Tulips are a popular floral product and a big seller for florists, especially in the spring when huge quantities of the flowers are imported from Holland. The flowers come in a wide variety of colors and are a particularly favorite choice for spring wedding bouquets. Tulips grow from seeds or bulbs. Nature does its job in spreading the seeds that form into the bulbs that become part of the flowering plant.

Contents

Seeds Reproduce

Tulips Like other plants, tulips must disperse seeds for the flower to germinate and grow. The ways in which the seeds are spread affect how well tulips reproduce in both quantity and quality. Tulip seeds are dispersed by several different methods in nature. Once scattered, the seeds then germinate, growing into a bulb. Tulips need well-drained soil in a spot where they will get plenty of sunlight to grow. Adding sand to the soil provides for better drainage. Once tulip bulbs begin to multiply, you can pull off the smaller young bulbs from near the root of mature flower bulbs and replant them to get more tulips.

Tulip Bulbs

Although you can grow tulips from either bulbs or seeds, bulbs produce flowering plants faster. A tulip bulb produces a plant that will usually bloom the following year. Tulip seeds take only a few months to germinate, but it can be several years before the plant bears flowers. The reason is that a tulip seed can take up to five years to develop into a bulb.

Seedpod

Tulip seeds are found inside the seedpod of the flower. Just like other plants, pollination needs to occur for the seeds to form. A tulip is a self-pollinating plant, meaning that the flower can transfer pollen from the anther to the stigma without a pollinator. The plant is also a cross-pollinating flower relying on insects, the wind, man or animals to carry pollen from one tulip bloom to another. Once the flower of a tulip plant dies off, you can extract the seeds from the pod to plant in the fall. If you allow the plant to go to seed after it blooms, the pod will eventually turn brown and crack open.

Nature’s Role

The wind is the most common way in which tulip seeds are spread. Even a mild wind can easily carry the flat, light seeds a distance. Tulip seeds also stick to the fur of animals. Seeds often take root where they drop. Birds are responsible for spreading tulip seeds as well. Some birds eat the seeds, which then pass out in the bird’s droppings. Other birds carry the seeds to new places on their feathers.

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Flowering bulbs make a wonderful addition to the garden, filling it with color and fragrance from early spring all the way through to mid-autumn.

They take up very little space, work equally well in beds, borders, or containers, and are among the best plants for naturalizing in meadows and woodlands. And by choosing a selection that flowers at different times, you’ll always have something coming into bloom as the previous performers fade away.

The main problem is that some of them can be quite pricey. Not to the extreme of bulb mania back in the 1600s, but some of the more exotic varieties can still put a good dent in your wallet!

And that’s where learning how to propagate them comes into play. It’s a simple skill to learn, supplies are minimal, and multiplying these glamorous gems can be quite easily achieved by the home gardener.

Just remember to put a descriptive tag on the stem while a given plant is blooming – it will look considerably different several months later when it’s time to propagate, and a description will help to identify it.

Multiplication for Masses of Blooms

Many bulbs will naturally self-propagate through the formation of offsets, bulbils, or seeds.

Others need some human interaction to reproduce successfully, with the most common techniques being chipping, scaling, and scooping.

This requires a bit of attention and patience from the gardener, but the many new plants that will be produced as a result are well worth the effort.

And because some new plantings can take anywhere from two to seven years to bloom, this is a practice that should become one of your regular autumn tasks. If you divide a few each year, you’ll have a never-ending supply of bloom-ready bulbs on hand to plant out when they’re wanted.

Here’s the information we’re covering in this article:

The Best Bulb Propagation Methods and Tips

  • The Various Types
    • True Bulbs
    • Corms
    • Rhizomes
    • Tubers and Tuberous Roots
  • Propagation by Seed
  • Division
    • Offsets
    • Bulbils
    • Scaling
    • Chipping
    • Scooping

Let’s get to it!

The Various Types

A bulb is defined as a plant that contains everything needed for its entire lifecycle within an underground root structure that’s used to store nutrients.

Typically, these are perennials with periods of growth, flowering, seed setting, and dormancy as the topside growth dies completely back.

They’re usually categorized into the following categories: true bulbs, corms, rhizomes, tubers, and tuberous roots. Let’s take a look at each!

True Bulbs

A “true” bulb has a basal plate on the bottom that roots grow from, plump scales that look like flat garlic cloves, a shoot that forms the flower and leaves, and lateral buds that develop into offsets or bulblets.

Note the basal plates on the bottom.

Ones that have a tunic, or a paper-like covering, are known as tunicate bulbs. The tunic protects it from drying out.

Examples of true tunicates are alliums, daffodils, hyacinths, muscari, and tulips.

Those without a tunic are called imbricate bulbs. Imbricates need to be keep moist before planting to prevent the scales from drying out. Fritillaria and lilies are a few common types of imbricates.

Corms

Similar in function to the true type, a corm is an enlarged stem base that’s been adapted to act as a storage structure. When cut in half, the corm doesn’t have any visible storage rings as do the true bulbs.

Gladiolus corms with bulbils.

It also features a basal plate, papery tunic, and a pointed growing tip.

