Bright and colorful, planting daffodils is a great way to add early season interest to your garden. They are also a popular early season flower for visiting pollinators.
Daffodils may look delicate but they are surprisingly robust and versatile. For rock gardens, or container gardens there are small or dwarf varieties. While larger varieties will fill bare flower beds and lawns with swathes of bright color. You can even grow dwarf varieties in hanging baskets. If planted correctly, these bright and easy to care for flowers will return every year.
Bright and cheerful, daffodils are a popular way of adding early season color to a garden. If the bulbs are planted correctly the flowers will return year after year.
This guide will take you through everything you need to know about planting daffodils. From choosing the correct location and planting daffodil bulbs to caring for them throughout the flowering season, we will explain it all.
Daffodil bulbs are poisonous to pets. Dogs in particular can be tempted to eat the bulbs. Before planting daffodils, try not to leave the bulbs where your pets can reach. After planting daffodils cover the ground with cloches or some protective layer until the ground settles. This will discourage the pet from digging up the fresh soil.
Before you begin planting daffodils you will need to choose which variety you want to plant. Of course you don’t have to plant just one variety, you can mix it up and plant a few. This will allow you to extend the flowering season of your daffodil garden as well as mixing colors and scents.
There are hundreds of different daffodil varieties to choose from so you are certain to find something to suit your garden. These are some of the most popular varieties:
Cheerfulness produces cream white double flowers with attractive yellow highlights. Producing 3-4 flowers on each slender stem, Cheerfulness is also a popular cut flower. A late spring flower.
Golden Echo produces mid-sized, compact lemon yellow flowers with white petals. A fragrant variety Golden Echo does well in both containers and flower beds. They are also a reliable cut flower.
Miniature daffodils are happy to grow in more compact spaces. This makes them ideal for containers and hanging baskets. They can also be planted as part of a rockery style scheme.
Jetfire is long lasting, small variety that does well at the front of flower beds and in containers. Flowering from March until late April, Jetfire’s flowers have bright yellow petals and long orange cups.
Tete a Tete is a versatile, miniature variety. An early flowering daffodil, Tete a Tete’s flowers are long lasting. Ideal for landscapes, flower beds and containers.
Rip van Winkle is another miniature variety. This double daffodil reaches no more than 8 inches in height and works well in clumps.
Petit Four does well in shady areas. This attractive flower produces white petals that frame apricot pink double cups.
Early Sensation, is an early flowering daffodil. The plant produces distinctive, large, windmill-style flowers. If you are planting daffodils in sheltered, south-facing locations chose Early Sensation for Christmas flowers.
Spellbinder flowers for an extended period throughout March and April. One of the taller varieties, this works well at the back of borders. Spellbinder produces traditional looking, yellow flowers.
Minnow is a sweetly fragrant variety. A preferred choice if you are planting daffodils in full sun.
While the traditional yellow variety remains popular, daffodils come in a range or yellow, orange and white shades. They also come in a range of sizes. Planting a range of varieties can help to create an interesting early season display.
Gardeners in USDA zones 4-6 can begin planting daffodils as soon as they are available in the fall. Daffodils are hardly perennial in most of North America. The exception is in the warmest and wettest areas.
In zones 6-7 daffodils tend to flower from mid spring onwards. In zones 8 and warmer, or areas that enjoy milder winters they will flower sooner.
Where and When to Plant Daffodils
Planting daffodils in the fall, from September onwards, ensures flowering the following spring. It is best to plant 2-4 weeks before the ground freezes. Check your local frost dates to know when to plant.
Planting daffodils in small groups or clumps is a common practice. Try planting a circle of around 8 bulbs with 3 or 4 more in the center. Alternatively plant bigger blocks of daffodils bulbs to create colourful swathes.
Plant daffodils in free draining soil will ensure the bulbs don’t begin to rot. Most varieties do best in full or partial sun positions. Don’t plant daffodils bulbs in full shade. Also avoid planting close to south facing walls. The soil here can become too warm for the bulbs to thrive.
If you are planting daffodils in sandy soil they will need to be planted more deeply. Gardeners with heavy or clay soils should plant the bulbs closer to the surface.
Most daffodils varieties prefer acidic or neutral soils. However some varieties prefer a more alkaline soil. Check the presence when selecting your daffodils bulbs.
Planting swathes of daffodils helps to fill bare flowerbeds with bright blocks of color. This can help to enliven an otherwise still dormant garden, heralding in the start of spring.
Planting Daffodils Step by Step
Before planting your daffodils you will need to prepare the soil. Working the soil with a fork will loosen it, helping to improve drainage. Adding some organic matter, such as bonemeal, to the soil will help to enrich it. This gives the bulbs a boost, encouraging growth and flowering. Working some home made compost into your beds will also help to improve the soil.
Dig a hole in the soil. The depth will vary depending on which variety you are planting. Daffodils, as a rule, should be planted in holes twice as deep as the bulb. For example, a 5cm bulb should be planted in a hole around 15cm deep. This means that it will sit around 10cm below the surface. Planting daffodils to a sufficient depth helps tomorrows them from frosts. It also helps to protect the bulbs from accidental damage as you dig or weed the soil.
