Daffodils are popular in outdoor gardens because they produce vibrant flowers. They’re among the first ornamental plants to bloom in spring, typically signaling that the warm season is about to come. These beauties are also easy to grow and care for, making them an ideal choice for gardeners.
You must plant daffodils in early autumn for the flowers to bloom in spring. The key is to plant them at an appropriate depth, provide them with adequate care for root development, give them 3-4 months of chill time, and mulch them for winter protection.
In the rest of the article, I will provide you with a comprehensive guide on the best practices for planting, growing, and caring for daffodils. Read on for helpful tips and get better chances of seeing the beautiful daffodil blossoms in spring!
|Common Name(s)||Daffodil, Narcissus|
|Botanical Name||Narcissus spp.|
|Plant Type||Bulbous perennials|
|Native Area||Europe, North Africa, New Zealand|
|USDA Hardiness Zones||3B-10|
|Height & Spread||1-2 feet (30-60 cm) tall and 0.5-2 feet (15-60 cm) wide|
|Bloom Time||Late winter or spring|
|Flower Structure||Perianth (with six petals) and central corona (cup)|
|Color||Yellow, white, red, orange, green, apricot|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun / at least 6 hours of direct sunlight|
Partial sun / 4-6 hours of direct sunlight
|Soil Type||Best: Well-drained, loamy soil|
Sandy soil rich in organic matter
Slightly clayey soil with good drainage
|Soil pH||Slightly acidic to neutral (around pH 6 to 7)|
|Watering||Drought-tolerant; 1 inch (2.5 cm) of water every week|
Goes dormant and must be left to dry in summer
|Pests, Diseases, Common Problems||Aphids, bulb mites, bulb fly larvae, nematodes, bulb or basal rot, Narcissus viruses|
|Toxicity||All parts are toxic to humans and animals.|
Selecting Daffodil Varieties
Narcissus is a large group of flowering plants commonly called daffodils and includes over 30 species and thousands of hybrids or cultivars. The Royal Horticultural Society grouped them into 13 divisions based on the appearance of the flowers.
Here’s a brief overview of the various daffodil cultivars:
|Division||Attributes||Best for||Famous Cultivars|
|1: Trumpets||Long, trumpet-shaped cup||Borders, flower beds||Dutch Master, Arctic Gold|
|2: Large-cupped||Cup equal to or larger than ⅓ the perianth’s diameter (5 inches or 13 cm)||Borders, garden centerpiece||Gigantic Star, Carlton|
|3: Small-cupped||Cup less than ⅓ the perianth’s diameter||Forcing to bloom indoors||Barrett Browning, Dreamlight|
|4: Double||2 perianth layers or 2 cups; rose-like appearance||Garden centerpiece, flower beds||Kiwi Sunset, Tahiti|
|5: Triandrus||2 or more flowers per stem; petals reflexed||Partial shade, containers||Ice Wings, Thalia|
|6: Cyclamineus||Short neck, petals significantly reflexed||Partial shade, containers, rock gardens, forcing to bloom indoors||Jetfire, February Gold|
|7: Jonquilla||1-5 flowers per stem; fragrant||Fragrance; forcing to bloom indoors||Martinette, Fruit Cup|
|8: Tazetta||4-20 flowers per stem; mostly white (paperwhites); fragrant||Warm climate; resistance to Fusarium rot||Scarlet Gem, Avalanche|
|9: Poeticus||Pure-white petals, vividly colored central cup||Wet soil, poor drainage||Actaea, Milan|
|10: Bulbocodium||Large cup, small perianth; fragrant||Fragrance||Oxford Gold, Golden Bells|
|11: Split-cupped||Collar – cups split with 2 whorls, opposite petalsPapillon – cups split with 1 whorl, alternate petals||Borders, flower beds||Collar – MondragonPapillon – Jodi|
|12: Other||No common attributes||Depending on cultivar||Mesa Verde|
|13: Wild||Daffodils classified mainly through botanical names||Pest resistance||N. pseudonarcissus (wild daffodil)|
Climate or Environmental Conditions
Choosing from a wide variety of daffodil species can be quite a daunting task.
Here’s a brief guide to help you choose what daffodil to grow based on climate:
Except for the Tazetta group and a few other tender hybrids, almost all daffodils are winter-hardy bulbs and can tolerate air temperatures as low as -25 °F (-32 °C). However, they’ll likely bloom later in colder regions (3-5) because the temperatures warm up much later (around May).
Cold region daffodil varieties:
- Trumpets: ‘Bravoure’, ‘Ara’
- Large-cupped: ‘Ice Follies’, ‘Fortissimo’, ‘Fragrant Rose’
- Double: ‘Tahiti’
- Triandrus: ‘Thalia’
- Split-cup: ‘Mondragon’
Most cultivars belonging to the groups above can naturalize in an outdoor garden in USDA zone 3. Some hybrids crossed with tender varieties like Tazettas may struggle in cold regions.
You can also grow other daffodil varieties in cold regions and force them to bloom earlier indoors with appropriate care. The Jonquilla and Cyclamineus cultivars are excellent for forcing indoors in winter.