Plants that use corms for energy storage include autumn crocus, spring crocus, and gladiolus.

Rhizomes

Rhizomes are different from the above in that they don’t have basal plates or tunics, and spread out horizontally under the soil surface rather than growing down.

Iris rhizomes.

Lily of the valley and iris are common garden rhizomes.

Tubers and Tuberous Roots

Tubers are included in this category but they have a different structure, without a basal plate or a protective tunic. These includes anemones, caladiums, and potatoes.

Dahlia tubers.

And tuberous roots, like dahlias, differ again. They have the same cycles and growth patterns as bulbs, with the structure of proper roots.

Propagation by Seed

One of the easiest propagation methods, seeds are collected from spent flower heads once they’ve dried out and opened for seed dispersal. However, reproduction from seed does not guarantee the new plant will be identical to the parent, particularly with hybridized cultivars.

Pick dried flower heads and shake seeds onto a plate, then separate out the chaff. Toss the seeds in a light breeze to allow the chaff to float away, or gently blow away debris.

Sow seeds on the surface of a light, loamy potting soil mix. Cover the seeds with a thin layer of sifted compost and top with a layer of fine sand.

Place flats or pots in a cold frame, unheated greenhouse, or in a sheltered spot out of danger from heavy rains. Ensure the soil is kept moist but not wet.

Depending on the plant, some seeds will germinate promptly, sending up a grass-like shoots, while others like to form roots first and then send up new leaves in the spring, after they’ve enjoyed a cold spell.

Lovely snowdrops.

Seedlings can be potted up in their second year, but you’ll have to be patient – some bulbs started from seed, such as tulips, can take as long as seven years before you’ll see blooms!

Certain types will naturally self seed in the garden, but you’ll need to allow the seed heads to develop on the stem. Bulbous iris, crocus, and snowdrops will all self seed, but you need to be careful not to weed out their tender young shoots, which resemble blades of grass.

Division

Propagation is also possible via an array of different methods. Depending on the types that you have growing in the garden, their age, and other factors, one or more of the following techniques can be used.

Read on to discover our tips and tricks for division via offsets, bulbils, scaling, chipping, and scooping.

Offsets

Many varieties will reproduce with offsets, or baby bulbs, that grow alongside the mother. Offsets will be exactly the same as mother, making this method highly reliable for both hybridized cultivars and heirloom species.

In the fall, after the foliage has died back, gently lift bulbs and detach the offsets, snapping or pulling them away from the parent.

Pot up smaller ones in a rich soil amended with well-rotted compost, and place in a cold frame or sheltered spot in the garden, providing protection from winter cold if needed.

Ensure the soil is moist, but not wet, and wait patiently until they’re large enough to plant in the garden.

Smaller offsets may take 2-4 years before you’ll see a flower, but larger ones can be direct planted into the ground, with blooms likely the following growing season. When planting offsets, mix them in with mature bulbs to ensure a good display of blooms.

Offsets and mature bulbs.

Offset production can be encouraged by planting a stock (parent) bulb shallowly, or by notching the basal plate at the time of planting.

To notch the basal plate, simply cut out a couple of small sections with a sharp, clean knife, then dip the bulb in a fungicide before planting, such as this one from Southern Ag, available via Amazon.

Southern Ag Thiomyl Ornamental Systemic Fungicide, 2 Oz.

Crocus, daffodils, gladiolus, and some lilies naturally produce offsets.

Bulbils

Bulbils form in the leaf axils of some lilies, including tiger and wild types. These are miniature bulbs that develop on the stem above ground, as opposed to bulblets which develop below ground on certain plant varieties.

Tiger lily with bulbils.

Detach bulbils when plump and ripe, then press into a pan or tray of rich, gritty soil amended with plenty of compost. Cover with 1/2 inch of soil and keep moist.

Keep the pan in a sheltered, frost-free location over the winter, and plant out in large clumps the following autumn.

Scaling

For true bulbs formed of multiple scales, like lilies and fritillaria, scaling is a good method for their propagation. This can be done before planting the parent bulb, or when lifting bulbs in autumn after their growing season is complete.

Oriental lily scales.

As close to the base as possible, snap off 4-8 scales from a firm, plump bulb then dust the parent and scales with a fungicide such as garden sulfur.

Press the base end firmly into a tray of sand so that each scale is standing upright. Cover with a plastic bag, fill with air, and seal. Store in a warm, dark location (around 65-70°F) for six weeks.

Alternately, make a mixture of 50:50 peat moss and perlite or vermiculite, and add water just to barely moisten. Place 2-4 inches of the mix in a plastic bag and lay down your scales. Shake the bag to cover the scales, then reposition them so they’re not touching.

Fill the bag with air, then seal it. Store in a warm, dark location (around 65-70°F) for six weeks.

When bulblets have formed, discard any scales that have gone soft and plant the remaining bulblets with the scales in pots. Place in a cold frame or a sheltered, frost-free spot in the garden to overwinter, keeping the soil just moist.

If winter temperatures in your region don’t fall below 40°F, place the scales in their plastic bag in the refrigerator for 6-12 weeks instead.

A two-year-old plant in the nursery.

