How to Grow Daffodils



From Eric Larson, director of Yale’s Marsh Botanical Garden, for Garden Clips
Daffodils seem to be synonymous with ‘spring,’ providing color and movement in the spring breeze, and in some cases wonderful fragrance. Neither a late snowfall nor a light frost deter them, nor do deer, rabbit, squirrel or groundhog relish the poisonous leaves and flowers of the Narcissus genus. About the only negative one can offer is that, when used as a cut flower, one must avoid placing them in the same vase as other flowers, for they carry in them a compound that causes wilt in their companions. But a bouquet of Daffodils alone is as perfect a picture of spring bounty as it gets anyway. Any more would be in essence ‘gilding the lily.’

The genus name comes from the Greek myth about the youth that became so enamored of his reflection that he lapsed into a waking coma, fell into the spring and drowned. Sounds like what happens to some people and their computers. Nevertheless, the Narcissus plant sprung up where the young lad had died. A variant on the name derivation has its origin in the narcotic properties of the plant (narkao, to grow numb). This plant is poisonous, so there may be some truth to that phylogeny. The exact number of species within the genus is up for debate, with some averring that around 25 species of wild types are known, while others suggest that between 50 and 100 species, variants and wild hybrids is more like it. They are all members of the Amaryllis family (Amaryllidaceae), and native to Europe, North Africa and Asia.

The words Daffodils and Narcissus are used by many interchangeably. The word daffodil comes from the earlier “Affodell,” a variant of the word ‘Asphodel.’ The ‘d’ is thought by some to have been derived from the Dutch article ‘de;’ “de affodil.” The term Jonquil is also used by a few in reference to Narcissus, but it more properly refers to one horticultural grouping of the genus.

There are 13 official groupings according to the American Daffodil Society: 1. Trumpets; 2. Large-cupped; 3. Small-cupped; 4.Double; 5. Triandrus; 6.Cyclamineus; 7. Jonquilla; 8. Tazetta; 9. Poeticus; 10. Bulbocodium; 11. Split-corona; 12. Miscellaneous and 13. Species and wild variants. My family knows that I would fit in the last, while aspiring to the ninth grouping.

Narcissus are sold as bulbs, harvested in mid- to late summer for shipment in early to mid-fall. Plant the bulbs in good well-drained garden soil. It is best to plant them in full sun but partial shade is okay. The most important thing is to remember that, after flowering, the leaves have to continue their job of providing food for next year’s bloom: don’t … read more at…

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