Spread sunshine in your garden when you plant daffodil bulbs this fall. Perhaps more than any other flower, daffodils emerging in late winter signal the end of cold weather and the promise of warm days and more flowers ahead.
Daffodils (the common name, the genus is narcissus), are popular cut flowers, naturalize in the landscape, and happily grow in containers. They are strong plants that need a good start, but require little maintenance once established. They’re also naturally pest-resistant and unappealing to foraging deer. Mice, squirrels and voles will avoid daffodils, too.
Daffodils are easy to grow, just pay attention to the site. Know your hardiness zone and choose the best daffodil varieties for your region.
Planting bulbs requires a little bit of planning, because daffodils require a winter’s chill before emerging from the ground. Bulbs like daffodils, tulips, hyacinth and crocus need 12 to 16 weeks of chill time to bloom at their best. If the chilling time is too brief, the flowers will have shorter stems.
Add Daffodils to Your Landscape
For the most blooms, a site with full sun is the most desirable. Partial shade is acceptable, but keep in mind that more sun equals more flowers. Bulbs need well-drained fertile soil. If your soil tends to clay, amend with organic matter to a depth of about 12 inches before planting bulbs. In zones 3 to 5, plan to plant from September to November. For zones 6 to 9, shift your bulb planting to October through December.
Tips for Planting Daffodil Bulbs:
- Select firm bulbs. Discard any bulbs that are mushy.
- Plant bulbs to a depth of 3 times the height of the bulb (about 4 to 6 inches deep) and 3 times the width of the bulb apart (4 to 6 inches apart).
- Plant bulbs pointy end up.
- Use a fertilizer formulated for bulbs when planting.
- Mulch with pine needles, wood chips or shredded bark to keep weeds down and retain moisture.
- Monitor rainfall and supplement with water from the garden hose if conditions are dry in the fall.
Daffodils take well to naturalizing, that is, drifts of blooms that come up year after year. Bulbs multiply and produce “daughter” bulbs; the best multipliers are the top choices for naturalizing. Create a succession of colorful blooms when you choose varieties that are early, mid-season and late season. A mix with “naturalizing” on the bag will give you a variety of bulbs that will begin blooming in late winter and flower until mid-spring.
As blooms fade, it’s not necessary to deadhead, unless it’s for aesthetics. Snipping out the wilting stems keeps them tidy, but can be tedious upkeep. The practice of braiding or knotting bulbs is discouraged, too, because it prevents fading foliage from soaking up sunshine and fueling the bulb for next year.
The best solution for hiding dying daffodils is to plant camouflage in the form of hostas, pictured above. The timing is just right in most areas of the country, as daffodils wither, hostas emerge. The daffodils are able to store energy for next year and the hostas will enjoy their time in the garden. Daylilies can also be used to hide fading daffodil foliage.
Photos provided by Longfield Gardens