People love a colorful garden and everything that comes with keeping it but taking care of it in the winter can be complicated. Even for daffodils which are known to be extremely hardy compared to other plants, overwintering them can sometimes be hit or miss. Because of this, many people end up unsure of how to store their daffodils over the winter.
You can overwinter daffodils in pots, but you must store them properly. Although hardy, daffodils, like all other plants, require a certain level of protection from the elements during winter. Along with this, proper storage before and after winter and aftercare are essential.
Winter can be a challenging time, especially for novice gardeners. If you’re stuck, need some tips, or just looking for a good read, you’ve come to the perfect place. Keep reading to learn how to properly overwinter daffodils in pots!
How To Overwinter Daffodils in Pots
Thankfully, daffodils are as hardy as they are beautiful. Because of this, the amount of care involved in taking care of them is relatively minimal. Most care involves storing the bulbs right and getting them into pots before winter comes. However, even though the care is relatively minimal, it still requires a decent bit of knowledge, so strap in and let’s get into it!
Here’s how to overwinter daffodils in pots:
- Remove the bulbs from the plants
- Store the bulbs safely
- Ready the soil and pot
- Plant the bulbs before winter
- Care for the bulbs during winter
Let’s go through each item in more details below:
1. Remove the Bulbs From the Plants
The approaching winter can seem daunting if you’ve never kept daffodils or plants in general. Providing extra light and water and regulating the temperature is enough to make any newbie sweat regardless of your enthusiasm.
However, although daffodils can live a long time, they go through yearly cycles. In the late winter and spring, they produce beautiful flowers. By summer, their bulbs go dormant, and their leaves start to die.
Once this happens, this is the signal that you need to uproot the daffodil bulbs and keep them for repotting before winter. It’s important to understand that you should not do this before the leaves turn yellow.
While the leaves are still green, the plant absorbs energy that it stores and uses to flower over its next yearly cycle. Without this, your plant likely won’t produce any flowers.
It’s a generally easy process, so don’t fret too much. Simply pull the bulbs apart, making sure that part of the basal plate remains attached to each bulb as you separate them. You must then store these separated bulbs properly.
2. Store the Bulbs Safely
If you don’t have everything else you need (pots, soil, water, etc.) when you harvest your bulbs, the next best thing to do is store them properly until you’re ready to plant them for the winter.
Once you have your bulbs, you should store them in a cool, dry place until they are ready for use. For storage, I would recommend using a carton large enough to hold at least a third of the bulbs length-wise. Layer your bulbs, one after the other, using newspaper between layers to protect them.
Alternatively, you can also use a clean plastic bag. However, make sure these bags are breathable to keep the bulbs safe.
Finally, ensure that your bulbs are clean and relatively dry before storing them. Leaving your bulbs damp or wet before storing them can encourage mildew growth, which will potentially ruin them.
Even if you keep your bulbs as well as you can, some might not make it. When unpacking the bulbs to use, go through them thoroughly, checking for mushy or damaged bulbs. Discard the damaged ones as they won’t be of any use.
3. Ready the Soil and Pot
The next step is to get the soil and pot you’re going to be using ready. Any good flower pot should be fine here, but you generally want larger pots over smaller ones, especially when planning to plant them with daffodils.
Along with this, the type of soil you use is even more important. In fact, while garden soil is usually the first thing I’d recommend for planting, using a potting mix might be a better choice for overwintering. The main reason for this is that garden soil usually holds far too much water to be healthy for bulbs.
Overall, potting mix is the best choice for planting inside pots, even outside of winter. Its composition and ease of use usually make it a better choice. Moreover, as the temperature drops in winter, a potting mix becomes an even better choice.
For your pot or planter, you’ll want something slightly larger than you would usually use. Daffodil bulbs are relatively large and can produce a spread of flowers, so it’s best to make sure they have enough room to grow when the time comes.
Most times, any regular old clay or terracotta planter will do. However, if you get particularly cold winters, you might want to opt for something flexible like plastic. Very cold temperatures cause water to expand as it freezes. This freezing can cause the pot to crack depending on how the soil is packed and its water content.
4. Plant the Bulbs Before Winter
Although you’re going to be planting your bulbs indoors rather than in your garden, you still need to plant them at the right time. Daffodils are spring-loving plants that need a good winter shock to properly begin to develop.
Because of this, it’s important to plant the bulbs in the pots before the winter comes. For most people, the best time to do this is right at the end of the fall. At worst, plant them early in the winter before the temperature drops significantly.
A good rule of thumb is to make sure that your bulbs get at least 8-12 weeks of cold weather, as this will ensure that they flower properly after the winter.
Once you have the timing down and know when you’re going to plant your bulbs, the next thing to do is to know how to plant them. Since you’re going to be planting in a pot rather than outdoors, space can be an issue.
Because of this, when planting in pots, you will have to plant your bulbs a lot closer than you’re usually used to. This shouldn’t be a problem, provided that you keep the bulbs from touching and keep the bottom of the bulbs below the soil.
5. Take Care of the Bulbs During the Winter
Daffodil bulbs require less care than most other plants, but going the extra mile to maintain optimal conditions can go a pretty long way. The main difference between growing your plants this way and growing them outdoors is that you’ll have to supplement many of their needs since winter can wreak havoc with the climate.
Here’s what to watch out for during the winter:
This list is by no means exhaustive, and you will likely learn more things unique to your situation as you become more familiar with the process. Regardless, the factors I mentioned above are a good starting point.
Most of the problems here have similar solutions to what you’d use outdoors, but for managing temperature, you will need to take a few extra steps.
Let’s take a quick look at it.
Unlike most other spring-loving plants (tulips, primroses, etc.), daffodils can survive even in particularly cold temperatures. Regardless, try to maintain a soil temperature between 35 – 45 °F (1.67 – 7.22 °C). Since daffodils are more tolerant of cold temperatures, a few degrees below this should still be fine, but I would advise that you try to keep it around this range.
Fall-planted bulbs like daffodils require this cold period if you want them to grow properly when spring comes around. Over time these bulbs have evolved to use cold to indicate an oncoming growing season. They will likely produce stunted stems or fail to flower properly without the cold period.
When overwintering your plants indoors, the main difference is that bulbs are affected differently than they would be outdoors. When planted in a garden outdoors, bulbs are insulated by the surrounding ground, and you’ll rarely ever have to worry about low temperatures.
However, when you plant them indoors in a pot, they are a lot more exposed to the temperature changes, and you will need to make sure that you keep them between the 35 – 45 °F (1.67 – 7.22 °C) range. A mini-greenhouse or other heating system can come in particularly handy.
Once the temperature problem is solved, the rest of the care is pretty straightforward. Daffodils require minimal care, so as long as you’re checking up on them every few days, you can expect them to grow well once the winter passes.
Overwintering your daffodils indoors has both positive and negative sides. On the one hand, bringing your plants inside removes them from the harsh conditions and potential pests they’d be exposed to otherwise.
However, it also means you’ll have to make up for what nature will naturally provide. If you choose to go the indoor route, make sure you follow each step in this guide to keep your daffodils as healthy as possible!