Most daffodils need 12-16 weeks of a cold period in winter for the buds to bloom in spring. Gardens in USDA zones 3-8 may have adequate cold periods for daffodil bulbs so they can stay in the soil.
But if you live in warmer regions or you don’t have at least 3 months of outside temperatures averaging 40 °F (4 °C) with soil temperatures of 45 °F (7 °C), you can dig out the dormant bulbs in late summer or early fall and induce a chill time indoors.
Place the bulbs in a container with moist potting soil and keep them in a dark area with constant air and soil temperatures similar to the ones above for 12-16 weeks. Without adequate chill time, the buds will be less likely to bloom.
Alternatively, you can choose daffodil varieties that thrive in warm regions.
Warm region daffodil varieties:
- Tazetta (zones 8-10): Highly heat-tolerant, and don’t require a long chill time in winter. In fact, they’re not as winter-hardy as the other daffodil cultivars and will likely rot in freezing temperatures. They also bloom as early as late winter in warm regions.
- Jonquilla (zones 5-9): Still needs chill time but can tolerate the mild winters in zones 8 and 9.
- ‘Toto’ (zones 4-11): This division 12 hybrid is resilient and can naturalize even in the warmer zone 11. It has white petals and a pale yellow cup and grows less than a foot (30 cm) tall.
Landscape and Aesthetics
Daffodils grow best in outdoor gardens where they can bask in full sun, which is necessary for healthy blooms.
If you have limited garden space, the Cyclamineus and Triandrus daffodils are the best pick for growing in pots. They’re more tolerant to partial shade and will prosper even in shady balconies.
Your potting soil still needs a loamy consistency with excellent drainage when growing potted daffodils to avoid bulb and root rot.
But if you’re more interested in colors or appearance, daffodils come in a wide array of colors, shapes, and patterns.
Here are some common daffodil species grown primarily for their beautiful flowers:
The Gigantic Star cultivar belongs to Division 2 or the large-cupped daffodils. As the name implies, this variety of daffodils has large blooms about 5 inches (12.7 cm) in diameter.
The large central cup is typically more than ⅓ of the diameter of the perianth. Despite the flower size, the stalk-neck angle is 90 degrees or more, so the flower appears to be looking up.
This daffodil species can grow up to 2 feet (60 cm tall) and has large yellow flowers, making them suitable as border ornamentals.
The Barrett Browning variety is excellent if you’re looking for shorter daffodils but with large blooms. This cultivar grows up to 15 inches (38 cm), and each flower is about 4 inches (10 cm) wide.
It’s classified under Division 3 or small-cupped daffodils. In contrast to the large-cupped variety, this division has tiny cups, which are typically less than a third of the diameter of the petals. The smaller cups usually have a more vibrant color than the paler petals.
In the case of Barrett Browning, the perianth is white, while the central cup is yellow with orange edges. It provides an excellent contrast to the more vividly colored flowers in your garden.
An added benefit of choosing this cultivar is that it does well when forced to bloom indoors in winter in colder regions.
Native to New Zealand, the Kiwi Sunset daffodil is a popular option because of its rose-like flower shape with a rich contrast between pale yellow and deep orange.
Kiwi Sunset is a member of Division 4 or double daffodil species. Members of this group have two layers of perianth or two layers of cups—or sometimes both. The petals are usually a pale color (light yellow or white), while the central cup is almost indistinguishable if it weren’t for its more vivid color (orange, green, or red).
New gardeners sometimes mistakenly call all Narcissus plants jonquils. However, jonquils are only one of the many species of daffodils. And among the Jonquilla group (Division 7), there are plenty of hybrids or cultivars.
Unlike many daffodils, jonquil flowers grow in clusters, meaning there are about 1-5 flowers on each stalk. The flower cups are shorter, and the petals are widely open or spread. They’re mostly yellow, but some hybrids can have a combination of white, orange, and apricot.
Their rich fragrance sets jonquils apart from most daffodil species, which have absent or less noticeable fragrances. You can opt for this cultivar for a pleasant-smelling garden in spring.
Pest or Disease Resistance
If your previous batch of daffodils has been killed off by common pests like aphids, bulb mites, and nematodes, I usually recommend avoiding growing any daffodil species in the same area and growing different plants with resistance to these pests.
Opt for a pest-resistant variety if you still want to grow daffodils due to the beauty they provide to the same garden spot.
One of the most popular daffodil species grown in the US is Narcissus pseudonarcissus, which is commonly known as wild daffodil or trumpet daffodil. This daffodil species has good resistance to pests and diseases because of its lectin component, which has insecticidal properties.
Choosing the Right Planting Location
Daffodils look great as border plants, on your lawn, or as part of your perennial flower bed. However, certain conditions in your area can affect where you can grow them or what cultivars you can grow more easily.
When choosing the right planting location for daffodils, there are two main factors to consider: soil quality and light intensity.
In general, daffodils prefer loamy soil with an excellent balance between drainage and moisture retention. They’ll also do well in sandy soil as long as it’s rich in organic matter to help hold moisture and nutrients.