Plant out in a nursery bed in the spring, spacing 4 inches apart, and in 2-3 years they’ll be producing blooms and ready for planting in the garden.

Chipping

Chipping works well on plants including as alliums, amaryllis, daffodils, fritillaria, irises, and hyacinths.

Use bulbs that are clean and dormant, removing any of the papery tunic and trimming any roots with sharp garden snips.

Remove the top 1/3-1/2 of the growing tip and discard.

Invert so that the basal plate (the spot where the roots grow from) is on top, and with a sharp, sterile knife, cut the bulb in half. Continue to cut each section in half, ensuring each section has a piece of the basal plate attached, until you have 8-16 chips.

Soak the chips in a systemic fungicide solution for 15-30 minutes, then drain on a rack for 12 hours – but don’t toss the fungicide solution.

Fill a pot with moisture-retaining peat moss, perlite, or vermiculite, then moisten with the fungicide solution, ensuring the planting medium is thoroughly moist but not wet.

Press the chips into the perlite, basal plate down, then place the pot in a plastic bag. Fill the bag with air, then seal and label it with the date.

Store in a dark, warm (65-70°F) location for approximately 12 weeks. Check periodically, ensuring the perlite remains moist, and removing any rotting chips if you notice them.

While in storage, the layers of each chip will spread apart. Bulblets will form between the layers, just above the basal plate.

Once formed, plant the bulblets into individual pots and place in a sheltered spot in the garden, ensuring the soil stays just moist.

Provide protection against winter cold in a sheltered spot or cold frame, and plant into the garden the following autumn.

Scooping

Scooping is a method used primarily for hyacinths, and it must be done in the winter while they are dormant.

Using a clean paring knife or a sharpened teaspoon, scoop out the center of the basal plate to a depth of up to 1/2 inch, taking care to leave the outer rim intact.

Sprinkle the scooped end with fungicide powder, shaking off any excess.

Add coarse sand to a tray and water to moisten, then press the bulbs into the sand upside down, with the scooped basal plate on top.

Place the tray in a warm (around 65-70°F), dark location, watering the sand periodically to keep it just moist.

In approximately 12 weeks, bulblets will from in the scooped out section. When large enough to handle, gently detach them from the parent bulb, and pot up in individual containers in a mixture of sifted compost and fine sand, planting as you would for seeds.

Prolific Garden Beauty

While some bulbs might be considered a bit pricey, they’re well worth the cost for their outstanding beauty, delightful fragrance, and years of prolific multiplication in the garden.

And for those species that are reluctant or slow to multiply on their own, you now have several methods to propagate them successfully at home.

Remember to use a fungicide on any cut surfaces to prevent rot, and protect new plants from winter cold until they’re ready to be planted in the garden.

If you enjoy the gorgeous addition that these flowers make to the garden, be sure to read our other articles on how to grow them – like this one on hyacinths.

Don’t forget to tell us about all of your propagation adventures in the comments below!

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Photos by Lorna Kring © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Product photo via Southern Ag.

About Lorna Kring

A writer, artist, and entrepreneur, Lorna is also a long-time gardener who got hooked on organic and natural gardening methods at an early age. These days, her vegetable garden is smaller to make room for decorative landscapes filled with color, fragrance, art, and hidden treasures. Cultivating and designing the ideal garden spot is one of her favorite activities – especially for gathering with family and friends for good times and good food (straight from the garden, of course)!

How To Grow Bulbs From Seed

South African (non amaryllids, winter growers) South African non amaryllid winter growers need a marked difference in day and night temperatures to get good germination. This is also true of many seeds from other mediterranean regions. So if you’re growing in a greenhouse, you need to be sure it cools off at night. Some species require smoke treatment as well. I get the best germination with fresh seed (Marc Hachadourian).

In certain climates, sowing winter-growing bulbs in spring does work, although not as well as autumn sowing. However, the plants will be 6 months out of synch with their normal growing cycle. At this point, you can prevent the seedlings from going dormant through artificial means. Otherwise, allow them to grow for a season or two in their wrong cycle and adjust them to their normal cycle as if they were bulbs coming from the Southern Hemisphere (Ian Black).

South African Irids Seed viability – many of the Iridaceae, particularly those with hard coats, last for years, and we have sown 8 year old Dierama seed with excellent results (Rachel Saunders). Other PBS members have reported some success with Irid seeds that are a decade or more old. But you’ll generally do better with fresh seed.

Barely a geophyte

Dodecatheon Sow the seeds and keep them about 4 °C (40 °F = refrigerator temperature) for 1 month, followed by warmer temperature. Some species will germinate without a cold period, but most require a short one. Since they are so small for quite a while and have fairly delicate roots, the safest bet is to sow them thinly into pots with clean and fast-draining soil and plan to keep them in the pots for a year. Shooting stars sometimes tend to germinate erratically and also can decide to “wait” a year, so keep the pots even if nothing happens this year and you may see results next year (Louise Parsons).

Lapageria rosea The seeds are easy to germinate and require no special treatment other than moisture and cool temperatures (~10-15 degrees C). The plants do not seem too fussy about potting mix, although something open and a bit acid seems to be preferred (John Conran).

