Daffodil bulbs are typically planted deep into the soil and have plenty of space over them as they go dormant in summer. So, you might be wondering if you can plant vegetable seeds or seedlings over them.
You can plant shallow-rooted annual vegetables over daffodil bulbs, such as lettuce, celery, spinach, or kale. Use foliar fertilizers to avoid introducing excess nitrogen to your bulbs. Despite being toxic to humans and animals, the toxic alkaloids in the bulbs won’t affect your vegetables if harvested carefully.
It’s crucial to choose the right types of vegetables to avoid potential damage to your daffodil bulbs. This article will explore the various vegetables you can safely grow over your daffodil bed. I’ll also share some tips on how to grow both daffodils and vegetables successfully, so read on!
- Companion Planting: Daffodils and vegetables can be grown together as companion plants, and the toxic components of daffodils do not harm other plants in the same area. This means it’s safe to plant vegetables over or around daffodil bulbs.
- Choosing Compatible Vegetables: Select vegetables that are compatible with daffodils, such as lettuce, celery, spinach, and kale, based on their sun requirements and growth cycles.
- Daffodil Toxicity: Daffodil bulbs contain toxic alkaloids that can be harmful to humans and animals if ingested. However, these toxins do not persist in the soil to harm other plants.
- Planning and Layout: Proper planning and layout are essential to avoid disturbing daffodil bulbs and ensure both daffodils and vegetables thrive.
- Fertilization and Watering: Use specific fertilization and watering strategies to meet the unique needs of both daffodils and vegetables.
- Harvesting Techniques: Harvest leafy vegetables like lettuce, spinach, celery, and kale carefully to avoid disturbing daffodil bulbs underneath. Be sure not to dig out or cut into any of the daffodil bulbs and accidentally mix them with your vegetable produce.
- Resource Management: Manage resource competition by controlling nutrient levels and providing appropriate watering, taking into account the different growth stages of daffodils and vegetables.
- Pest and Disease Control: Maintain good air circulation and avoid overhead watering to prevent pests and diseases that may affect leafy vegetables.
Foodscaping is a growing gardening trend where edible plants are grown alongside ornamental plants. This way, you can have an aesthetically pleasing garden with enough produce to add to your dinner table.
The key to establishing a successful and thriving foodscape is understanding how to group complementary plants:
- The food crops and ornamental plants must have the same soil, sun, and water requirements.
- They may have the same growing season if you plan to grow them side-by-side.
- You can grow warm-season annual flowers followed by cool-season annual vegetables or vice versa to keep your soil occupied and prevent weeds from taking over.
- You can also grow annual vegetables or flowers over perennial bulbs during the bulbs’ dormant period—as is the case with daffodils.
And since you’re planning to grow vegetables over your daffodil bulbs, it’s important first to understand the basic traits, life cycle, and growth requirements of daffodil plants.
Daffodils are spring-blooming perennial bulbs that naturalize in USDA zones 3B-10.
They consist of 13 divisions and thousands of varieties or cultivars. Although generally famous for their yellow blooms, newer cultivars come in a wide array of colors, including white, orange, red, apricot, and green.
When planning your foodscape, the two most important things to understand about daffodils are their life cycle and growth requirements.
Let’s discuss these in more detail below:
As a perennial, daffodils go through different life stages stimulated by air or soil temperatures. Here’s the life cycle of a daffodil from planting to flowering:
- Planting: A firm, healthy bulb must be planted in the fall about 2-4 weeks before the first hard frost. During this time, they develop strong roots.
- Chill time: The bulbs then need 3-4 months of chill time or constant soil and air temperatures of 40-45 °F (4-7 °C).
- Shoot growth: As the temperatures rise to 50 °F (10 °C), the shoots will emerge from the ground. They typically grow 1-2 feet (30-60 cm) tall and 1 foot (30 cm) wide.
