Home Improvement

Daffodil Culture

O Lord, grant that in some way it may rain every day, say from about midnight until three o'clock in the morning . . . gentle and warm so that it can soak in . . . that there may be plenty of dew and little wind, enough worms, no plant-lice and snails, no mildew, and that once a week thin liquid manure and guano may fall from heaven.
(Karel Capek (1890-1938), The Gardener's Year (1931), The Gardener's Prayer)

Ortho's All About the Easiest Flowers to Grow

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East Tennessee Daffodil Society

What is the difference between a daffodil, narcissus, and jonquil? Narcissus is the Latin, botanical name; and daffodil is the

common English name and the two terms are interchangeable. Only one species of daffodil is correctly called jonquilla; crosses of this species with other daffodils are called jonquil hybrids.

Bulbs should be purchased from a reputable dealer. A good bulb has a flower in it when it is sold for autumn planting. Giveaway bulbs, unless from a trusted source, are of dubious value. Bargain bulbs from other than reputable dealers are not bargains. Never buy or plant a soft daffodil bulb, because a soft bulb usually means basal rot or other disease.

Daffodils will grow in light shade but do better in full sun. Deep shade keeps them from blooming after the first year. They will grow well in most soils but need plenty of moisture from the time they are planted until they finish growing in the late spring. A good soaking once a week is not too much. However, the soil must drain well. During the soil preparation, a complete fertilizer, low in nitrogen, should be worked in (about 1/4 cup per square foot). Be sure the fertilizer does not come in direct contact with the bulbs.

Daffodils should be planted in September, if possible, or any time until the ground freezes. Most root growth is done in the fall and early winter. Bulbs of normal size should be planted about six inches deep. Smaller bulbs should be placed at lesser depths. A shallow planting will require more frequent lifting and division as the bulbs tend to split up more quickly.

Leaves should never be cut from choice varieties since they are essential in rebuilding the bulb after flowering. If the spring is dry, the flower beds should be watered (an inch a week) to keep the foliage green as long as possible. Cutting off or braiding sprawling green foliage severely limits the short time that the bulb has to make its growth and form a flower and should not be done. When the foliage has dried up, remove it, and cultivate the ground, so that insects do not have a path down the hole left by the foliage directly to the bulbs.

Daffodil bulbs divide, and one bulb will in time become a clump of bulbs. They should be dug and divided when the flowers become smaller and fewer (about every 4-5 years). Dig as the foliage turns yellow, store until Fall in a cool, airy place. Do not forcefully break the side shoots off of the bulbs. A mulch gives bulbs a longer, better growing season. It also keeps the flowers clean and helps to make the ground cooler in summer. Shredded bark, straw, ground corn cobs or saw dust are all good.

Newly purchased bulbs already have the flower bud developed when you receive them and should produce a bloom the following spring. If you have received a bulb that is not true-to-name (and if the catalog says it's white and your flower is yellow and red--you'll know!) or the bulb fails to grow, a polite letter to the dealer will usually bring a replacement bulb or refund. But remember that some daffodils take several days to acquire the "catalog color" (i.e., whites that open pale yellow or pinks that open yellow-orange; colors will be at their best in a cool, moist season). It is not uncommon for bulbs to fail to flower or give small blooms the second year in your garden--they are busy adapting to your soil, your climate, and your care. By the third season they should repay you with a generous supply of lovely blooms.