The problem usually lies in heavy soil with poor drainage. Gardens with heavy clay soil are typically unsuitable for daffodils unless amended with sand or organic materials like compost. Even so, there’s no guarantee that the bulbs will survive.
Nevertheless, you’ll have better chances of your bulbs sprouting in clayey soil if you plant Cyclamineus daffodils.
Another cultivar that does well even in wet soil with poor drainage is Narcissus poeticus ‘Actaea’, which is a Division 9 (Poeticus) daffodil. It grows around 15 inches (38 cm) tall and 6 inches (15 cm) wide.
As is common among other cultivars under this division, the Actaea has pure white petals with an almost flat cup less than a fifth of the perianth’s diameter. The cup is yellow with reddish-orange edges.
Most daffodils love full sun for optimum health and beautiful blooms. An east- or south-facing garden will be the best choice for any cultivar because they need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight daily.
They may suffer from sunburn from the scorching afternoon sun in south- or west-facing gardens. It helps to grow them near a fence or wall, which can provide shade in the afternoon while protecting them from strong winds.
If your area has little sunlight, you can grow Divisions 5 (Triandrus) and 6 (Cyclamineus) daffodils. They can tolerate partial shade (at least four hours of direct sunlight daily) and still produce vibrant flowers.
These daffodils have an interesting appearance because the petals point backward toward the neck, giving the cups a more prominent appearance. The differences are that Cyclamineus cultivars have more reflexed petals, and the Triandrus group has two or more flowers per stalk.
Planting daffodils is quite easy, and there are only a few things to remember. The most important one is that proper timing can make or break your daffodil growing process.
The best time to plant daffodils is in early fall when the soil temperature is between 55 and 60 °F (13 and 15.6 °C) and before air temperatures drop below 50 °F (10 °C). This timing will give your bulbs enough time to grow healthy roots before the ground freezes.
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to plant your daffodils:
1. Choose a High-Quality Bulb
Inspect your daffodil bulb to ensure it’s suitable for planting and that you won’t be introducing pests to your garden soil.
Here are some qualities of a healthy and high-quality bulb:
- Firm, meaning there’s no rot or decay
- Sinks in water, no gas-filled holes or rotten flesh inside
- No perforations or holes, which can indicate pest infestation
- Large (will likely produce more blooms)
2. Choose a Sunny Location
Choose a sunny spot in an east-facing garden. In south- or west-facing gardens, you can plant the bulbs near a shady spot like house walls or fences. They can also benefit from the shade cast by taller plants.
However, avoid spots close to trees and shrubs because your daffodils will struggle to compete for moisture and nutrients. Keep them at least 20 inches (50 cm) away from the trunks or stems of trees and bushes.
3. Prepare the Soil
As discussed, loamy soil is the best for daffodils. Working about 2 inches (5 cm) of compost evenly in the upper 6 inches (15 cm) of sandy or clayey soil is often enough to make them suitable for daffodil bulbs.
Ideally, each bulb should be buried at a depth of about 2-3 times its height. So if you have a 2-inch (5 cm) bulb, you must dig deep enough so that the top of the bulb is 4-6 inches (10-15 cm) below the ground.
The bulbs should also have enough horizontal space on all sides, typically equal to their diameter. If your bulb is 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter, there should be about the same distance between it and the next bulb.
Increase the space by up to three times if you intend to keep the daffodil in the same soil for over 5 years to accommodate new growth.
Keep these in mind when choosing a suitable soil or spacing for your bulbs. You can check out my other article, where I discussed this topic in more detail: How Deep is Too Deep to Plant Daffodils?
Tips for Daffodil Plant Arrangement
Here are some tips for creating visually appealing arrangements in your garden:
- Plant two rows of daffodils for borders. Most daffodils spread only 6-12 inches (15-30 cm). If you want a wider and bushier border, you can plant two rows of daffodils at least 6 inches (15 cm) apart.
- Take note of the expected color of the cultivar. You can also visually prepare for the outline of your garden if you know the color of the cultivars you’re growing and position them accordingly.
4. Fertilize the Soil
Apply a 5-10-10 NPK granular fertilizer 2-3 inches (5-7.6 cm) below the soil. Make sure the granules don’t touch the bulbs directly to avoid burning them. This formula will set the bulbs off to a good start and help them establish strong roots.
5. Water the Bulbs Deeply
After placing the bulbs in suitable soil with appropriate depth and horizontal space, cover them with soil without tamping. You want the soil around and above your bulbs to be loose for better drainage.
Gradually pour about 1 inch (2.5 cm) of water over the daffodil patch. That means 0.6 gal (2.3 L) of water per square foot (0.09 sqm) or adding enough water to moisten the upper 6-8 inches (15-20 cm) of topsoil.
6. Apply Organic Mulch
Apply 2 inches (5 cm) of organic mulch like bark, wood chips, or straw after the first fall frost. The light frost will signal the bulbs that the cold season has set in and they must conserve energy. The mulch layer will then protect the bulbs from the fluctuating air temperatures.
