Tips On How To Succeed with Daffodils

Lilting grace, cheerful coloring, and delightful personality characterize daffodils, the favorite early spring-flowering bulbs. 

Familiar for generations in yellows, whites, and bicolors, the color range is now much broader, including even in the yellows, shades from deepest gold, through bright clear yellows, and on to cool greenish lemons, variously described as sulfur or limey tones. 

Growing DaffodilsPin

In addition, there are those with orange, red, pink, salmon, apricot, and buff crowns or trumpets.

Perhaps not altogether undiluted, the reds and pinks are arriving, and as breeders continue working with them, the colors become clearer and more stable.

Daffodils Thrive Across All Sections of America

Daffodils thrive in nearly all sections of America except for those with extremely dry, cold winters or where temperatures run high during their growing season.

Inasmuch as they need plenty of water, irrigation is needful if little rainfall occurs during their most active growing season. 

Moisture is needed from the time root growth starts in the fall until a few weeks after they flower, but they prefer not to be wet during the dormant period. 

In the northern tier of states where severe winters prevail, a mulch of evergreen boughs or salt hay is desirable, perhaps even essential in winters when a snow cover is absent.

How To Plant Daffodils?

First of all, plant good bulbs of adaptable varieties. Prepare the ground well, including not only deep digging and thorough pulverizing, but provision for good drainage if such is not present. 

If in doubt, use a quart of sharp sand under each bulb. 

Plant at such a depth as to cover the bulbs with 3” to 5” inches of soil, the deeper planting being recommended for lighter soils. 

Where the permanent display is desired, even deeper planting is desirable.

If grown in the garden for cutting or exhibition, dig and divide every third year, lifting them as soon as the tops ripen, but delaying replanting until September. 

Early Planting: Finer Individual Flowers

Early planting, during September and October, will produce finer individual flowers ordinarily, but in areas where the soil is hot and dry during these months, a few weeks’ delays will not be amiss.

Remember that fall and winter root growth determines to large extent the quality of stem and flower not only for the following spring but that of the next year as well, for the flower draws both on the nutrients stored in the bulb and those taken up by the roots while the flower is forming.

On the whole, most daffodils resent anything more than gentle forcing unless the bulbs have been prepared by a special cooling process shortly after digging. 

However, they may be brought into bloom much earlier than they flower in the garden by planting in pots in early September.

Here’s what you need to do:

  • Use a friable sandy loam in the pots, or lacking this, add one part of peat moss or well-rotted compost to two parts of soil. 
  • After placing broken crockery or other drainage material over the hole in the pot, add one inch of your soil mix which has been added a teaspoonful of superphosphate. 
  • Fill the pot with soil to within 3” inches of the top, plant blobs, and complete filling. 
  • Eight-inch pots are about right for three large bulbs. 6” – 7” inches pots will serve for smaller bulbs.
  • After the bulbs are in the pots, soak thoroughly, then plunge them in soil or peat moss in a cold frame and keep damp.
  • Never leave pots uncovered in areas of severe cold as pots freezing from the bottom up will break and bulbs cannot survive such freezing. 
  • From December to February, bring the pots into a cool room. A cool greenhouse (one heated only enough to keep the frost out) is desirable, but any location providing such conditions will do. 
  • When tops have grown 2” or 3” inches above the pots, give all the light possible but keep away from heat. 
  • When flowers are ready to open, bring them into living quarters, but remember that living room temperatures are too warm for their liking and the flowers will not last as long as those kept cool.

Why Do Daffodils Fail To Bloom? 

There may be several answers to this problem, but doubtless, that which applies in most cases is that the bulbs have become too crowded, and the clump is made up of offsets that are too small to form buds. 

The obvious remedy is replanting. Bulbs planted in dense shade often will not flower, although light shade may prove decidedly beneficial to the coloring of some of the red cups and the pinks.

Common Daffodil Fly

In areas where the daffodil fly is expected, the grub frequently eats out the heart of the bulb, and consequently, there is no flower for the next year or two.

Dusting heavily with chlordane when planting will usually stop their depredations, or if the bulbs are already planted, using the dust around the flower stems after the blooming season will be sufficient. 

Double daffodils frequently do not bloom due to lack of moisture, low air humidity, or too high temperatures at flowering time.

Imagine! Three Months Of Daffodils

The flowering period of daffodils may range from 10 days to a month where only one variety is planted, and up to 3 months or longer with a judicious selection of varieties.

This does not include the few falls- and winter-flowering species which are unreliable in flowering or need protection that the average gardener cannot give.

Moreover, they are difficult to obtain. But one can have a long period of bloom, and a wide range of color, size, and form.

To open the season, there are those spritely and graceful cyclamineus hybrids such as:

  • ‘February Gold’ 
  • `Peeping Tom’ 

…which, with their reflexed perianths, appear to defy the inclement weather which so often prevails during their season. 

Aside from flowering very early, they have exceptional lasting qualities inherited from the tiny species 

Narcissus Cyclamineus: One Of The Parents

Narcissus cyclamineus, which is one of their parents, but unlike it, they are easy to grow.