Xerophyta Seeds can be very small sow sowing on the surface gives better results (Will Ashburner). Xerophyta viscosa germinates in 8 weeks when surface sown in spring. Winter sowing takes 18 weeks.

Return to How to Grow Bulbs Return to the Photographs and Information page

Daffodil Seed Cultivation: Tips On Growing Daffodil Seeds

In most gardens, daffodils reproduce from bulbs, coming up year after year. The thought of growing them from seed may seem a bit unusual, but you can do it if you’ve got the time and patience. Growing daffodil seeds is a very simple proposition, but turning the seed into a blooming plant can take five years or more. Learn how to propagate daffodil from seed after collecting the seeds from your garden.

Daffodil Seed Pods

Daffodil seed cultivation is a simple process, mostly requiring patience. Once the bees have pollinated your daffodil flowers, a seed pod will grow at the base of the bloom. Don’t deadhead your prettiest flowers; instead, tie a piece of string around each stem to mark it for later in the season.

In the fall when the plants are brown and brittle, the daffodil seed pods at the end of the stems hold the seeds. Shake the stems, and if you hear dried seeds rattling around inside, they’re ready for harvest. Snap off the pods and hold them over an envelope. Shake the pods, squeezing them lightly, to allow the seeds to drop out of the pods and into the envelope.

How to Propagate Daffodil from Seed

Young daffodil plants must grow indoors for at least the first year, so knowing when to plant daffodil seeds is more a matter of when you have the time. Begin with a large tray or pot filled with fresh potting soil. Plant the seeds about 2 inches apart, and cover them with ½ inch of soil.

Place the pot where it gets at least half a day of direct sunlight, kept in a warm spot. Keep the potting soil moist by misting it each day. The seeds may take weeks to sprout, and will look like little blades of grass or small onion sprouts when they first come up.

Grow the daffodil plants until the bulblets underground start to grow big enough to almost touch, then dig them up and replant them in larger homes. Dig up and replant the bulbs each time they grow large enough. It will take two to five years before you see the first bloom from your seed-grown daffodils.

Daffodil FAQs

Table of Contents

  1. What is the difference between daffodils and narcissus?
  2. What is a jonquil?
  3. How many kinds of daffodils are there?
  4. Will squirrels and other rodents eat daffodil bulbs?
  5. Are daffodils expensive?
  6. Do daffodils grow back every year?
  7. How long do daffodil bulbs last?
  8. How do daffodils multiply?
  9. How long is the flowering season of daffodils?
  10. What are miniature daffodils?
  11. Are daffodils difficult to grow?
  12. Do you need to deadhead daffodils?
  13. When should you cut back daffodils?
  14. Can daffodils be grown throughout the United States?
  15. Will daffodils grow in the shade?
  16. Do ground covers have an adverse effect on daffodils?
  17. Why should I exhibit at daffodil shows?
  18. How can I learn more about daffodils at home?

What is the difference between daffodils and narcissus?

None. The two words are synonyms. Narcissus is the Latin or botanical name for all daffodils, just as ilex is for hollies. Daffodil is the common name for all members of the genus Narcissus, and its use is recommended by the ADS at all times other than in scientific writing. Back to Top

What is a jonquil?

In some parts of the country any yellow daffodil is called a jonquil, usually incorrectly. As a rule, but not always, jonquil species and hybrids are characterized by several yellow flowers, strong scent, and rounded foliage. The hybrids are confined to Division 7 and the term “jonquil” should be applied only to daffodils in Division 7 or species in Division 13 known to belong to the jonquil group. Back to Top

How many kinds of daffodils are there?

Depending on which botanist you talk to, there are between 40 and 200 different daffodil species, subspecies or varieties of species and over 32,000 registered cultivars (named hybrids) divided among the thirteen divisions of the official classification system. Back to Top

Will squirrels and other rodents eat daffodil bulbs?

No. The bulbs and leaves contain poisonous crystals which only certain insects can eat with impunity. They may, however, dig up the bulbs. Back to Top

Are daffodils expensive?

Bulbs are priced from around $1.00 up to about $100, depending on the newness or scarcity of a cultivar and not necessarily on its desirability. There are many prize-winning exhibition cultivars that can be bought for under $2.50. Cultivars for naturalizing cost even less, but mixtures of unnamed cultivars are not recommended. Back to Top

Do daffodils grow back every year?

Daffodils are dependable perennial bulbs that should return year after year with additional blooms. Back to Top

How long do daffodil bulbs last?

Under good growing conditions, they should outlast any of us. While some kinds of bulbs tend to dwindle and die out, daffodils should increase. Back to Top

How do daffodils multiply?

Daffodils multiply in two ways: asexual cloning (bulb division) where exact copies of the flower will result, and sexually (from seed) where new, different flowers will result.

Seeds develop in the seed pod (ovary), the swelling just behind the flower petals. Most often, after bloom the seed pod swells but it is empty of seed. Occasionally, wind or insects can pollinate the flower during bloom by bringing new pollen from another flower. When this happens, the seed pod will contain one or a few seeds.