Avoid putting a thick layer of mulch. Considering how deep the bulbs are underground, a thick layer of mulch will make it harder for them to sprout.
Caring for Daffodils
After planting your daffodil bulbs, these hardy perennials need minimal care as long as they’re positioned in good soil and sunlight.
Still, there are a few care requirements to keep in mind for a healthy daffodil plant, including the following:
Daffodils are drought-tolerant and prefer a bit of dry soil between waterings. They will likely suffer from root or basal rot if kept in constantly wet soil. That said, avoid adding water until the topsoil is dry 2-3 inches (5-7.6 cm) deep.
Always use tepid water with temperatures around 62-72 °F (17-22 °C). High temperatures will force your bulbs into self-preservation and trigger premature dormancy.
Temperature and Humidity
Daffodils are not fussy about humidity as long as the soil moisture is adequate. However, they respond differently to varying temperatures and require certain levels at different life stages.
Most daffodils (except the Tazetta group) go through the following life stages and air temperature requirements:
- Planting: 55-60 °F (13-15.6 °C)
- Chill time: 40-45 °F (4-7 °C)
- Growth and Blooming: 60-70 °F (15.6-21 °C)
- Dormancy: Over 80 °F (27 °C)
Daffodil bulbs need high-potassium plant food for optimum health.
I often use slow-release granular fertilizers because I can apply them only 2-3 times a year. The fertilizer formulation varies depending on the daffodil’s life stage. Refer to the general guidelines below:
- Planting (in the fall): 5-10-10
- Spring (as the bulb sprouts): 5-10-10
- Late spring or summer (as the blooms fade): 0-10-10
As the foliage dies, avoid fertilizing your daffodil bulbs because they will enter dormancy.
Pro tip: Make sure the fertilizer doesn’t get in direct contact with the bulbs to avoid fertilizer burn. If your bulbs are planted 4 inches (10 cm) deep, keep the fertilizers only 2-3 inches (5-7.6 cm) deep.
Common Pests, Diseases, and Problems
As hardy as they are, daffodils are not immune to pests and diseases.
Here are some common issues you might come across when growing daffodils and how to address them:
Although some common insect pests are repulsed by the insecticidal property of some Narcissus cultivars, many pests are still attracted to daffodils, particularly their bulbs.
Pests that can inflict severe damage on your daffodils include the following:
Aphids are insects that can suck the sap out of your daffodil leaves, turning them pale or yellow.
However, the real threat lies in their potential for carrying the Narcissus yellow stripe virus (NYSV) or the Narcissus white streak virus (NWSV), which can cause discolorations and deformations in the plant.
A neem oil spray made from mixing 1 liter (0.26 gal) of water, one tablespoon of neem oil, and one tablespoon of liquid soap is safe for daffodils and effective against aphids. Just spray your plant liberally at night once a week for 3-4 weeks until the aphids are gone.
Bulb mites are not strong enough to break through a daffodil bulb’s outer layer. Instead, they penetrate the bulb through wounds caused by fungal rot. Once the mites enter, they feed on the bulb and cause significant damage, further worsening the fungal rot.
Since bulb mite infestation is secondary to fungal rot, the most effective organic treatment is a sulfur fungicide soak. You can choose from liquid or powder products, but be sure to follow the instructions carefully.
Bulb Fly Larvae
Larvae of large and small bulb flies are voracious feeders of Narcissus bulbs. Like mites, they can infest bulbs through wounds from other pests, fungi, or physical damage.
Dispose of bulbs infested with bulb fly larvae before they turn into pupae and mature into flies, which can further spread the infestation.
Daffodil bulb nematodes initially target the shoots, resulting in remarkable pale swellings called spikkels. Eventually, the damage will lead to stunted growth or deformed flowers.
The nematodes will then move on to the bulb. Infested bulbs taken indoors can spread the infestation to other healthier bulbs.
Soaking the entire batch in hot water (111 °F or 44 °C) for 4 hours will kill the nematodes and prevent spread.
Daffodils are susceptible to numerous fungal and viral diseases.
Here are some of the most commonly observed diseases among daffodils in the US:
White Streak Virus
White stripe virus is typically spread by aphids during blooming when temperature levels and sunlight intensity are high. Because of this, the Tazetta group or paperwhites are the only daffodil cultivars observed to manifest the symptoms.
The symptoms include narrow dark green to purple stripes on leaves and stems that eventually turn white and necrotic. Over time, the leaves will die and the bulbs will become weaker.
Although it spreads slowly, this virus has no cure. Therefore, it’s best to burn the infected bulbs to prevent spread.
Yellow Stripe Virus
Yellow stripe virus is also spread by aphids, but it affects a wider variety of daffodils. Earlier signs of infection include white blotches on the flowers and yellow-green or gray-green stripes on the leaves.
As the leaves grow longer, you’ll notice the discoloration covers the upper half (or more) of the foliage. The leaves will also feel rough.
The yellow stripe virus currently doesn’t have a cure, so the only solution is to dig up and burn the infected bulbs.