Space the bulbs 4-6 inches apart. Larger varieties will require more space. Miniature or smaller varieties can be planted closer together.
Plant daffodils bulbs with the pointy end facing up. The flatter end should touch the bottom of the hole.
If your soil is particularly poor or heavy place a handful of horticultural sand or grit below the bulb. This will help with drainage.
After planting cover the bulbs with soil. Water in well. Mulch the soil with organic matter such as straw or compost. This will protect the bulbs from heavy frosts as well as helping the soil to retain moisture.
Daffodils can also be grown in containers. Ensure your chosen container has adequate drainage. Placing pieces of broken crockery or stones in the bottom of the container will aid drainage. It will also help to improve air circulation. Fill the container with fresh, multi-purpose compost. Plant the bulbs as above before watering. Place the containers in a cool location until leaves appear.
Planting daffodils in larger containers allows you the opportunity to plant in layers. Place the latest flowering bulbs at the bottom, early flowering varieties should sit closer to the top of the soil. Protect from severe winter frosts with mulch or by moving the containers inside.
If you want your daffodils to grow through your lawn, carefully prise up the turf. Plant the bulbs before treading the soil back down gently, trying not to damage the bulbs.
By planting daffodils and other bulbs beneath your lawn you can create a meadow effect. This can look really interesting in a wild garden or within a natural planting scheme.
Caring for Daffodils
After planting, daffodils are relatively easy to care for.
Watering and Feeding
Water the bulbs during dry spells. Don’t let the soil completely dry out. When the plants are in flower they will require more water. Using harvested rainwater is a great way to water your plants without increasing your water usage. During the summer months, when the bulbs are dormant, aim to keep the soil as dry as possible.
Daffodils, and other bulbs, will require more water when they are in flower. Try to avoid watering the flower, instead water the soil. Wet flowers and foliage in cooler spring temperatures can quickly develop mold or disease.
When shoots emerge apply a dose of bulb fertilizer. Alternatively a general purpose fertilizer can be applied. Liquid plant fertilizers are easier to apply, they can simply be incorporated into your watering routine. Apply the fertilizer to the soil,not the foliage.
After flowering, if the bulbs are not flourishing, apply a low-nitrogen potassium or potash rich feed. This will encourage a better floral display to emerge the following year.
Deadheading and Pruning
Deadhead flowers as they fade.
Allow the foliage of spent plants to remain for at least 6 weeks. While flowering has finished the leaves are now helping the bulbs to gather and store energy. This will help the bulbs to flourish the following season. When the leaves begin to yellow they can safely be removed.
Once the plants are completely finished for the year apply a dose of bonemeal. This will help to encourage the flower to return the following year.
After a 3-5 years flowering may become sparse. This is a sign that you need to lift and divide the clumps. The best time to divide bulbs is when the foliage is dying. Removing the offsets is also a reliable means of propagation.
Planting daffodils alongside other bulbs allows you to enjoy a variety of plants. Daffodils do particularly well with tulips, peonies, phlox, geraniums, roses, alliums, dhalias and irises. By planting a variety of plants, your flower bed will provide interest and colour from early spring until late summer.
Daffodils planted alongside other spring flowering bulbs can create a colorful, interesting display. This helps to brighten up otherwise dull gardens, as well as attracting pollinators such as butterflies and bees.
Common Daffodil Problems
Despite their delicate appearance, daffodils are surprisingly robust. Daffodils contain oxalic acid. This means that many pests avoid the flowers. Both deer and rodents dislike the taste of Narcissus bulbs so tend to avoid daffodils.
Daffodils can fall victim to various diseases and pests such as narcissus bulb fly, narcissus nematode and bulb scale mite. Planting daffodils correctly, and ensuring they receive the right level of attention will reduce the chances of your bulbs developing any issues. Slugs can also target daffodil flowers. While chemical controls are available, organic solutions such as spreading used coffee grounds around your plants are just as effective.
If planted incorrectly daffodils can fail to flower. This is often referred to as daffodil blindness. It can also be caused by a lack of nutrients in the soil.
Daffodils can go blind, or fail to flower. Planting daffodils too close to the surface is the most common cause of blindness. It can also be caused by planting daffodils too close together. Blindness can also be a sign that the plants require feeding.
Daffodils as cut Flowers
Daffodils make great cut flowers. Avoid putting them in a vase with other flowers, daffodil stems secrete a fluid that can cause other plants to wilt.
Not just an attractive garden plant, daffodils are also great cut flowers. They can be displayed individually or, with the proper preparation, as part of a mixed display.
If you do want to display your daffodils in a mixed display, soak them alone for an extended period. After soaking, rinse the stems before adding them to a mixed display.
Some people can experience skin irritation if they come into contact with daffodil sap. You may want to wear gloves and wash your hands after handling cut flowers.
Bright and easy to care for, once planted daffodils are a reliable way of adding color and interest to your garden during the early spring months.
Popular with pollinators and gardeners alike, planting daffodils, like other spring bulbs, is a great way to add early spring color to your garden. Coming in a range of shades, sizes and colors, daffodils work in large planting schemes, small container gardens or even as indoor blooms. Planting daffodils, especially if you are planting large amounts, may be time consuming, however the spectacle they provide is well worth the effort.