Hearty daffodils are one of the easiest and most popular spring bulbs to grow. Though typically associated with the characteristic sunny yellow bloom, there are actually more than 50 species and over 25,000 registered cultivars or hybrids of daffodils.
Native to areas of Europe and North Africa, daffodils are best-planted in mid-to-late autumn and will begin to rear their heads in early spring, reaching peak bloom about a month after the final frost. If properly cared for, the bulbs of the daffodil can be replanted for enjoyment for years to come. Sometimes, they abruptly stop blooming, a condition called going "blind." It may be an insect problem, too much shade, or perhaps they have moved too far down in the soil and need to be lifted.
|Common Name||Daffodil, narcissus, jonquil|
|Plant Type||Bulbous perennial|
|Mature Size||12–18 in. tall, 6–12 in. wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun, partial shade|
|Soil Type||Rich, moist but well-drained|
|Soil pH||Neutral to acidic|
|Flower Color||Yellow, white, orange, red|
|Hardiness Zones||3–9 (USDA)|
|Native Area||Europe, Africa|
|Toxicity||Toxic to dogs, toxic to cats|
All things considered, daffodils are a great entry-level plant for novice gardeners to try flexing their green thumb with. When selecting which daffodil bulbs to plant, choose ones that have a large, firm shape with a dry papery covering. Plant the bulbs pointed end up, about three to five inches deep and equally as spaced apart—they'll look especially great set in rows lining pathways or garden beds. Daffodils will not bloom more than once in a season, so once you notice the petals fading, allow the foliage to turn yellow and dry up. At that point, you can then dig up the bulbs and store them in a cool, dry place before you're ready to re-plant them come fall.
Daffodils will thrive best when planted in full sun, though they can withstand a bit of partial shade or dappled light. If you are contending with a shadier spot, aim to plant your bulbs angled to the area that gets the most light—once bloomed, the flowers will grow towards the sun, so doing so will ensure you get forward-facing blooms.
Daffodil plants prefer a neutral to slightly acidic soil pH of 6.0 to 7.0. They thrive in rich, moist soil but, as with most bulbs, they require excellent drainage or they will rot. Since daffodils can survive for years, you will want to find a spot to plant them where will not sit in waterlogged soil.
Daffodils like to be watered regularly in the spring and fall. If there is no snow cover, the corms will also need to be watered throughout the winter. Stop watering about three to four weeks after the flowers fade—they go dormant during the summer and prefer a drier soil. Bonus: Drier soil will make it easier for you to remove them from the soil and store until fall.
Temperature and Humidity
Daffodil hardiness will vary slightly with varieties and exposure, but most daffodils are reliable within USDA hardiness zones three to nine. Most daffodils need a cold period to set roots (which is why they're typically planted in autumn), but certain divisions of daffodils will grow in warmer climates, especially if given sufficient water. Overall, daffodils do not need any added humidity.
Daffodils are pretty self-sufficient, but if you have poor soil or the plants are not flowering as much as they should, top dress with bulb food or bone meal when the leaves first emerge. Lightly feed again when they flower.
Are Daffodils Toxic?
While they are beautiful flowers, the bulb and flower of the daffodil plant are toxic to animals, including dogs, cats, and horses. Animals can also fall ill from drinking water that has housed daffodils (like in a vase), so be extra cautious when planting or enjoying the blooms around your furry pets. If you notice any of the symptoms below, contact your vet or an animal poison control center immediately.
Symptoms of Poisoning
- Increased heart rate
- Abdominal pain
- Trouble breathing
- Irregular heart rate
There are 13 different types of daffodils (with many cultivars within each division), all differentiated based on the form of the flower. They include:
- Trumpet: The Trumpet daffodil boasts a center cup at least as long as its petals, with one bloom per stem.
- Large-cupped: The cup on this daffodil variety is more than one-third the length of the petals, but not as long as them, with one bloom per stem.
- Small-cupped: As the name implies, the cup on this varietal is no more than one-third the length of the petals, with one bloom per stem.
- Double: This daffodil varietal features clustered cups and petals, with one or more blooms per stem.
- Triandrus: The flowers on the triandrus daffodil have a hanging bell shape, usually boasting two or more blooms per stem.
- Cyclamineus: This daffodil varietal features swept-back petals and one bloom per stem.
- Jonquilla: The Jonquilla daffodil has small, fragrant flowers with flat petals and narrow leaves. Typically, you'll see one to three blooms per stem.
- Tazetta: Fragrant clusters of florets dot the Tazetta daffodil, usually with more than three blooms per stem. The leaves and stem are also broader than usual.
- Poeticus: Pure white petals surround a flattened, crinkled cup on the Poeticus daffodil. Its cups generally have green centers circled in yellow and rimmed with red, and one fragrant bloom per stem.
- Bulbocodium: This daffodil varietal features small petals and a "hoop petticoat" shaped cup.
- Split-cupped: The cup on this varietal is split open, usually at least halfway.
- Miscellaneous: These do not fit into other categories, including inter-division hybrids.
- Species, wild variants, and wild hybrids
Potting and Repotting Daffodils
Daffodils can grow well in containers for up to three years if the pot is deep enough for their roots to fill out. To successfully plant daffodils in containers, follow these easy steps:
- Choose a pot that is eight to 12 inches in diameter, and at least eight inches deep. The deeper the better, since daffodil roots like to reach down about a foot. Make sure your chosen pot has drainage holes.
- Fill the container about two-thirds of the way with potting mix.
- Disperse the bulbs in the pot—close, but not touching—so that their points are just below the rim of the pot.
- Lightly cover the bulbs with soil and water well.
- Move the container to a cool, dark spot where the temperature remains steadily around 40 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit for 12 to 15 weeks.
- Water whenever the soil feels dry.
- After the chilling period, move the container to a sunny but cool spot (around 55 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit) and continue watering.
- When leaves emerge, the container can be moved into indirect sunlight—but keep it cool. Warm temperatures will diminish flowering. Continue watering whenever the soil feels dry.
- Leave your daffodil bulbs in the pot after flowering. Move the container to a shady spot and continue watering it once or twice a week.
- Top dress with a handful of fertilizer or bone meal.
- When the leaves die off, place the pot on its side and let it dry out. Then start all over again.
- Potted daffodil bulbs can bloom for two to three years in the container, but will do better if you move them to a spot in the ground and pot up fresh bulbs each year.