Various fungi species can cause bulb or basal rot, but the Fusarium oxysporum f sp. Narcissi specifically attacks daffodils bulbs. This disease occurs as a secondary issue following an attack from bulb nematodes, where wounds provide access to fungal infection.
Since the nematodes initially attack the shoots, the fungi enter the base of the plant, causing it to rot. The rot then spreads to the bulb, causing it to become soft and mushy.
There’s no cure for this disease. But to prevent it, practice crop rotation and avoid growing daffodils in the same soil for at least 3 years. Alternatively, you can grow Tazetta cultivars because they’re more resistant to this disease.
Several problems can occur when growing daffodils, although they’re generally easy to care for. Don’t worry because these issues can happen to the best of us, and it can be a good learning experience to understand what we need to improve on in our plant care routine.
That said, here are some common problems you might encounter:
Overwatering Causes Rot
Bulb rot and basal rot are common problems for daffodils because they generally can’t tolerate wet or poorly drained soils. Excess moisture can stimulate fungal growth, which can decay and damage your daffodil bulbs.
Underwatering Can Stunt Growth
Since daffodils are drought-tolerant, some gardeners may unknowingly underwater their plants. This is the problem with sticking to the general tip of giving daffodils 1 inch (2.5 cm) of water weekly.
An unusually dry climate and fast-draining soil can quickly dry out the daffodil bulbs, resulting in thirsty plants. Dehydrated bulbs will have weaker or limp foliage and distorted buds or flowers.
To prevent this, check the soil about 3-5 days after watering. Water the plant deeply as soon as the top 2-3 inches (5-7.6 cm) of the soil is dry.
Another problem with daffodils is that they sometimes sprout but don’t produce flowers. This condition is often called ‘daffodil blindness’.
This usually happens when your daffodil has planting or pest problems. Planting your bulbs at the wrong time or depth will prevent them from growing optimally or producing flowers.
Pests feeding on your bulbs will also deprive your plant of the energy it needs to develop flowers.
Proper planting and protection from pests will usually resolve the issue. Although your current batch of daffodils might not produce flowers, you can improve your chances next time by improving your care routine.
Daffodils Not Coming Up
Sometimes, a more alarming problem is when your daffodils don’t come up at all. Planting your daffodils too deep or too late can explain why the shoots don’t emerge.
Several other care issues can prevent your daffodils from coming up and you can read about them in more detail in this article: 7 Common Reasons Why Daffodils Don’t Come Up
Daffodil Bloom and Growth Process
Daffodils are usually planted from bulbs because it’s the fastest way to ensure that they produce flowers in spring. Moreover, daffodils grown from bulbs will have identical flowers to the mother bulb.
These perennials are highly dependent on environmental cues—particularly the temperature—for their growth stages.
Here are the different growth stages of a daffodil from bulb to flower:
Healthy bulbs are typically planted in early fall when soil temperatures are between 55 and 60 °F (13 and 15.6 °C). During this time, the bulbs develop strong roots.
As the soil temperatures drop below 45 °F (7 °C), the bulbs will enter a less active stage but continue growing roots and shoots underground—albeit slowly.
If your region doesn’t get this cold, dig up your in-ground bulbs and move them into a pot with well-draining potting soil. Store them in a dark room where the soil temperatures can remain between 40 and 45 °F (4 and 7 °C), such as your unheated basement or garage.
Mulch your daffodils with about 2 inches (5 cm) of bark or straw to protect them from freezing winters.
In late winter or early spring, the leaves, stems, and buds will grow and poke out of the soil. This is also a good time to fertilize your plants with a 5-10-10 NPK fertilizer. Push the granules about 2 inches (5 cm) deep into the soil to keep them away from the bulbs.
Resume watering your plants with tepid water and pay attention to the soil moisture. Avoid adding more water if the top 2-3 inches (5-7.6 cm) is still moist.
As spring temperatures (60 °F or 15.6 °C) set in, the flower buds will open and stay in bloom for up to 6 weeks on average.
In warmer regions, daffodils may start blooming in January. However, it can be as late as May in colder regions.
As the flowers fade, the plant will use the green growth (stems and leaves) for photosynthesis and manufacture food for the bulbs to encourage growth for the following year.
Avoid pruning your daffodils during this time to encourage robust and colorful blooms the following year. Otherwise, your daffodils will come up blind or lack flowers.
Daffodil bulbs generate food for about 6 weeks after blooming. About 2-3 months after the end of the blooming season, the leaves will turn yellow, then brown, and die out. After that, the bulbs will enter dormancy. Avoid watering the bulbs at this time.
As the fall temperatures set in, the bulbs will break out of dormancy and grow more roots. If the bulbs are over 3 years old, they may even divide and produce daughter bulbs.
Many gardeners advise against pruning your daffodils during and up to 8 weeks after the blooming season. Unlike other flowering plants, new flowers will not grow out of the same stem if you deadhead your spent daffodil blooms.
However, there are two reasons why some gardeners prune their daffodils: to collect cut flowers for vases and to remove unattractive spent blooms.