- Flowering: The flower buds will open when the air temperatures rise to 60-70 °F (15.6-21 °C). After 6 weeks (or up to 6 months) of blooming, the flowers will dry out and may go to seed.
- Post-bloom food generation: After the flowers fade, the remaining foliage will continue to photosynthesize for at least 6 weeks to generate enough food for the bulbs.
- Dormancy: As the foliage turns yellow or brown, the bulb will enter a dormant stage. The bulbs prefer dry soil during this time to avoid stimulating the growth process.
- Breaking out of dormancy: When the soil temperatures drop to 55-60 °F (13-15.6 °C) in the fall, the bulbs will awaken and grow roots. If the bulb is over 3 years old, it may even divide and create daughter bulbs.
For optimum growth, daffodils require the following conditions in your garden:
- Sun: Full sun or at least six hours of direct sunlight daily
- Soil: Loam soil with excellent drainage or sandy loam soil rich in organic matter
- Water: Drought-tolerant and can thrive with 2-3 inches (5-7.6 cm) of dry soil
- Nutrients: Low-nitrogen, high-phosphorus, high-potassium (5-10-10 NPK granular fertilizer at planting and/or at sprouting and 0-10-10 as the blooms fade)
Companion Planting Benefits
Contrary to popular belief, the toxic components of daffodils don’t remain in the soil to harm other plants grown over or around them. This means that it’s safe to grow companion plants around your daffodils or over the dormant bulbs.
Companion planting is a widely used gardening practice wherein plants that benefit each other are grown together. In most cases, plants are grown alongside each other to repel pests.
In the case of growing vegetables over daffodil bulbs, you can expect the following benefits:
- Deer, squirrels, and other rodents avoid daffodils because of their toxicity, making your vegetable patch safe.
- Growing vegetables and daffodils in the same spot can help save garden space.
- The vegetables protect the daffodil bulbs from unwanted moisture during summer dormancy.
- Vegetables that last throughout winter provide a living mulch layer over the daffodil bulbs.
- The actively growing vegetables will choke out the weeds.
In combination with daffodils, these benefits can only be achieved with a handful of vegetable species.
Let me explain:
Choosing Compatible Vegetables
Daffodils can light up your garden in early spring and bloom anywhere between 6 weeks and 6 months, depending on your region and the cultivar.
When the foliage dies out, planting vegetables over the daffodil bed is a more efficient use of your space and keeps your garden looking lively during dry seasons.
Make sure to choose vegetables that are compatible with your bulbs:
Since daffodils require full sun and are typically grown in the sunniest parts of a garden, you must choose vegetables that also like at least six hours of sunlight daily.
Here are some excellent examples:
Lettuce (Lactuca sativa) is a sun-loving and pretty popular vegetable. It’s typically grown for its leaves, but some people use their stems and seeds as food. It’s also fast-growing, and you can harvest them as soon as 4 weeks after you’ve planted them.
Although it loves full sun, it isn’t heat-tolerant and prefers to be sown in the fall, right about at the same time as your daffodil bulbs. You can sow the seeds on the soil right above your daffodils.
Alternatively, you can start the seeds indoors and transplant them into your garden soil when they’re 2-3 inches (5-7.6 cm) tall.
Lettuces are great companion plants for daffodils and will help protect their bulbs from harsh environmental conditions. The shallow roots will absorb the moisture from the upper few inches of the soil and keep the bulbs from drowning in water-logged conditions.
Celery (Apium graveolens) is another sun-loving plant that can be grown in mid- to late-summer in cooler regions where daytime temperatures are between 70 and 77 °F (21 and 25 °C).
It has a bulb-like mass of roots called celeriac that grows within the upper 6 inches (15 cm) of the soil, making it safe for the daffodil bulb if it’s buried deeper.
Celery matures slowly, so planting it in the summer will give you enough time to harvest it in the winter without disrupting your daffodil bulbs’ dormancy and growing cycles. It also absorbs the moisture from the topsoil, keeping your daffodil bulbs safe and dry in summer.