Daffodil hybridizers pollinate flowers by brushing pollen from one flower onto the stigma of another. Then the resulting seed pod can contain up to 25 seeds. Each of these will produce an entirely new plant – but the wait for a bloom for a plant grown from seed is about 5 years!
Back to Top

How long is the flowering season of daffodils?

From six weeks to six months, depending on where you live and the cultivars you grow. After blooming, let the daffodil plant rebuild its bulb for the next year. The leaves stay green while this is happening. When the leaves begin to yellow, then you can cut the leaves off but not before.
Back to Top

What are miniature daffodils?

Daffodils come in all sizes from 5-inch blooms on 2-foot stems to half-inch flowers on 2-inch stems. Largely for show purposes, but also for guidance in gardening, certain species and named cultivars have been determined by the ADS to be miniatures and must compete by themselves in daffodil shows. Current lists of miniatures are published in the Daffodil Journal or may be obtained separately from the ADS. Back to Top

Are daffodils difficult to grow?

No. They are probably the easiest and most dependable of all the families of flowers and ideal for a beginner in gardening in most regions of the United States. Back to Top

Do you need to deadhead daffodils?

After daffodils have flowered you can dead head the bloom so that energy goes into building the bulb for next year’s flower instead of seed production. Before removal of the leaves, they should be allowed to die back naturally until they are at least yellow. Back to Top

When should you cut back daffodils?

Daffodil leaves should “not” be cut back until after they have at least turned yellow. They use their leaves as energy to create next year’s flower. Daffodils continue to absorb nutrients for about six weeks after the blooms have died. During this time they need plenty of sunshine and a regular supply of water. As daffodil bulbs are built, the leaves on the plant turn yellow and eventually die back.

Daffodil leaves removed soon after flowering by mowing or cutting back can severely deplete your bulbs. As with dryness, it prevents the bulb building and storage of food reserves for the future. Back to Top

Can daffodils be grown throughout the United States?

Daffodils are quite tolerant of cold, especially with a covering of snow, and are grown to the Canadian border. The only exceptions are a few tender cultivars, usually tazettas, such as the popular Paper White. Daffodils can also be grown throughout the South with the exception of parts of Florida which are free of frost. A cold treatment—natural or induced—is needed for flower bud initiation. Along a narrow band adjoining the Gulf of Mexico from Florida to Texas there are certain types and named cultivars which have been found to do better than others. Back to Top

Will daffodils grow in the shade?

They will grow in the shade of deciduous trees because they have finished flowering and the foliage has begun to mature by the time deciduous trees leaf out. However, it is better to grow them outside the drip line of deciduous trees rather than under them. Also, deciduous trees with tap roots are preferable to shallow-rooted trees. Daffodils will not long survive under evergreen trees and shrubs. Back to Top

Do ground covers have an adverse effect on daffodils?

The two will be competing for nutrients and moisture, so the answer depends on the fertility of the soil and the aggressiveness of the ground cover. Vigorous, tall-growing, and deeply rooting plants, such as pachysandra and ivy, are likely to discourage daffodils, but they will usually do well in the company of shallow-rooted, trailing plants, such as myrtle, foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia), or creeping phlox (Phlox stolonifera). Back to Top

Why should I exhibit at daffodil shows?

For the satisfaction of helping to present to the public and other gardeners an outstanding display of a flower whose variety and merits are too little known. A show will also give you a chance to see blooms of the newer cultivars and to become acquainted with others who share your interest in daffodils. Eventually your skill may be recognized by awards and you may wish to take the courses and examinations which would qualify you as an Accredited Judge. Back to Top

How can I learn more about daffodils at home?

A good start is to join the American Daffodil Society today at this convenient link. Also, carefully read The Daffodil Journal, published by the American Daffodil Society and borrow books on daffodils from the Society’s library. Join one of the number of daffodil round robins available, with subject matter such as Miniatures, Historics and Hybridizing. Each round robin consists of members contributing e-mails about their experiences and discussing issues they have encountered. Join the daffodil Internet group known as DAFFNET. It is an international discussion forum established and supported by the American Daffodil Society and can be easily accessed at DaffNet.org. Look at our resource DaffSeek.org, a daffodil photo database, for your favorite daffodils or for new varieties. There is information for over 23,000 daffodils with more than 26,700 photographs. Back to Top

Do Daffodil Bulbs Multiply?

wild daffodil image by hazel proudlove from Fotolia.com

Daffodils are low-maintenance annuals that take care of themselves. These sunny flowers propagate themselves two ways, and they’ll even tell you when it’s time to divide the bulbs.

Growth

daffodil leaves clump image by Ben Nicholson from Fotolia.com

Daffodils are very easy to grow, preferring sunny well-drained spots to produce the most flowers. Keep daffodils moist but stop all watering about three weeks after the flowers bloom.
You can leave daffodil bulbs in the ground for up to five years before replanting them.

Propagation

daffodil image by Christopher Hall from Fotolia.com

Daffodils reproduce both by seeds and by bulb multiplication. Seeds will produce flowers in three to five years, and bulbs in another two. New bulbs will naturally sprout from the bottom and sides of the main bulb.

daffodil bulbs image by Joann Cooper from Fotolia.com

Divide bulbs in the late spring or early fall, if they seem crowded, or if they stop blooming. Dig, then gently separate the bulbs from the main bulb at the bottom end, using a sharp knife if needed. Store bulbs in a cool, dry place until it’s time to plant them in the fall.