Collecting Flowers for Vases
If you want to collect daffodils for flower arrangement indoors, here are some essential tips to keep in mind:
- Wait for the buds to change colors and the neck to bend. Closed buds won’t open, while fully bloomed flowers will not last as long as the partially open buds.
- Wear garden gloves to protect your hands from the sap.
- Pull the stalk from the base. This will reduce the risk of toxic sap oozing out of the base of the stem.
- Leave the flower stalk submerged inside a vase with clean water for 6 hours to release all the sap.
- Throw out the dirty water and replace it with clean water. It’s now safe to mix the daffodil flowers with other flowers. Replace the water every 3-5 days.
Depending on the cultivar, daffodil flowers typically last around 10 days in flower vases.
Warning: Keep the flower vase away from your children or pets. All parts of daffodil plants contain lycorine, which can cause nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain when ingested. Ingesting large amounts of the bulb can be fatal.
Note that this harvesting method will not affect next year’s blooms as long as you leave enough foliage on your plant to generate food for the bulbs.
Collecting flowers for vases early in the blooming season still allows your bulbs enough time to generate food. Moreover, maintaining the blooms requires energy, so removing the flowers early will help the bulbs store more food.
Removing Spent Blooms
On the other hand, if you simply don’t like the appearance of spent flowers and seed pods, you can deadhead them. In this case, remove only up to 2 inches (5 cm) from the neck and leave the rest of the stalk behind.
Since the plant is approaching the end of the growth cycle for the year, it will need all the resources it can use, including the green stalk, to manufacture enough food.
Daffodils are perennial bulbs that come back every year with the same beautiful flowers. However, there are cases where the plant blooms one year but doesn’t the following year.
It’s likely because the bulbs weren’t able to manufacture enough food for next year’s blooms.
Here are some tips to keep in mind after your daffodils’ blooming season:
- Deadhead or pinch the spent blooms. Use your fingers or a pair of scissors to cut off no more than 2 inches (5 cm) from the neck because the green stem will aid in photosynthesis.
- Water your plant regularly. Although the foliage starts to turn yellow or brown after the blooming season, be sure to water your daffodils regularly to aid with food manufacturing.
- Allow the leaves to wither naturally for bulb energy storage. Check the leaves to see if there are any green parts left. If there are some, give your plant some more time.
- Avoid pruning daffodil leaves after they’re done blooming. Your daffodils will still need about six weeks of food generation for the bulbs before going dormant.
- Prune only when the foliage completely dies. You can cut the plant down to the ground 2-3 months after blooming but install markers to easily locate the bulbs in spring.
You can learn more about how to care for your daffodils after blooming in my other article: What to Do With Daffodils After They’re Done Blooming
Dividing and Transplanting Daffodils
As perennials, daffodils can last in the soil indefinitely and produce numerous daughter bulbs or bulbils. However, this can result in overcrowding and competition for resources. The shoots that emerge will also be deformed or come up blind.
To avoid such problems, it’s best to divide your daffodils every 3-5 years, especially if the plants have less than 12 inches (30 cm) between them. Do this after most of the foliage has turned brown after the blooming season.
Here are the steps to dividing and transplanting daffodils:
1. Dig up the Bulbs
Moisten the soil 1-2 days before digging to make it easier to dig through it. As soon as the soil is partially dry, dig around the plant while estimating the diameter. Within 3-5 years, the bulb should have spread about 2-3 times its initial size.
The most important thing to remember in this process is to avoid damaging the bulbs. If the bulb was 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter at planting, push a shovel about 6-8 inches (15-20 cm) away from it. Bury the shovel around 8 inches (20 cm) deep and dig out the bulbs.
2. Inspect for Damage
Loosen the soil and check the bulbs for physical damage caused by digging, pests, or soil pathogens.
Gently squeeze the bulbs to check if they’re firm enough. Soft or mushy bulbs are already rotten and must be disposed of to prevent the spread of the pests or microbes that damaged them.
3. Separate the Bulbs
Healthy and mature enough bulbs should break apart from the mother bulb easily. If there are smaller bulbs with no distinct division yet, let them stick to the mother bulb to encourage them to keep getting bigger.
4. Transplant the Mother Bulb Right Away
If you want to relocate the bulbs to another area in your garden, ensure that the soil is well-draining and the area receives full sun daily. More importantly, choose an area that’s free of pests and diseases.
Once the above conditions are met, bury the bulbs at a depth of 2-3 times the bulb’s height with around 12 inches (30 cm) of horizontal space.
Don’t water the soil and let the bulb enter dormancy for the summer.
How to Propagate Daffodils
There are two ways to propagate daffodils: through bulbs and seeds:
Propagation Through Bulbs
The propagating through bulbs process is essentially the same as the dividing and transplanting steps discussed above. Simply dig out and break apart the clumps of bulbs.
Firm and large enough (at least 1.5 inch or 3.8 cm) daughter bulbs can be planted and grown into a new daffodil plant that will also divide in 3-5 years.
This is the most efficient and popular way to propagate daffodils, and the resulting plant will be a clone of the parent plant.
Propagation Through Seeds
On the other hand, seed propagation will likely result in a hybrid between the two parent daffodil plants if they’re different species.
