Also known as: Narcissus

Daffodils are the quintessential spring flower, a close second to their other blooming companion, the tulip. Part of the amaryllis family, daffodils bloom mostly in the springtime and include over 50 species in their genus. They are native to the Mediterranean region and some parts of China and Central Asia.

There are 12 divisions of narcissus, mostly classified by the shape that the blossoms can take. These include:

  • Trumpet
  • Large-cupped
  • Small-cupped
  • Double
  • Triandrus
  • Cyclamineus
  • Jonquilla
  • Tazetta
  • Poeticus
  • Wild species
  • Split-corona
  • Miscellaneous

The name narcissus comes from the Greek myth of the boy Narcissus, who was so in love with himself that he fell into a reflecting pool, drowned and became the daffodil. The Romans brought the bulbs to Britain to cultivate for their healing properties, but in reality, the plants contain sap crystals that can irritate the skin, resulting in the need for skin lotion. Daffodil is thought to be a variation on "asphodel", which is the flower of Hades in Greek mythology. It acquired the "D" from Dutch botanists referring to the plant as "de affodil (asphodel)".

Daffodils can have a number of different flowers and anything that closely resembles a narcissus blossom is probably part of the family. The flowers can be colored yellow, golden, white or orange. All flowers have a trumpet-shaped corona surrounded by five or six evenly-spaced petals. Sometimes, the corona is a different color than the rest of the petals. The plant has a light green stem with shiny, pointed green leaves. It grows to a height of approximately 18 inches and spreads to approximately 6 inches. The flowers erupt in the late winter and early spring, though some cultivars will bloom in the late fall. You should consult a garden center expert to determine which type of daffodil is best for your garden design.

Growing Daffodils

Daffodils should be planted in full sun or partial shade. Different divisions require different soils, so check which cultivar you are planting for the soil requirements. Mostly, daffodils will do well in average, moist, well-drained soil. The bulbs should be planted at least 3 to 5 times their own depth in the autumn. If you live in a snowy climate, make sure there's at least 3 inches of soil over the bulb through the winter. Water your daffodil plants regularly through the growing season.

Recommended Varieties

There are so many different cultivars in each of the twelve divisions that the choice is virtually unlimited. Some interesting varieties include "Cantabile", which has milk-white flowers with a green, orange and yellow corona; "Broadway Star", which has a split corona, striped with orange, and cream petals; "Aircastle", which has a pale yellow corona and cream petals; "Belcanto", which has a bright yellow double corona and pale yellow petals; and "Ceylon", which has an orange corona and lemon yellow petals.

Landscape Design Tips

Daffodils do well in virtually every environment, including borders, containers, and even in short-cut grass. However, the best place to put daffodils is in a hillside garden, where the soil can drain extremely well. They look great when mass planted, like a wave breaking over the new grass.

Gardening Zones

Daffodils are hardy in zones 3 to 9, depending on the division.

Pests and Problems

Daffodils can suffer from narcissus bulb fly, bulb scale mite, slugs, narcissus nematode, rot, and sometimes narcissus yellow stripe virus.