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Everyone is familiar with the golden yellow trumpets so common in the spring. Daffodils are really Narcissus (pronounced nar-SIS-sus) in the Amaryllis family.

Daffodils are a perennial favorite and easy to grow. They grow from a bulb that is normally planted in the fall. They come in a wide range of shapes, sizes and colors.

What you may not know is that the bulbs and all parts of the plants are poisonous! That's why deer won't eat them and the squirrels and other rodents will leave them alone and instead head for your tulips.

Daffodil or NarcissusThe flower consists of a central trumpet or cup, properly called a corona. The corona is referred to as a trumpet if it is long and a cup if it is short. The corona is surrounded by 6 petals which forms the entire flower.

The most common colors are yellow, orange and white. But there are also pink daffodils which emerge yellow and turn pink as they mature. Many daffs are bicolor with yellow petals and orange trumpets.

The blooming season varies. Species are rated as either early, mid season, or late blooming plants. By combing species, it's possible to extend the blooming season for 3 months or more in the spring.

Growing daffodils

Daffodils like full sun to partial shade and a well-drained soil is essential. Plant bulbs in fall, the sooner the better because it gives bulbs time to establish a good root system before the ground freezes. Planting dept varies according the bulb size: usually 2x - 3x as deep as the bulbs are tall. Space large hybrids 6" - 10" and miniatures slightly closer. The wider spacing will look sparse in the first year, but will fill in nicely in following bloom cycles.

If your soil is mostly clay, work in some organic matter prior to planting.

Care of the bulbs before planting is of equal importance. DO NOT REFRIGERATE your daffodil bulbs. Keep them cool, dry, well ventilated and out of the sun until planted. Store in a mesh bag, never in a plastic bag, in an air conditioned space. The best advice is to get them in the ground as soon as you can. They belong in the ground, not in the garage.

Plant your bulbs in clumps. Daffodils look best and grow better in clumps rather than long skinny rows. To achieve a “full” look in your bed space the bulbs at 3x their width. That would be about 25 large bulbs per square yard. Plant in a hole 6" deep. Smaller bulbs should be planted 2 - 3 times as deep as the bulb is tall. If they are a bit too shallow and the soil is not too heavy, most bulbs will pull themselves down into the soil. Never expose your bulbs to the sun for more than a few minutes. Heat will kill the flower bud within the bulb.

After the bloom

Cut off spent flowers as soon as possible to prevent seed heads from forming. There is no harm in letting the heads go to seed, it just takes additional energy away from being stored in the bulb. It is essential for future blooms that the leaves be allowed to age gracefully for at least 6 weeks, 8 is better. Don't tie them up in bundles as this cuts down on their exposure to light which is required to store enough energy in the bulbs for next year's bloom. Leaves should be allowed dry naturally. Folks who have time to braid daffodil leaves didn’t plant enough daffodils!


Additional info

What is the difference between a daffodil and a narcissus?

The two words are synonyms. Narcissus is the Latin or botanical name for all daffodils. Daffodil is the common name for all members of the genus Narcissus, and its use is recommended by the American Daffodil Society at all times other than in scientific writing.

What is a jonquil?

In some parts of the country any yellow daffodil is called a jonquil, but this isn't quite correct. As a rule, but not always, jonquil species and hybrids are characterized by several yellow flowers, strong scent, and rounded foliage. The hybrids are confined to Division 7 and the term "jonquil" should be applied only to daffodils in Division 7 or species in Division 10 known to belong to the jonquil group.

How many different kinds of daffodils are there?

Botanists differ, but there are at least 25 species, some with a great many different forms, and several natural hybrids. In addition to the species, the current printout of the Daffodil Data Bank lists over 13,000 hybrids that are divided among the 12 divisions of the official classification.

Are daffodils difficult to grow?

Absolutely NOT. Daffodils are probably the easiest and most dependable of all flowers and ideal for a beginner in gardening in most regions of the United States.

Will daffodils grow in the shade?

They will grow in the shade of deciduous trees (lose their leaves in the fall) because they have finished flowering and the foliage has begun to mature by the time deciduous trees leaf out. However, it is better to grow them outside the drip line of deciduous trees rather than under them. Also, deciduous trees with tap roots are preferable to shallow-rooted trees. Daffodils will not long survive under evergreens and shrubs.

Will squirrels and other rodents eat daffodil bulbs?

No. The bulbs and leaves contain poisonous crystals which only certain insects can eat with impunity. They may, however, dig up the bulbs because, well, because that's what squirrels do.

How long will daffodil bulbs last?

Under good growing conditions, they should outlast any of us. While some kinds of bulbs tend to dwindle and die out, daffodils should increase and multiply, not like many hybrid tulips that only last a year or two.

How do daffodils multiply?

Daffodils multiply in a couple of ways: bulb division where exact copies of the flower will result, and from seed where new, different flowers will result.

Seeds develop in the seed pod, the swelling just behind the flowerpetals. Most often, after bloom the seed pod swells but it is empty of seed. Occasionally, wind or insects can pollinate the flower during bloom by bringing new pollen from another flower. When this happens, the seed pod will contain one or a few seeds.

Daffodil hybridizers pollinate flowers by brushing pollen from one flower onto the stigma of another. Then the resulting seed pod can contain up to 25 seeds. Each of these will produce an entirely new plant. However, the wait for a bloom for a plant grown from seed is about 5 years!

Read also: Naturalizing Daffodils