You can grow daffodils from seed, but the process can be tedious, and it can take 4-5 years before you can see your plant produce flowers.
Still, if you want to give it a try, here are the steps:
- Let the flowers go to seed and wait until the pods dry out.
- Collect the dried seeds from the pods and place them over a clean and dry paper towel in a well-ventilated room for about 2 days.
- Place the seeds inside a paper bag and leave them in a dry area.
- In early fall, sow the seeds half an inch (1.3 cm) deep into the seed-starting tray or peat pots.
- Keep the upper inch (2.5 cm) of the soil moist as the seeds develop roots.
- Give your plant a quarter-strength 5-10-10 NPK fertilizer in spring as the shoots emerge.
- After 3 years, when the plant has grown a bulb, repot the bulbs in larger pots. Consider the size of the bulb when choosing a pot.
Indoor Daffodils in Containers
Despite being sun-loving and winter-hardy outdoors, many daffodil cultivars can grow comfortably in containers indoors.
Here are some tips for growing daffodils in pots or containers:
- Choose a container that has drainage holes.
- Prepare a well-draining potting mix. I recommend 3 parts potting soil and 1 part perlite.
- Fill half the container with potting mix.
- Place the bulbs over the mix until their tops are only a quarter inch (0.6 cm) below the rim of the pot.
- Keep the bulbs an inch (2.5 cm) away from one another.
- Lightly cover the bulbs with soil and water deeply until the excess comes out of the drainage holes.
- Place the pot in a dark room with temperatures of 40-45 °F (4-7 °C) for 12-16 weeks. You can place them in a root cellar or a refrigerator’s crisper drawer if you live in warmer regions.
- Water only when the upper half of the pot is dry.
Forcing Daffodils to Bloom
You can force daffodils to bloom indoors once the bulbs have had at least 12 weeks of chill time. Start watering your plant deeply when you see signs of shoot growth.
If the shoots have emerged from the potting soil, place the pot in a room with low to moderate light and a 50-60 °F (10-15.6 °C) temperature for about a week and water your plant deeply.
Gradually increase the indoor temperature to 60-70 °F (15.6-21 °C) and the light intensity to medium or bright. The flowers will bloom in less than a month.
Potted Daffodil Lifespan
Potted daffodils last about 2-3 years because they tend to become overcrowded sooner. And once they do, it’s best to divide the bulbs and repot them. Alternatively, you can transplant them into your garden soil in the fall.
You can leave bulbs in pots if they’ve spent less than 3 years in their containers. It’s also easier to store and move potted daffodil bulbs around where there are suitable temperatures and light intensities as needed.
Repotting Overcrowded Bulbs
You need to repot overcrowded daffodils in containers, especially if they’ve spent about 2-3 blooming seasons. You can separate the mother bulb from healthy-looking daughter bulbs and repot them in fresh pots and potting soil.
You can also use this opportunity to replenish the soil nutrients. Nutrients in the potting mix naturally become depleted over time due to plant metabolism or leaching from top watering, especially if you don’t feed your plant regularly.
Since daffodils are cold-hardy perennials, they will do well outdoors in zones 3-10 with a 2-inch (5 cm) layer of bark or straw mulch during freezing winters.
But if your area has mild winters and the soil temperatures don’t fall as low as 40 °F (4 °C), you’ll need to pot the daffodil bulbs and bring them indoors where you can give them the required chill time.
Companion Planting with Daffodils
Daffodils make for an exquisite sight in your outdoor garden with their predominantly yellow or white blooms.
If you want a more vibrant garden, here are some early-spring blooming varieties that will go well with your daffodils:
Hyacinths can have a wide array of colors depending on the cultivar. The most popular colors are lavender, blue, and purple, which will all provide an excellent contrast with your daffodils’ common yellow, white, or apricot.
These flowers also share the same growth requirements, such as sunlight, soil quality, and pH. They also bloom around the same time as daffodils.
Tulips are popular daffodil buddies because they also share the same growth requirements and bloom time. Interestingly, tulips come in a wider range of colors and you can choose cultivars that will match your garden aesthetics in mind.
If you live in warmer regions (zones 8-11), you can grow bearded irises along with your more tender Tazetta daffodils because they can’t tolerate frosts. These two flower groups share the same water, sunlight, and soil needs.
Bearded irises have variants that come in hues of red, purple, and lavender that will give more accent against your paperwhites.
Alliums are garlic or onion relatives that produce purple flowers. You can never go wrong with growing purple or lavender flowers next to your yellow daffodils because the amazing contrast of colors can bring life to your outdoor space every spring.
They can also repel aphids, protecting your daffodil plants from the physical damage aphids can cause and the risk of contracting viral diseases commonly carried by these pests.
Many annuals and leafy vegetables require high-nitrogen fertilizers, which can reduce your daffodil blooms. In addition, due to their rapid growth and fruit or flower production process, annuals and fruit-bearing vegetables are heavy feeders. They will leave your daffodils struggling to compete for moisture and essential nutrients.