Replanting

Digging in the garden image by dquinnan from Fotolia.com

Plant your daffodil bulbs, pointed end up, after the soil has cooled in the fall. Mature bulbs should be planted 6 inches deep and watered thoroughly until the wet weather begins.

DAFFODIL, narcissus, jonquil

Native to Western Europe primarily, these are arguably the finest and most valuable spring bulbs for the South. They are long lived, increasing naturally from year to year; they stand up to cold and heat; they have many garden uses; and they offer a fascinating array of flower forms, sizes, and colors. Given minimal care at planting, all thrive with virtually no further attention. They do not require summer watering (although they’ll accept it) and need only infrequent division. Finally, rodents and deer won’t eat them.

Flowering commences in winter in the Lower and Coastal South, in early spring elsewhere. The basic colors are shades of yellow and white, but you’ll also find orange, salmon, peach, apricot, pink, green, and even red.

Gardeners tend to use the names daffodil, narcissus, and jonquil interchangeably. Technically, daffodil is the common name for the genus Narcissus in all forms, whereas jonquil denotes one type of narcissus, Narcissus jonquilla and its hybrids. Jonquils have smaller, fragrant, clustered blooms and cylindrical leaves with pointed tips, reminiscent of quills. If you stick to calling them all narcissus, you can’t go wrong.

All have the same basic flower structure. Each bloom has a perianth (six outer petal-like segments) that surrounds (and is held at right angles to) a central corona (also called the trumpet or cup, depending on its length).

Most types reach 11 feet tall. Flowers usually face the sun; be sure to keep this in mind when choosing a planting spot. Use narcissus under high-branching trees and flowering shrubs, among ground cover plantings, in woodland and rock gardens, or in borders, but be sure they are not on the north side of taller plants that would shade them. They need sunlight to bloom year after year. Plant them in naturalistic, sweeping drifts. Grow them in containers. They make fine cut flowers, but it is best to pick them, breaking the stem at the base by hand, rather than with clippers. Give them a vase of their own; freshly cut stems release a substance that causes other cut flowers to wilt.

Following are the generally recognized divisions of daffodils and recommended selections in each division. While there are many more selections than space allows, these are certainly proven growers in Southern gardens. Some old favorites are no longer in production, but some new ones are ready to take their places in a spring garden.

Trumpet daffodils

  • The trumpet is as long as or longer than the perianth segments; one flower per stem.
  • The best known is yellow ‘King Alfred’, a classic type no longer in the market.
  • Buying ‘King Alfred’ usually means planting ‘Carlton’, ‘Dutch Master’, or ‘Golden Harvest’ (susceptible to basal rot).
  • Newer ‘Arctic Gold’, ‘Dutch Master’, ‘Marieke’, and ‘Primeur’ are superior yellows.
  • The best pure white selection is ‘Mount Hood’.
  • Bicolors with white segments and a yellow trumpet include ‘Bravoure’, ‘Holland Sensation’, and ‘Las Vegas’.
  • Spellbinder features yellow segments and a yellow-tipped white trumpet.
  • Pay Day and ‘Pistachio’ have a halo of white at the base of the trumpet but are otherwise yellow.
  • For the earliest daffodils, plant ‘Rijnveld’s Early Sensation’.

Large-cupped daffodils

Small-cupped daffodils

  • The cup is no more than one-third the length of the perianth segments; one flower per stem.
  • Selections include ‘Angel’ (white segments and white cup with green eye), ‘Audubon’ (white segments and pale yellow cup banded with pink), and ‘Barrett Browning’ (white segments and orange-red cup).

Double daffodils

Triandrus hybrids

  • Cup at least two-thirds the length of perianth segments; several nodding flowers per stem.
  • Diminutive ‘Hawera’ has four to six lemon-yellow flowers per stem; it is good for naturalizing and will spread by seed.
  • Petrel is pure white, 35 flowers per stem, and excellent fragrance.
  • Old favorite ‘Thalia’ offers 23 elegant, pure-white, fragrant flowers per stem.
  • Katie Heath is white with pink cup; ‘Ginter’s Gem’ is glowing yellow with orange at the base of the cup.

Cyclamineus hybrids

Jonquilla hybrids

Tazetta and Tazetta hybrids

  • These are perennials in Lower and Coastal South gardens because they have little requirement for cold weather to bloom and they can be easily forced into bloom by gardeners at any latitude.

Early-blooming types bearing clusters of 3 to 20 flowers on each stout stem; many have a musky-sweet fragrance that can be overpowering indoors. The most heat-tolerant group, they do well in central Florida; hardy only to about 10F. ‘Avalanche’ (‘Seventeen Sisters’) produces clusters of 15 to 20 blossoms with white segments and a yellow cup. ‘Aspasia’ is a lovely heirloom with white segments and yellow cup. ‘Falconet’ and ‘Martinette’ feature yellow segments and a red-orange cup. ‘Geranium’ and ‘Cragford’ have creamy white segments and an orange cup; ‘Minnow’ has a pale yellow cup and pale yellow segments that fade to cream.