Coming in bright, clear yellow, they seem to reflect the sunshine, so welcome, but often so rare, when they flower. 

Nearly as early and of much greater stature are: 

‘St. Issey’ and ‘Malvern Gold,’ both are giving large flowers with large crowns, and `Diotima,’ a large trumpet variety. 

  • ‘Foresight,’ a smooth well-formed white with yellow trumpet, and 
  • ‘Content, aptly described as of “lemonade” color, have less garden value but are beautiful as individual flowers. 

Comparatively few red cups are among the earliest to flower, but ‘Rouge,’ with its amber-colored petals and brick-red cup, and `Scajawea,’ bright clear yellow with a red-banded cup, fall into this group.

High-Quality Of Flowers: Sizes, Colors, and Forms

Following the extra earlies, there are a host of high-quality flowers in a wide range of sizes, colors, and forms that precede midseason varieties in the opening, but last through the peak of the flowering season.

The old, but dependable, and spectacularly large-flowered clear yellow, 

‘Carlton,’ is among this group. 

The very pale lemon giant, ‘Moonstruck,’ and 

The reverse bicolor, ‘Spellbinder,’ add new color notes to this section. 

‘Beersheba’ is perhaps the best-known white trumpet today and remains a favorite, although the taller ‘Mt. Hood’ is replacing it in some sections. 

  • ‘Cantatrice’ holds an enviable record in the number of prizes it has won on the show table, and 
  • ‘Zero,’ a giant snow-white, opens with less creamy tint than other large daffodils. 

One of the largest of all daffodils, and a spectacular garden flower is ‘Bonneville.’ 

A common complaint against the orange and red cupped daffodils is that the color fades as they age. 

The reverse is true of ‘Armada,’ ‘Fireproof,’ and `Rustom Pasha’.

Crossing some of the large oranges cupped daffodils on ‘John Evelyn’ has given a series of daffodils with tall, strong stems, with very large, flaring crowns. 

These have become most popular for garden displays. Among them are:

  • ‘Flying Saucer,’ with yellow or pale orange cup;
  • ‘Lebanon,’ with nearly flat, much frilled, soft yellow crown; 
  • ‘Chinook,’ very large crown opening orange salmon in cool weather or pale apricot yellow when warm and dry; and 
  • ‘Duke of Windsor,’ large ruffled crown of pale orange. 

All of these have white petals.

Midseason Daffodil Varieties

The midseason varieties offer much in a variety of forms and colors. 

  • ‘Aranjuez,’ yellow with a nearly flat crown of the same color, banded bright orange-red.
  • ‘Red Riband, of similar color but with a deep bowl-shaped crown, are two vigorous growers and free bloomers.

For the brilliance of color;

  • ‘Narvik, with bright, clear yellow perianth or petals, and vivid orange-red, rather a small crown, is a favorite. 
  • ‘Dunkeld,’ with its nearly flat, large crown of rich orange-red is a rapid increaser and consistently produces perfectly formed flowers. 
  • Much larger and somewhat paler in color is ‘Playboy’ which flowers a bit later.

Trio Finest Bicolors

‘Polindra, “Bodilly,’ and ‘Statue’ are a trio of the finest bicolors, distinct from each other, but all with fine white petals and lemon yellow crowns. 

Reverse Bicolor

Then there is the reverse bicolor, ‘Binkie,’ which opens pale sulfur lemon, but as the flower develops, the crown fades out to nearly white.

It has been the parent of some sensational new reverse bicolors about which much should be heard in the future. 

Pink cupped daffodils are coming to the fore and for years ‘Mrs. R. 0. Back-house’ was the only one very well known. 

  • ‘Mabel Taylor’ appears’ due to give it a great deal of competition, but still better pinks are in the offing. 

It is interesting to note that one cluster-flowered jonquil, ‘Cherie,’ develops a pinkish cup. Another jonquil hybrid that is becoming popular is ‘Sweetness.’

Late-Blooming Daffodils

It is to the later flowering daffodils that we look for some of the most perfect exhibition flowers, and some of them are superb garden subjects as well. 

Here we have several very interesting pure whites including that giant trumpet, ‘Broughshane.’ 

On the other hand, there are the glistening white, green-eyed flowers such as; 

  • ‘Chinese White,’ one of the largest of the small cupped flowers; and 
  • ‘Frigid,’ one of the very latest to bloom. 

Here too, we find ‘Green Island,’ which is a magnificent flower in its own right, with a very large rounded white perianth and a large bowl-shaped crown that opens pale lemon but fades to near white except for the rim and the greenish center. 

One of its greatest values lies with the hybridizers as it is proving an outstanding parent, giving a wide range of seedlings, even some with fine pink crowns. 

`Silver Chimes’ has long been a favorite with its large clusters of small blooms, and there is nothing in sight to displace it. 

Also among the later flowered daffodils are most those having white petals and orange or red cups;

  • ‘Limerick is one of the best of these with its solid orange-red eye;
  • ‘Bantry’ has a yellow crown with a wide border of orange-red, and;
  • ‘Termoy’ is one of the larger ones in its class, having a yellow crown gradually shading into a wide orange-red border.