Generally speaking, Daffodils prefer full sun. However, because many trees that cast shade are bare in later winter and early spring, those spots in the shade most of the year can be ideal for planting your bulbs. Oh, and unlike many "full sun" plants, Daffodils thrive even when the lighting is less than stellar.
- Planting Depth and Spacing for Daffodil Bulbs: Yes, Daffodils fancy well-drained soil, but they also tolerate a wide range of clay and sandy soils. Plant the bulbs with pointy ends facing up at a depth of 2.5x its width and 3 to 4" space between each. Larger bulbs are generally planted 6 to 7" deep, with the regular Daffodils around 3 to 4" deep.
- Watering Daffodils: After planting your Daffodils, water thoroughly to settle the soil around the bulbs. Continue to water every week until rain arrives, and then supplement their moisture levels until three weeks after they finish blooming. During this time, allow the soil to dry unless you have other plants layered with the Daffodils.
- Daffodil Care After Blooming: Even if the blooms have finished, do not cut, fold, braid, or bind the green foliage until it's fully yellowed and begun to turn brown. These leaves are necessary to ensure the continued health and bloom production of your bulbs. If you find the leaves unsightly, a great approach is to layer Daffodils by planting with other bulbs that bloom later, thereby disguising the foliage. Pssst! Daylilies make terrific layering partners!
Do Pink Daffodils Exist?
As gardeners, we always want what we can't have, and the same is true for Daffodils! As much as we adore the yellows and whites, we all want a true pink variety. Fortunately, hybridizers have been hard at work developing pink-blooming Daffodils, and after decades of developments, we now have various types that blush! So while hot pink shades are still in the future, these peachy pink beauties will have to do for now!
So, as you can see, Daffodils are truly one of the greatest joys of gardening. They're long-lived springtime classics and the very best option for beginning gardeners!
- Katie Elzer-Peters