Mention the word daffodil and most people picture a sunny yellow flower brightening an otherwise dreary spring landscape. And while the large-flowered, single trumpeted, yellow daffodil remains popular, daffodils are now available in an increasing range of colors, sizes, and flower shapes. After surveying the field, you might just change your image of the common daffodil!
Why grow daffodils? The question might better be asked, Why NOT grow them? Few plants can boast the daffodil's combination of adaptablilty, reliability, low maintenance, and pest resistance. In particular, daffodils avoided by deer as well as chipmunks and other rodents, all of which can decimate a planting of other, tastier bulbs. Daffodils are also hardy, and freely multiply. If you can choose only one type of bulb, make it a daffodil!
Q. What is the difference between a jonquil, a daffodil, and a narcissus?
A. All of these names refer to this lovely yellow spring flower, but here are some distinctions. Narcissus is the botanical name of the entire genus, and is often used to refer to white-flowered types or those that grow in clusters. Daffodil generally refers to the common large yellow trumpet types. Jonquil is reserved for the species N. jonquilla, which has long, narrow leaves and multiple small flowers with small cups. Technically, the genus Narcissus has many divisions, based on attributes like the relative lengths of the trumpet (corolla) and petals (perianths), and whether the flower is one color or bicolored.
Q. My daffodils are up, tall and green and healthy-looking, but they have no buds or blooms. What is wrong?
A. It's so disappointing when spring bulbs don't bloom! Nonblooming might be the result of cutting the foliage too soon last year. The leaves help the bulb manufacture energy for producing a bloom. Always allow the foliage of daffodils and other bulbs to die back naturally. Other possibilities are that the bulbs need dividing, are in too much shade (they should have at least 6 hours of sun per day) or are in a spot that is too damp.
Q. My daffodils have lots of flowers but are starting to look crowded. Do I need to divide them?
A. Daffodil bulbs are very long-lived, but most varieties do need to be divided and replanted when they become crowded. Failure to do this can result in foliage without blooms. Divide the bulbs in the fall, or in early summer after the foliage has faded. If you divide them in summer, you will need to store them until time for fall planting. If you plan to divide them in the fall, mark where they are growing now so you can find them easily.
Q. It's December, and I just found some tulips and daffodils I forgot to plant last fall. Should I plant them now or wait until next fall?
A. If the bulbs are still firm, plant them now. You can't store bulbs until next fall-they'll dry out too much. If you can still work the soil, plant them now. If the ground is frozen, chill them in the refrigerator, then use them for forcing indoors.
Article published on June 23, 2008.