Cool-season crops can be planted along with your daffodil bulbs and will be ready for harvest in late fall or winter. As these plants grow, they can serve as a living mulch layer that will protect the daffodil bulbs from freezing temperatures.
Here are some excellent examples:
Spinach (Spinacia oleracea) is a leafy green vegetable that complements daffodil bulbs just as well as lettuce plants. They also grow at about the same rate as lettuce, and you can harvest spinach 6 to 10 weeks after you plant them.
Most spinach varieties are heat-sensitive, so you can only grow them in the fall or winter. If you want to try sowing them earlier (mid- or late summer), opt for slow-bolting varieties like ‘Bloomsdale’ or ‘Olympia’.
Spinach can grow taproots, but they’re usually thinner and shallow (only within the upper 6 inches or 15 cm of the topsoil). Plus, if you harvest them within 6-10 weeks, the roots won’t grow long enough to damage your daffodil bulbs.
Kale (Brassica oleracea) is another fall-planted vegetable grown for its juicy and nutritious leaves. It has very moderate growing requirements, meaning you can focus most of your efforts on the success of your daffodils without worrying too much about the plant. It also grows in a pretty short time.
You can plant it over your daffodil bulbs, as they go dormant in late summer or about 6 weeks before the first hard frost. They will be ready and taste better when harvested in early winter, and you can extend the harvest well throughout winter with proper care.
Although kale is cruciferous, the plant still has many practical uses in your garden apart from food. The plant is exceptionally hardy and can tolerate temperatures as low as 10 °F (-12 °C) even without protection, making them an excellent living mulch layer.
Planning and Layout
It’s important to avoid disturbing the soil too much or damaging the daffodil bulbs when sowing seeds or transplanting seedlings.
Below are some planting techniques that can help you successfully grow vegetables over on your daffodil bed:
Planting Depth and Spacing
Daffodil bulbs are typically buried in the soil at a depth equal to 2-3 times the vertical length of the bulbs. I recommend planting your daffodil bulbs on the upper limit (or even deeper) of the recommended depth if you plan to grow vegetables over them.
If the bulb is about 2 inches (5 cm) tall, the maximum recommended depth is 6 inches (15 cm). Even shallow-rooted vegetables have roots that extend to this depth, so you must plant your bulbs at least 7 inches (18 cm) deep.
The vegetable seeds can then be sown within the upper ½-1 inch (1.3-2.5 cm) of the soil, and the mature vegetable plants can be harvested before their roots grow too deep.
If you’re transplanting seedlings, move them as soon as they’re 2-3 inches (5-7.6 cm) tall so that the roots are still shallow. Dig only up to 3 inches (7.6 cm) into the soil and place the seedlings. This will prevent accidentally damaging your daffodil bulbs with gardening tools.
It will be more favorable to grow vegetables over your daffodil bulbs if you use the following:
- Larger daffodil bulbs need to be buried deeper into the soil and will, therefore, be more tolerant of shallow-rooted vegetables over them.
- Sandy loam soil allows you to plant the bulbs deeper since the water flows down more quickly in loose substrate. Fortunately, most vegetables prefer the same type of soil.
Horizontal space is important when growing leafy vegetables over your daffodil bulbs to improve air circulation and prevent pests and diseases. Take note of the expected spread of your chosen vegetable at maturity and put that into consideration when sowing the seeds or planting seedlings.
The following are the recommended spaces between vegetable plants:
- Lettuce: 6-8 inches (15-20 cm)
- Spinach: 12 inches (30 cm)
- Kale: 18 inches (45 cm)
- Celery: 12 inches (30 cm)
Some vegetables can be planted in the summer while the bulbs are dormant, while others can be sown in the fall along with your daffodil bulbs.
Each process has different requirements, so let’s discuss them further below:
Celery and kale can be planted in the summer as the daffodil foliage dies out.
