Daffodils are spring flowering bulbs in the genus, Narcissus. All daffodils are narcissus but not all narcissus are daffodils. Other plants such as the jonquils and others are also in the genus along with the daffodils.

Daffodils come in a surprising array of sizes, flower types and colors. They are durable plants and, for many home gardeners, are especially prized because they are deer resistant. Like many of our common ornamental plants, they are poisonous.

They are also valued because, unlike many tulips, they are very hardy and will actually "naturalize" and spread over an area in subsequent years.

As with other bulbs, the most important site condition for daffodils is to have a well drained soil. If the soil is high in clay content and holds onto too much water, there is always the threat of rot for the bulbs. Also, although they can tolerate some shade, daffodils do best with a lot of sunlight.

Daffodils need to be planted during the fall of the year so that they have time to go through the chilling temperatures of the winter months. Generally speaking, they need about 13 weeks at temperatures below around 40 degrees in order to trigger formation of flower buds and stems.

The bulbs may be planted at any time before the ground freezes in the late fall or early winter. As with most bulbs, they need to be placed at a depth of about 2.5 to 3 times the bulb's height. So, if you have a 2 inch tall bulb, you need to dig a hole about 5 to 6 inches deep. You can go a bit deeper in sandy soils and a bit shallower in heavy clay soils.

Be sure to plant the flat i.e. bottom, side of the bulb at the bottom of the hole. If you plant the bulb upside down, it will probably still grow but it will take extra energy to twist the stem around and make it head up to the soil surface. This can lead to a shorter life for the bulb over the years.

Fertilizing - Spring flowering bulbs including daffodils need to be fertilized before the new foliage emerges in the spring. This allows time for the fertilizer to leach down into the ground to the root zone of the bulbs. The nutrients need to be available to the roots during the time when the leaves are green and growing. That, after all, is the only time the plants can use fertilizers.

Foliage Removal - Remember that bulbs are just energy storage organs for the plant's future success. Where do they get this energy? From photosynthesis that takes place in the leaves. So, it seems only logical that the longer you can keep the leaves going, the greater the amount of energy that will be pushed down into the bulbs for next year's plants and flowers.

Generally speaking, about the only serious problem for daffodils is root rot and this is rarely experienced except in soils with poor drainage.

The really good news is, as we discussed above, daffodils are not eaten by deer. They are poisonous.

In areas where daffodils are considered winter hardy, they need no special winter care. They will survive and thrive in the soil.

As with other bulbs, daffodils multiply by adding tiny bulblets to the sides of existing bulbs. As these grow over succeeding season, they may become crowded which will restrict the growth of the new bulbs. At that time, it will be helpful to dig up the clump of bulbs, separate them and replant them at the proper depth and spacing. Of course, do this in the fall if possible.

Note: We have provided some general information and observations on this topic aimed at the home gardener. Before you take any serious action in your landscape, check with your state's land grant university's Cooperative Extension Service for the most current, appropriate, localized recommendations.


Copyright 2000-