This division also includes the popular paperwhite group of narcissus that are commonly forced into early bloom indoors. Plant them in bowls of pebbles or soil and give them cool temperatures (5060F) and bright light. ‘Grand Soleil d’Or’ has golden yellow segments and an orange cup, ‘Wintersun’ has white segments and a soft yellow cup, and pure white ‘Ziva’ has the strong fragrance and easy-to-force nature of the classic paperwhite. ‘Inbal’ has all the quality of ‘Ziva’ but with a more delicate fragrance and flatter cup.

Poeticus daffodils

  • Fragrant flowers with white perianth segments and a short, disk-shaped cup with a green or yellow center and a red rim; one blossom per stem.
  • Actaea has the largest flowers (up to 4 inches across) and is the best known.
  • Angel Eyes is another good choice.
  • These daffodils with a red-rimmed cup are sometimes given the name pheasant’s eye, but this term is correctly applied to the heirloom Narcissus poeticus recurvus.

Split-corona hybrids

  • Cup is split for at least one-third its length into two or more segments.
  • Cassata (white perianth segments, yellow cup), ‘Curly Lace’ (all golden yellow with a ruffled cup), ‘Exotic Mystery’ (all greenish yellow), ‘Mary Gay Lirette’ (white segments, peachy pink cup), and ‘Smiling Twin’ (white segments, pale yellow cup) are some of the more readily available selections in this small but growing class.

Heirloom daffodils

  • These old favorites often can be seen blooming at old homesites and graveyards and along roadsides throughout the South.

hoop petticoat daffodil

narcissus bulbocodium

  • Grows to 6in.
  • tall.
  • Small, upward-facing flowers are mostly trumpet shaped, with very narrow, pointed perianth segments.
  • Deep and pale yellow selections are available.
  • Spreads by seed; good choice for naturalizing.

n

  • Butter and Eggs (‘Golden Phoenix’, ‘Aurantius Plenus’).
  • Double yellow flowers.
  • An old Southern favorite similar to Narcissus pseudonarcissus ‘Telemonius Plenus’, but flowers open dependably throughout climate range and are softer in color, without streaks.
  • Grows 1618 inches tall.

jonquil

narcissus jonquilla

  • Semicylindrical, erect to spreading, rushlike leaves.
  • Clusters of early, very fragrant, golden yellow flowers with short cups.
  • To 1 feet tall.
  • Much like ‘Baby Moon’.

twin sisters

N.medioluteus

  • Grows to 14 inches tall, bearing two flowers per stem; white segments, small yellow cup.
  • Very late; last daffodil of the season.

campernelle jonquil

N.odorus

  • A sweet-scented, old-fashioned favorite.
  • Often found in older gardens and cemeteries in Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas.
  • Grows to 1 feet tall.
  • Early in the season bears golden yellow, bell-like cups with recurved round segments; two to four flowers per stem.
  • Rushlike leaves.
  • Tolerates heavy clay and limy soils.
  • Plenus has double flowers.

pheasant’s eye

narcissus poeticus recurvus

  • Old favorite.
  • To 1 feet tall.
  • Small yellow cup with green central eye and red rim; pure white, reflexed segments.

lent lily

narcissus pseudonarcissus

  • One of the oldest daffodilsin cultivation since 1200 A.D. Grows to 1214 inches tall.
  • Long yellow cup; twisted yellow perianth segments that are swept forward, giving the blossoms a dog-eared look.
  • Blooms early.
  • Telemonius Plenus (considered by many to be identical to ‘Van Sion’) has double yellow flowers with green streaks.
  • Flowers of this selection often fail to open properly in the warm, humid springs of the Lower and Coastal South.

Other daffodil selections

  • This category contains all types that don’t fit the other divisions.
  • ‘Tte–Tte’ (the most numerous daffodil) and ‘Jumblie’ (both yellow) have flowers like those of the Cyclamineus hybrids, but they are dwarf plants that reach a height of only 6 inches.

Plant bulbs as soon as they are available in fall. They should feel solid and heavy and be free of discoloration. Double-nose bulbs will give you the most and largest flowers the first season after planting. For planting depth and spacing, see How To Grow Daffodils on page 447.

After the blossoms fade, let the leaves mature and yellow naturallyif you cut the foliage before it yellows, subsequent flowering may be reduced or eliminated. Lift and divide clumps when flowers get smaller and fewer. To make this job easier, dig clumps just after the foliage withers so you can tell where the bulbs are. Separate the bulbs and replant them in freshly amended soil.

Like other plants, narcissus bulbs need food. Bonemeal used to be the recommended fertilizer, but no more: It lacks the nitrogen that promotes healthy foliage.Special bulb fertilizers are much better; look for a 10-10-20 or 9-9-6 formulation with controlled-release nitrogen. Mix fertilizer into the soil at planting time. In subsequent years, sprinkle bulb fertilizer over the bulb bed each fall (when roots develop) at the rate specified on the bag, then scratch or water it inches Many gardeners are finding that the old-fashioned method of using compost at planting time and again in fall as a topdressing supplies the nutrients that bulbs need.

