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Growing Daffodils

Sometimes referred to as narcissus, daffodils nodding yellow, white, or variegated heads, are true harbingers of spring. Daffodils are a colorful addition to your garden with few basic steps.

Gail Maifeld, Master Gardener

Growing Daffodils

How do daffodils grow?

Daffodils are a spring-flowering plant that grows from a bulb planted in the fall. In spring the bulbs send up leaves that form buds, each of which develops into a flower or two depending on the variety. The outside of the flower is known as the perianth. This can be a different color than the inside trumpet or corona. Beneath the ground the bulb absorbs nutrients manufactured by the leaves after flowering, which can go on for 7 weeks or longer. The leaves fade, drop to the ground, and the plant goes dormant. Cut the leaves off only after they have fallen to the ground and are brown.

Where can daffodils be planted for success?

Daffodils do best in full sun, although they can tolerate some shade. If planting under a tree, consider removing lower branches to allow for light. Daffodils require well-drained soil. Rocks or clay soil should be removed and replaced with a mix of quality soil, which should be 1 part peat moss and 2 parts soil. Dig up an area to the depth of 12 inches.

Using a shovel loosen soil at the bottom of the trench or hole. Mix new soil into the bottom to create a bed of loose soil for the bulb roots to form. Fill the opening to 8 inches and arrange the bulbs 3-4 inches apart with the wide end of the bulb down and gently press into the soil. Gently cover with soil and water. A 10-10-10 commercial fertilizer or organic fertilizer such as bone meal, blood meal or cow manure can be added.

Where can I buy daffodil bulbs?

Garden centers, online retailers, and mail order garden catalogs are the usual sources. Bulbs that have a soft base, dark brown or black coloring should not be purchased. Look at the mail order bulbs carefully and return any that are bad. Plant the bulbs as soon as you purchase them or receive them in the mail. Bulbs are alive so heat and humidity can cause damage. Reputable dealers will have the bulbs in a cool well- ventilated area. Mail order catalogs will ship during your areas best planting period, which is mid August thru September. Bulbs need 10-12 weeks to from roots so early October is the latest time to plant.

How do I care for daffodils?

Water newly planted bulbs frequently during the fall. Gardeners frequently forget to water, which is needed for root development. If spring rains are not adequate, begin watering.

Cut back on watering as the foliage fades. Buds begin developing on the bulbs; so begin watering in late summer and continue through the fall. Mulch prevents weeds from growing around the bulbs but if the bulbs are naturalized, mulch is not practical. Fertilize in the spring before new growth appears. Avoid touching new growth with fertilizer and water immediately after the application to wash the fertilizer down to the roots.

Daffodils do not need staking but deadheading will result in a more attractive bed. Daffodils are generally insect and disease free.

Daffodils make a colorful early spring bouquet. Some are sweet scented. Harvest the flowers just as the bud begins to open and place immediately in water. Do not mix daffodils with other flowers since daffodils release a slime that is toxic. For long lasting bouquets add 5 drops of bleach to the water.

With a minimum of garden preparation and plant maintenance, daffodils will reward the gardener with colorful spring joy.

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