Few flowers are as cheerful as the yellow daffodil in mid-spring, and their unique shape trumpets the arrival of warmer weather like no other bloom can. Daffodils come in a variety of sizes and colors, and some have a light, sweet scent that is especially welcome in window boxes or near well-trodden garden path.
Daffodils are grown from bulbs, and as such are some of the easiest flowers to grow. They can be tucked into virtually any spot in the garden to add a bright burst of color. Unlike tulips and other spring plants, daffodils are deer-resistant and suffer from few pests, making them ideal for beginning gardeners.
Growing Zones: 3-7
Bloom Time: Flowers in very mid-spring
Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Mature Size: From 6-20 inches tall, depending on the variety
Notes: Daffodils must be planted in the fall so they can establish roots and receive sufficient “chilling hours” to bloom in the spring. Long, lance-like green leaves poke up in late March; blooms appear in April and last two to three weeks. By mid-summer, daffodil leaves have faded and died back to the ground, so it’s a good idea to plant bright annuals in front of them to hide the empty space in the summer and fall.
Growing Daffodils in the Landscape
Daffodils are originally from the Iberian peninsula, but were heavily hybridized by Dutch growers into the large sturdy flowers you see today. While the most famous daffodils are solid, bright yellow, bi-color varieties in white, orange and yellow are also popular. Daffodils make excellent cut flowers, so you may want to plant extra in your landscape so you have a few you can snip and bring indoors to put in a vase.
Even though it’s April, it’s certainly not too early to plan for next year’s garden. You should plan to plant daffodil bulbs during the last two weeks of October, a few weeks before the ground freezes. Prepare the soil by digging down about a foot deep and adding an inch of two of compost and a sprinkling of bonemeal. Bulbs should be planted with their points facing up at a depth that is twice their height. Therefore, large bulbs should be planted about six to eight inches deep. Planting daffodils in groups looks best, but bulbs should be set no closer than three inches apart in any direction. Backfill soil and gently tamp down before watering well.
Daffodils do best in well-drained soil so the bulbs don’t rot in the ground. Slopes and raised beds are ideal, but they’re fairly adaptable as long as standing water isn’t an issue. Additionally, daffodils prefer sun while they’re blooming, but can tolerate shade after flowers are done for the season. This means that you can plant them under deciduous trees that don’t leaf out until May for a bright show where flowers won’t grow at other times of the year.
Ongoing Care for Daffodils
While you can safely ignore daffodils throughout the winter, they can benefit from a side dressing of fresh compost as leaves start to poke through the soil in the spring. Daffodils appreciate lots of spring rain, so be sure to water them every few days if your spring is dry to keep their delicate petals from drying out in the wind or sun.
Once daffodil blooms have faded, snip off any spent flowers so the plants put energy into the bulb rather than producing new seeds. Allow daffodil leaves to remain in place until they turn dry and brown naturally, a process that will take several months. Once leaves have died, gently pull them out of the ground or cut back to tidy the planting bed. That’s all these lovely blooms ask for, and in return they’ll provide several years of bright, springtime color.
Waiting for the leaves to die back can be frustrating if you’re particularly concerned about how they look during the process … so, it’s best to tie them back after the daffodils are done blooming. If you need some help, or need anything else for your lawn and garden, please don’t hesitate to call or email us anytime!
*Photo courtesy of “How to Care for Your Daffodils” by The Virtual Mom.