News release: Daffodils

Tim Baker, MU Extension Horticulture Specialist
102 N. Main, Suite 1, Gallatin, MO 64640

Release Date: March 20, 2014

Headline: Daffodils

One of the sure signs that winter is almost gone is found in those bright yellow flowers that pop up from the ground every spring.  You see them all around town in people’s yards where they have been intentionally planted, and even along roadsides, where they have escaped cultivation years ago from some long-forgotten homestead.

But what are they called?  Their most common name is daffodil, but you’ll sometime see them referred to as narcissus.  And often, folks will call them jonquils, which may add even more confusion.  As a whole class, both daffodil and narcissus are correct.  Daffodil is the common name, and narcissus is the botanical name which was assigned to them back in 1753.  Jonquil refers to a specific narcissus and is not correct for the entire group of plants.  True jonquils have a reed-like leaf and sweet-smelling flowers.

 The plants originate from a bulb.  They are easy to plant and are easily propagated.  The first item to consider when planting daffodils is to make sure they have good drainage.  If the site you intend to plant them in is poorly drained, the plants will not thrive and will be more susceptible to disease.  You may be able to improve the drainage of such soils, which will help greatly.  They should also get good light.  Since the daffodil’s leaves are out during the time that many tree species are bare, you may get by under deciduous trees just fine.  But be sure that they are planted in an area that does receive adequate light. 

Generally daffodils do not require heavy fertilizer applications.  If you can improve the soil through applications of composts, this may be sufficient to produce good flowers.

The best time to plant is in the fall.  Early to mid-October would be a good time.  Space the plants 6 to 12 inches apart and plant them about 6 inches below the soil surface.  It’s a good idea to mulch them, if you have a suitable material available.  This will help keep down weeds and make the area more attractive. 

Be sure they receive adequate moisture if drought conditions occur in the spring.  Summer droughts should not affect them, since the plants are dormant.  After the plants have flowered, don’t cut down the leaves which the plant has produced.  These leaves are photosynthesizing nutrients for the bulb and it is important for this process to occur for next year’s flowers.  After some time, the leaves will die back and may be removed.

Daffodils are not susceptible to many insect problems or diseases if planted in a suitable site.  The worst disease problem would be bulb rots, which are usually seen in poorly-drained soils.  Be sure not to over fertilize them, as this could lead to problems as well.

If you would like to learn more about daffodils, including how to propagate them, please call your local Extension office and ask for our guide sheet: “Spring Flowering Bulbs: Daffodils” (G6610).  We’ll be happy to send you one.