That said, these shouldn’t stop you from growing vegetables with your daffodils. You can grow them over your daffodil bulbs in the summer when they’re dormant.
You may also plant fall-growing vegetables together with your bulbs as long as you keep the following in mind:
- Choose shallow-rooted vegetables like kale, spinach, or lettuce.
- Plant your bulbs deeper. For instance, if the recommended depth is 4-6 inches (10-15 inches), plant the bulbs 6-7 inches (15-18 cm) deep.
- Use foliar fertilizers to limit the nitrogen spread only to your vegetables.
Common Related Questions and Answers
Do Daffodils Come Back Every Year?
Daffodils are perennial bulbs that come back every year when the conditions are right. They typically bloom all spring, but some varieties can bloom in late winter or as late as early fall, depending on the climate.
These bulbs go dormant in the summer as soon as the shoots die out. During this time, the bulb stores its energy to support the bulbs. Most varieties also need a chill time for about 12-16 weeks in winter.
These processes are necessary for the daffodils to come back in spring.
What Should I Do With Daffodils After They Bloom?
You should continue watering your daffodils as usual for 2-3 months after they bloom. Apply a 0-10-10 NPK granular fertilizer about 1-2 weeks after the blooming season. This will help nourish the bulbs and encourage them to come back stronger in spring.
Wait for the shoots to die out completely before pruning. Any remaining green part will contribute to the energy formation and storage in the bulbs.
Should You Cut Dead Flowers off Daffodils?
You should cut dead flowers off daffodils if you don’t want them to go to seed. Seed production requires much energy, so your daffodil bulbs might not be able to store enough food to come back in spring when allowed to go to seed.
Moreover, daffodils are primarily grown for their beautiful flowers. Once the blooms are spent, they have served their aesthetic purpose and are better off removed.
Do Daffodils Bulbs Multiply?
Daffodil bulbs multiply asexually through division, where daughter bulbs form from the mother bulb. Each bulb will form new plants identical to the source. You can then divide them once they go dormant in the summer.
This is an ideal way to propagate daffodils if you want the new flowers to be identical to the mother plant. In addition, these new bulbs are likely to produce flowers in the following spring.
In contrast, sexual reproduction through seeding can sometimes produce hybrids if multiple cultivars of daffodils are grown in the same patch. These hybrids can be weaker or stronger than the parent plants. Moreover, daffodils can take about 5 years to produce flowers when grown from seeds.
What Is the Lifespan of a Daffodil?
Daffodils can live and multiply indefinitely if the conditions are right. If left in the ground for decades, they can produce numerous bulbs, but not all of them will sprout and produce flowers.
Overcrowding can cause competition for water and nutrients among the daughter bulbs, and only the strongest ones will continue to grow.
What Month Do Daffodils Bloom?
Daffodils can start blooming as early as January in warm regions to as late as May in colder regions. Depending on the cultivar and the climate in the region, daffodils will stay in bloom for 6 weeks up to 6 months.
If you live in a colder region, you can force the bulbs to bloom indoors by giving them at least 3 months of cold and dark storage. If done correctly, you wouldn’t have to wait until May for those beautiful flowers.
Keep the bulbs in potting soil for 12-16 weeks in total darkness and temperatures between 40 and 45 °F (4 and 7 °C). Water them as soon as the upper half of the potting soil dries out even while in storage.
Why Are My Daffodils Not Blooming?
As perennial bulbs, daffodils naturally bloom every spring. It can be alarming if your plants suddenly fail to produce flowers.
Here are some reasons why daffodils aren’t blooming:
- Pruning too soon: After the blooming season, daffodil bulbs need to generate enough food for about six weeks for next year’s blooms. To be safe, wait for at least 2 months before pruning. Pruning your daffodil shoots too soon after the blooms fade will deprive your bulbs of the necessary energy.
- Pest damage: Bulb fly larvae and bulb nematodes can severely damage the bulbs. Even if the plant emerges in spring, the shoots are often deformed and the buds fail to open.
- Bulb rot: Constantly wet soil conditions can suffocate the bulbs and increase the risk of fungal infection.
- Overcrowding: Daffodil bulbs naturally multiply over time. If the bulbs have been left undisturbed in the soil for over 5 years, they might become weaker due to moisture and nutrient competition and fail to produce flowers.
- Planting too late: You should plant daffodil bulbs 2-4 weeks before the first hard frost in the fall to help them establish strong roots. Planting them too late will make them weak and prevent the buds from sprouting in spring.
Daffodils are generally hardy bulbs that are easy to grow and will come back every spring with more abundant blooms when given the right growing conditions, including the following:
- Slightly acidic to neutral, well-draining soil rich in potassium
- Full sun
- Chill time of about 12-16 weeks
In warmer regions, you can grow paperwhites, which are tender and don’t require a chill time to bloom. You can still grow classic yellow daffodils, but you’ll need to pot them and give them suitable chill time conditions indoors.
Start your own daffodil garden today and be rewarded with their beautiful blooms in no time. Also, share your experience so we can all provide the best care for our daffodils and get longer-lasting plants that will keep coming back for decades!