If you’re not sure when to plant them, it’s best to take note of the germination rates and temperature requirements of the chosen vegetables.
|45-75 °F (7-24 °C)
|70-77 °F (21-25 °C)
|One week (at 75 °F or 24 °C)
|Growth Rate to Harvest
You’ll have to cut the daffodil foliage down to the ground to prevent them from shading out your seeds, which can delay or inhibit germination. Make sure that your bulbs have generated enough food before sowing your vegetable seeds. This usually takes at least 6 weeks after the blooms fade.
Besides the daffodils in parts of my vegetable beds, I also have daffodils on my lawn. I usually wait 2-3 months after the blooms fade before cutting the daffodils in the garden beds and mowing my lawn to avoid interfering with the process. Mowing or removing the foliage too soon resulted in weaker bulbs and fewer blooms the following spring.
Pro tip: Start your vegetable seeds indoors to ensure they germinate and succeed in your garden bed. You can then transplant them over the daffodil bed when they’re 2-3 inches (5-7.6 cm) tall.
Fall planting can vary depending on whether your daffodil bulbs are already in the ground or if you’re starting from scratch.
For in-ground bulbs, you can simply sow the vegetable seeds or seedlings over them 6 weeks before the first frost.
When planting your daffodil bulbs in the fall, just bury them about an inch or 2.5 cm deeper than the recommended depth and cover them with soil.
Afterward, sprinkle the vegetable seeds over the surface or cover them with soil, depending on the vegetable’s requirement. For instance, lettuce and spinach seeds must be lightly covered with only ¼-½ inches (0.6-1.3 cm) of soil.
Lettuce and spinach will sprout within a week if sown while daytime air temperatures are still around 70 °F (21 °C). They will take longer to germinate as the temperatures get lower, so it’s best to start them indoors and transplant them on the daffodil bed.
Once you’ve planted the vegetables, you must care for them while keeping in mind that there are daffodils underneath them.
Planting and Caring for Vegetables
Kale, spinach, lettuce, and celery share similar growth requirements, making it easy to grow them together over your daffodil bed or alternate among them every year.
Here are some similar growth requirements that make them the perfect companions for daffodils:
- They all like full sun and can tolerate partial shade in the afternoon.
- They grow in slightly acidic to neutral soil (pH 6.0-7.0).
- They like loamy or sandy loam soil rich in organic matter.
Since the daffodil bed most likely already has sufficient sunlight and suitable soil for your vegetables, the two care requirements to pay more attention to are watering and fertilizing.
Leafy vegetables require high-nitrogen fertilizers, whereas daffodil bulbs need nitrogen in low amounts to promote flower growth. More importantly, daffodils don’t need fertilizers during dormancy.
Below are some of the strategies I have tried and proven effective:
Fertilizing Summer-Planted Vegetables
It’s crucial to prevent the nitrogen from seeping deep into the soil and reaching your dormant daffodil bulbs.
You can prevent this by following a few tricks:
- Spray the soil surface with quarter-strength 10-10-10 NPK fertilizer after planting the seeds or seedlings.
- Repeat this once a week until the vegetables reach 6 inches (15 cm) tall.
- Increase the dosage to half-strength to make a foliar spray and reduce the application frequency to once every 2 weeks.
Fertilizing Daffodil Bulbs and Fall-Planted Vegetables
If you fertilize your daffodils adequately in the spring or early summer before the bulbs go dormant and your soil is rich in organic matter, you may not have to fertilize the bulbs until spring.
Otherwise, you can follow the steps below:
- Dig into the soil and apply a 5-10-10 NPK granular fertilizer 2 inches (5 cm) above your daffodil bulbs. Do this before planting the vegetable seeds or seedlings on the soil surface.
- Fertilize your vegetables with a quarter-strength 10-10-10 NPK liquid fertilizer at planting and once weekly until the plant reaches 4-6 inches (10-15 cm) tall.
- Switch to a foliar fertilizer with half-strength 10-10-10 NPK and apply every 2 weeks.
