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Species Spotlight - Narcissus Daffodils! The Quintessential Spring Blooms!

Species Spotlight - Narcissus Daffodils! The Quintessential Spring Blooms!

All About Growing Narcissus Daffodils

The cheery charming blooms of daffodils are the very symbol of spring! With varieties hardy in every climate of the country, these easy-to-grow flowers fill gardens around the world with deer resistant reflections of sunshine and carefree beauty. Let's take a closer look at these flowers we love, and how to plant and grow them in your garden.

mixed daffodils bloom around the rustic barn of daffodil hill

Narcissus and Daffodils and Jonquils, oh my!

Narcissus is a genus of spring blooming flower bulbs that are of the amaryllis family. All daffodils, paperwhites and jonquils are narcissus bulbs. Narcissus typically produce a single, bare stem with a flower of six petals surrounding a cup or trumpet shaped corona. Often all yellow or all white, there are many that are bicolor, with orange and a peachy pink as the accenting color. Some narcissus produce multiple flowering stems per bulb, and still others produce flower clusters on several stems. Some produce fully double flower forms, and others have split coronas and intriguing forms. Some narcissus are very fragrant with sweet, floral notes, or sometimes a heavy musk.

narcissus varieties identifying daffodils jonquils and paperwhites

Although there are many narcissus varieties that thrive in every climate in North America, generally, gardeners think of daffodils as the cold hardy bulbs for zones 3-8. When they refer to jonquils, they usually mean smaller varieties with several blooming stems. Paperwhites is a term usually used for the fragrant, white flowering narcissus typically forced indoors over the holidays, typified by flowering clusters on several blooming stems per bulb and a heavy, musky scent. Regardless of whether you call them daffodils, jonquils or paperwhites - all are narcissus bulbs. Both "daffs" and "daffodillies" are slang terms for daffodils.

Narcissus Daffodils and Wildlife

All narcissus bulbs are naturally toxic to feeding animals, whether that means deer, squirrels, rabbits or pets! Dogs and cats usually don't bother daffodils, because, like the wildlife, they recognize the scent the bulbs use to advertise their toxicity. Daffodils are highly resistant to deer and rodents.

How to Plant & Grow Narcissus Daffodil Bulbs

narcissus daffodil bulbs

Start with Great Quality Narcissus Daffodil Bulbs 

All of the narcissus daffodil flowers and leaves you will see in your spring garden are already tucked away inside each bulb you plant this fall! Proper planting and care will enable them to bloom and to thrive, but If you want the best flowers, you need to start with great bulbs!  :) 

When to Plant Narcissus Daffodil Bulbs

Daffodils should be planted in the cooling soils of fall.  In some climates, that begins in early September, and in very warm areas it is in late November. While you can hang onto your daffodil bulbs for a few weeks, or even a couple of months prior to planting them, I do not recommend it. Do not refrigerate your bulbs, but store them in a cool, dark, dry place with good air circulation until it is time to plant them. Ask the company you order the bulbs from to delay the ship date until it is closer to the time you intend to plant. That way, the responsibility for storing them properly is on us!  :)

Sun Exposure for Narcissus Daffodils 

daffodils thrive planted under deciduous trees

In general, daffodils prefer full sun. However, because many trees that cast shade are bare in later winter and early spring, many garden spots that are normally in shade most of the year can be ideal for planting your daffodil bulbs. And unlike most "full sun" plants, daffodils will thrive even when the lighting is much less than ideal.

Planting Depth and Spacing for Daffodil Bulbs

While daffodils prefer well drained soil, they are tolerant of a wide range of clay and sandy soils. They should be planted with the pointy end facing up. This is the bulb that spawned the rule of planting it 2.5 times its width for the depth. Large daffodil bulbs are generally planted 6-7" deep, with the bulbs for daffs planted 3-4 inches deep. Allow 3-4 inches space between the bulbs.

yellow blooming daffodils are closely planted with rustic barn in the distance

Watering Daffodils 

When you have planted your daffodils, water them in well. Water weekly until the rains come, and continue to supplement their moisture levels until three weeks after they have finished blooming. At this time, allow the soil to dry, unless you have other plants layered with the daffodil bulbs.

Daffodil Care After Blooming

Do not cut green daffodil leaves even after blooming. It is important that you leave your daffodil's leaves intact while they are still green. Do not fold, braid, bind or cut the leaves until they have fully yellowed and begun to brown off. These leaves are necessary to build the blooms for the following season through photosynthesis! Your daffodil bulbs should grow and bloom for you for decades! Leave the foliage in place to ensure their continued health and bloom production. If you find the leaves unsightly, a great approach is to layer the daffodil bulbs at planting with other blooming bulbs or perennials that will bloom later, thereby disguising the daffodil foliage. Daylilies make terrific layering partners, with the daylily planted above the daffodils. 

Do Pink Daffodils Exist?

peachy pink blooming narcissus daffodils

Why do we gardeners always want what we cannot have? As much as we clamor for yellow blooming amaryllis, we also want pink blooming daffodils! :) Hybridizers have been hard at work developing pink blooming daffodils. Decades in development, we now have a number of varieties that blush a peachy shade of pink, primarily in the "cup" of the daffodil bloom. While it appears that hot pink daffs are still waaay in the future, the peachy pink varieties are truly lovely, and have proven to be as resistant to deer and long-lived as any.

 shop fragrant narcissus daffodil Ice Follies

Daffodils are truly one of the great joys of gardening. Long-lived spring time classics, and the very best plant for beginning gardeners to plant. Will you be planting daffodils this fall? If so - which ones? I would love to know! Please take a moment to leave a comment so I can garden vicariously through you!  :)

Happy Gardening!



All about planting and growing narcissus daffodils


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  • Kathleen McCarthy