Growing daffodils provides color with little work


It’s time to plant bulbs and few garden bulbs give as much pleasure with little effort as daffodils. They are one of the first signs of spring and are always a welcome sight after a long winter.

Like most spring-blooming bulbs, they need a chilling period. So, now is the time to plant daffodils so that they chill over the winter months.

Narcissi (daffodils) are native to Europe, North Africa, Western Asia, and the Mediterranean regions. Daffodils are one of the oldest cultivated bulbs. They are members of the “Amaryllis” plant family. Today there are over 60 known species and many horticultural varieties.

What’s in a name

There has been confusion over the proper name for these plants: Daffodil, narcissus, or jonquil? Both narcissus and daffodil are correct. Narcissus is the botanical name given to these plants in 1753.

In England, the plants became known as daffodils and the name was carried to other countries. Jonquil refers to a specific kind of daffodil and isn’t the right term to use for the plants in general. Jonquils have reed-like foliage, and the flowers have a sweet smell.

Planting tips

The most important need of daffodil bulbs is good drainage. Amend your soil with organic matter such as compost to improve drainage or consider planting the bulbs in raised beds.

Find a location with sunlight. You can grow daffodils under trees since much of their growth will be completed before trees fully leaf out.

Work the soil deeply before planting, about 10 to 12 inches since the roots stretch to this level. Set the bulbs down about six inches from the surface.

Daffodils don’t require heavy fertilizing. You can mix bulb food into the soil; just don’t place the fertilizer at the bottom of the bulb.

If buying bulbs in the store, select large, firm, and healthy bulbs that aren’t soft or have dark spots. When buying from mail order, remember size matters. The larger the bulb size, the more flowers you’ll have. However, daffodils do multiply over time. If you want to save money, purchase the smaller size bulbs; you may have to wait a year or two for maximum impact.

Where to plant

Daffodils can go just about anywhere in a sunny spot: A shrub border, with perennials, or with groundcovers. Plant in groups of three for maximum impact. They look especially nice under trees or in front of evergreens that provide background and wind protection.

Mid-October is the best time to plant, but you can plant the bulbs as late as Thanksgiving.

Daffodils need little care in the spring. Fertilize lightly once the foliage pops out and keep the plants well watered during dry spells. The greatest thing about daffodils is that animals avoid them. All parts of the plant are poisonous. So, burrowing animals such as chipmunks and voles will leave the bulbs alone, and animals such as deer or rabbits won’t like the foliage in the spring.

There are many different flower shapes to choose from, and flowers aren’t just yellow; there are varieties with shades of white, pink, and orange.

These plants are long lived, grow well even with the harshest of winters, and multiply over time into a large mass of beautiful color. For more ideas on how to use daffodils or which varieties to choose, visit The American Daffodil Society’s website at

Be sure to add these beauties to your garden this year!

Are you interested in learning more about gardening, while enjoying shared tips, tricks, and comaraderie with other gardeners? Consider training to be an Oneida County Master Gardener Volunteer. For more information call us or visit our website, phone 315-736-3394, Ext 100. Be sure to like us on Facebook ( and check out our YouTube channel ( for great gardening talks.


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