Water and Maintenance
The water requirements of summer-planted vegetables can vary because of the difference in evaporation rate and the growth stage of your daffodil bulbs.
Check out the facts below to plan your watering routine accordingly:
Summer-planted vegetables require frequent watering, while the daffodil bulbs prefer to be dry during dormancy. The amount and frequency of watering can also vary depending on the vegetable’s growth stage.
You can avoid damaging your daffodil bulbs by keeping the following in mind:
- After planting the seeds or seedlings, give them daily watering, which is enough to saturate the upper 2 inches (5 cm) of the soil.
- Give your established or mature vegetables enough water to saturate the upper 6 inches (15 cm) of the soil to hydrate them without drowning the bulbs underneath. Water them again only when the upper 2 inches (5 cm) of the soil is dry.
In the fall, your daffodil bulbs will break out of dormancy and require enough water to develop roots.
You must water gradually and deeply enough so that the soil is saturated 10 inches (25 cm) deep. This will ensure that both your vegetable crops and daffodil bulbs are well-hydrated and won’t have to compete for moisture.
The water is also necessary to activate and deliver the granular fertilizer if you apply some during fall planting.
Growing a nutrient- and moisture-loving vegetable plant over a dormant flowering bulb may seem impossible at first glance.
After years of experimentation, I’ve come up with several strategies that work on my daffodil-vegetable bed:
Competition for Resources
The major issue with growing multiple plants on the same bed or garden patch is the shortage or excess of resources. This is especially true for daffodils, which have varying requirements at different growth stages.
I have a relatively simple formula for this:
- Use diluted (liquid) fertilizer or foliar spray on your vegetables to localize the nitrogen application and prevent it from leaching into your daffodil bulbs.
- Bury the granular fertilizer 2-3 inches (5-7.6 cm) above your daffodil bulbs in the fall so it can be gradually delivered to them.
- Limit the water to the upper 6 inches (15 cm) of the soil during summer.
- Saturate the ground as deep as 10 inches (25 cm) in the fall.
- If the kale persists throughout winter, cover the plant with a cold frame and water it when the upper 3 inches (7.6 cm) of the soil is dry. This will prevent your kale from tasting bitter.
Pest and Disease Control
Leafy vegetables are attractive to pests and diseases, especially if the foliage remains wet. Common plant pests like aphids, slugs, and spider mites may attack your leafy greens and persist in the area to attack your daffodil shoots later. The same is true for diseases like powdery mildew and mold.
Here are some good gardening practices that will help prevent or control these issues while being perfectly safe for the daffodil bulbs underneath:
- Observe proper spacing between the vegetables at planting to facilitate good air circulation as the vegetables mature.
- Avoid overhead watering by pouring the water directly into the soil.
- Water the vegetables early in the morning to give the foliage enough time to dry out if you’re using a gardening hose or watering can with a wide spray.
- Use organic insecticidal soaps to eliminate pests and prevent further infestations. Commercially available insecticidal soaps are better than homemade ones because they’re scientifically formulated to be plant-safe, even for leafy vegetables.
Harvesting and Enjoying Your Garden
Once your vegetables have matured and are ready for harvest, proper timing and harvesting methods will ensure the best-tasting vegetables and extend your harvest, as in the case of kale.
Check out how to harvest each vegetable below:
- Lettuce: Harvest the outer leaves of loose-leaf lettuce, romaine, or butterhead by plucking them or cutting them using a harvest knife. These leaves will regrow as long as the plant is still within its lifespan. On the other hand, the whole head of iceberg lettuce can be harvested as the plant matures, and it won’t grow back. Harvesting the entire head of romaine and butterhead lettuce will also end their growth.
- Spinach: Just like lettuce leaves, you can harvest as many spinach leaves as you need and new ones will keep sprouting during the growing season. Alternatively, you can cut the entire bunch at soil level at the end of the growing season.