The most serious pest is the narcissus bulb fly. An adult fly resembles a small bumblebee. The female lays eggs on leaves and on necks of bulbs; when eggs hatch, young grubs eat their way into bulbs. Check bulbs before planting, and destroy any grubs. Planting at the recommended depth will reduce infestations.

Daffodil

Discovering Reproduction

There are two ways Narcissus pseudonarcissus can reproduce: either by seed or by producing bulbs. Different circumstances require either of these different methods of reproduction for this plant.

First, the wild daffodil can reproduce by generating seeds, which is a sexual method of reproduction. The flowers must be fertilized by an outside source in order to create these seeds, and pollen is required for this process. There are two important parts to a typical plant that are necessary for this type of reproduction. The pistil contains the stigma and the female gamete, where the daffodil’s ovule is found. On the stamen of a plant, pollen is produced, which contains the male gametes. When pollen is transported from one plant to another, it drops into the stigma and fertilizes the ovules of the plant, inside its ovary. A seed then develops from the fertilized ovule. When the daffodil blooms die, the tiny black seeds are dry and ready for dispersal. The seed pod (ovary) of the daffodil cracks open, and seeds either fall to the ground or are transported by wind or animals to a new location.

Essentially any insect or organism can serve as a pollinator for the daffodil. It really doesn’t matter how the pollen gets in the stigma, it just has to come in contact with it in order to start fertilization.

From seeds, daffodils take a very long time to grow into a full plant. It can take from five to seven years for a daffodil to bloom from a planted or dispersed seed. For this reason, daffodils generally do not reproduce from seeds. Instead, they rely on a more common, trusty way to pass on their genes. Bulbs help them reproduce much more quickly. These bulbs serve as important adaptations for the daffodil, which can be explored more on the adaptation page.

At the base of a daffodil is its bulb, from which roots extend into the ground. In order to create more daffodils, the bulb splits, forming smaller bulbs called bulblets. Another way for the daffodil to reproduce asexually while using its bulbs is for the plant to develop very tiny bulbs on its stem, called bulbils. These new bulbs can then be cut or peeled away from Narcissus pseudonarcissus, and planted. New wild daffodils will grow from the transplanted bulbs. Bulbs are a very common way for daffodil cultivators to grow these plants quickly and efficiently, instead of waiting several years for seed growth. Though these bulbs look like onions, they should not be eaten, due to their toxicity. To learn more about a daffodil’s poison, visit the facts page.

The following diagram is the basic reproduction of an angiosperm, displayed in an easy-to-follow format. It specifically demonstrates where meiosis and mitosis occur in the life cycle of a plant like Narcissus pseudonarcissus.

Follow this link to revisit the homepage.

~ Discover more about how the wild daffodil interacts with other organisms. ~

Now that daffodil bloom time has passed, some gardeners might be wondering where their flowers were. If some plants remained all leaves, with few or no flowers, why was that?

It might be that overhanging trees have made the location too shady. But the more likely culprit is the plant’s age.

As a daffodil bulb gets older, baby bulbs, called offsets, develop snuggled up against its side. You can picture this most clearly if you realize that a daffodil bulb is, essentially, a compressed stem. That stem is the “plate” at the base of the bulb, and the leaves are the fleshy scales up and around it.

Just as any stem eventually makes side branches, a bulb also, with time, “branches.” These branches — the offsets — likewise beget their own babies. So what you have over time is a lot of bulbs of varying sizes packed into a very small space.

The offsets won’t flower until they reach a certain size. If they are too crowded, they have trouble reaching that size. The result: few or no blooms. (It pays, then, when purchasing bulbs, to get large ones; they make more flowers their first spring.)

Give the bulbs more elbow room

The obvious solution is to give each developing bulb more room. Dig up the bulbs and separate them as soon as the foliage turns brown. The youngest ones, the ones that have just split off from their mothers, are spoon-shaped. Older ones are round and, if large enough, will each house a single flower bud, possibly two. The larger the bulbs, the better the blooms.

No need to plant the divided bulbs back in the ground immediately. Bulb nurseries store their daffodil bulbs out of the soil in a cool room. It is during the summer, when the bulbs are apparently dormant, that buds inside the bulbs morph into flower buds. Optimum conditions for this change in daffodils are when storage is at 75 percent humidity and temperatures are around 60 degrees. Easiest, of course, is just to stick the bulbs back in the ground, giving each one enough room to develop and make babies for a few years.

With good conditions, a spoon-shaped baby becomes a small flowering bulb after a year, and in another year that small flowering bulb can make two flower buds. After another year, the “double-nose,” as it’s called, is making offsets of its own.

Daffodil futures

Daffodils like moderately rich soil that stays moist but is not soggy. Because most bulb growth takes place after flowering, let the foliage remain undisturbed until it chooses to die down, even if it’s not all that pretty in its final throes. No tying it up or tucking it beneath other plants’ leaves either, as is sometimes recommended for hiding the foliage out of sight. The leaves need light to fatten up their attendant bulbs.

Daffodils do not need this digging and dividing operation every year, which is one reason they are among the best bulbs for naturalizing. Don’t begrudge them the operation when it is finally needed, for you can never have too many daffodils.

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