Name: daffodil (Narcissus species and cvrs)
Plant type: spring flowering perennial herbaceous bulb
Height: extremely variable, generally around 30–50cm
Foliage: variable, 30–50cm long, weeping with age, around 2cm wide and strap-like. Green to grey-green.
Climate: sub-tropics, warm and cool temperate.
Soil: ideally a good-quality free-draining soil, but adaptable to most types, except wet soils.
Position: sun through to part shade.
Flowering: spring flowering
Feeding: apply a controlled-release fertiliser at planting time and liquid feed with seaweed or organic products as buds begin to develop.
Watering: water during active growth periods.
There’s something inherently fascinating about bulbs. Daffodil bulbs look more like a small onion than anything else—you wouldn’t think them capable of anything spectacular but come spring they do the ugly duckling proud!
A fountain of foliage erupts, seemingly overnight, and in next to no time this is followed by the most delightful of flowers. Generally bright yellow and ridiculously cheerful, the daffodil is the real harbinger of spring, the promise of warmer times.
Daffodils and jonquils are very closely related. Some gardeners swear they planted daffodils, only to find that they have jonquils. Both plants are in the genus Narcissus and have been so heavily interbred and cross-bred that they are rarely referred to by a species name. Instead, they are placed into one of more than ten “groups”, based mainly on their flower form.
The typical daffodil flower would be best described as bright yellow and shaped like a cup and saucer turned sideways. Most have a somewhat drooping or downward facing angle, but there are countless variations in size, form and colour.
Foliage is typically long, thin and green with a definite grey-blue tone. As daffodils and jonquils are so closely related, trying to work out which is which by foliage alone is not going to be reliable.
In texture and colour, the bulbs themselves are very similar in appearance to a small brown onion, but they have more of a teardrop shape.
A daffodil can be planted for a variety of uses, including:
Follow these tips for best results when planting your daffodil.
In cooler regions, daffodil bulbs should be planted in March and April. In warmer regions of Australia, planting can wait until May.
Daffodils will do best with a little care:
Naturalising simply means to leave bulbs to their own growth year after year. Daffodils are the easiest of the bulbs to naturalise and will happily do so in most areas where they grow. To naturalise, they must be planted in a spot that receives summer shade and heat protection. Adding a thick layer of mulch once the foliage has died back can be worthwhile.
If your area isn’t right for naturalising, or you have been growing in pots, then you can lift and save your bulbs for next season.
Your daffodil should not be prone to many issues.
Daffodil bulbs are generally purchased, not propagated. The exception to this is naturalised bulbs.
As bulbs grow, they produce offsets or daughter bulbs. If bulbs have been naturalised, then after a few years they can be lifted while dormant and the off-sets can be removed for replanting. The ones that can be removed will be clearly independent of the main bulb and encased in their own skin all around. These are best planted in late summer to begin growth, and it will be at least two years before they flower.
Tulip: the perfect addition to your spring flowering bulb collection.
Apple tree: with winter sun and summer shade, the space beneath an apple tree is perfect for bulb growing.
Foxglove: coming into bloom as your bulbs finish, foxglove makes a brilliant spring and summer addition to your garden.