- Celery: Harvest the outer stalks as soon as they’re 6-8 inches (15-20 cm) tall and leave the inner stalks to mature some more before harvesting. Make diagonal cuts close to the base of the plant to remove the outer stalks. At the end of the growing season, pull out the celeriac and replace the displaced soil.
- Kale: Start plucking the outer leaves of a kale plant after the fall frost when they’re about the size of your palm. Harvesting them after a few snowfalls will make them taste sweeter because of the higher sugars induced by the cold.
Since these are leafy vegetables, the edible parts are limited above the soil, so there’s no risk of mixing the toxic daffodil bulbs with your harvest. Rest assured that your vegetables are safe to consume even if there are daffodil bulbs growing underneath them.
Just be sure not to dig out or cut into any of the daffodil bulbs and accidentally mix them with your vegetable produce.
Harvesting your vegetable leaves frequently will also encourage the plant to grow more leaves and hold back on growing the roots. This will keep the roots shallow and prevent them from reaching your daffodil bulbs.
By the end of the growing season, you must pull out or cut any remaining foliage and stem down to soil level to make way for the daffodil shoots.
Don’t till the soil during this time to avoid disturbing the daffodil shoots that are about to emerge. Any remaining roots will eventually decompose and contribute to the soil’s organic matter content.
Common Related Questions and Answers
What Can I Plant on Top of Daffodil Bulbs?
You can plant shallow-rooted annuals like vegetables and flowers over your daffodil bulbs when they become dormant in late spring, summer, or early fall. Popular examples of vegetables include lettuce, celery, kale, and spinach.
If you want more flowers, you can opt for pink or purple gomphrenas, colorful zinnias, or yellow or golden marigolds. These flowers are often grown as annuals and have shallow roots. They also grow quickly and can color your garden within 6-8 weeks, just in time when your daffodil foliage completely dies out.
Daffodils can also come in early-, mid-, or late-blooming varieties so you can plan the next batch of plants to grow and maintain a vibrant greenery or flush of colors all year round.
What Can You Not Plant Near Daffodils?
You must not plant trees and shrubs near daffodils because they can shade out the flowers, which need full sun to bloom. Moreover, these sturdier plants can steal moisture and nutrients from the soil, and your daffodils will struggle to compete.
Although you can grow vegetables over your daffodil bulbs, not all vegetables are suitable.
Here are some plants you must avoid:
- Plants with a deep and thick taproot system, such as carrots, cucumbers, and radishes, can puncture and damage your daffodil bulbs.
- Onion and daffodil bulbs can look similar, increasing the risk of accidentally consuming the toxic daffodil bulb.
- Plants that have and require deep, fibrous roots for optimum growth, such as tomatoes.
- Moisture-loving plants like Swiss chards and ferns require consistently moist soil. Daffodil bulbs, on the other hand, will rot if the soil is always moist. Moreover, Swiss chards can grow radish-like roots if left in the ground for too long.
- Vegetables like broccoli, beans, and peas release large quantities of nitrogen into the soil by the end of their growing cycle. The nutrient is released within 4 weeks after harvest and isn’t good for daffodils because excess nitrogen will promote foliage growth and inhibit flower development.
Why Can’t You Plant Daffodils Next to Onions?
You can’t plant daffodils next to edible crops like onions because their bulbs look the same, and you might unknowingly harvest and consume daffodil bulbs.
Daffodils contain a toxic component called lycorine, which can cause severe gastrointestinal upset when consumed in large amounts.
Symptoms of daffodil poisoning include:
- Abdominal cramps
There are many vegetables you can grow alongside daffodil bulbs, but only a few you can grow over them, including kale, spinach, lettuce, and celery.
If you haven’t tried it before and want to give it a try, I encourage you to explore the tested and proven tips above on how to make it work.
Reach out if you have any questions or more gardening hacks you want to learn. But if you’ve successfully grown other vegetable types over your daffodil bulbs that aren’t on the list, feel free to share your experience!