Guidelines for Growing Daffodils

For printable daffodil growing guides, please reference the document below;

Daffodil Growing Guidelines for your Unique Region of the USA

Some general guidelines for growing beautiful daffodils in your garden;

  1. Visit Local and American Daffodil Society’s daffodil shows in March, April and May and see the many different varieties available. Also, visit the local display gardens. Nothing beats seeing the different blooms. Decide what colors and forms you like best.
  2. Write for catalogs in late March or April. Order and pay for your bulbs in April, May, or June. Growers will ship the bulbs to you in September, so put them in a cool (not refrigerator) and airy place. Plant the bulbs when grounds have cooled, in some climates September and for warmer climates in November.
  3. Choose a well-drained, sunny place. Hillsides and raised beds are best. DRAINAGE is the key. Spade at least twelve inches deep. Improve your clay with well-rotted compost, soil amendment, or planting mix and raise the bed. Slightly acidic soil is best, so you might add soil sulfur if you have alkaline soil.
  4. During the soil preparation, a complete fertilizer, low in nitrogen, (3 -6-6 or 5-10-10) should be worked in (about 1/4 cup per square foot). Be sure the fertilizer does not come in direct contact with the bulbs.
  5. Plant your daffodils so that their top (pointed end) is at least two times as deep as the bulb is high (top of a 2″ bulb is 4″ deep). Exactness isn’t crucial; they’ll adjust. Plant bulbs deeper in sandy soil than in clay.
  6. Top-dress with 5-10-10 when the leaf-tips emerge. As they flower, top-dress with 0-10-10 or 0-0-50. High-nitrogen fertilizer should be avoided.
  7. Daffodils need lots of water while they are growing. Water immediately after planting and keep them moist until the rains come. Continue watering for three weeks or so after blooming time; then stop watering. The bulbs make their next year’s bloom after flowering. (Your first-year bloom is largely due to the previous grower of the bulb.)
  8. You may leave daffodils down in the ground for between 3 to 5 years. If blooming does not happen one season, it would be best to move them to a new location.
  9. After blooming, never cut the foliage until it begins to yellow (usually late May or June). Then is the time to dig them. Wash the bulbs thoroughly and let them dry completely (at least a week). Put them in onion sacks (or panty hose) and hang them in the coolest place you can find until ready to plant. Good air circulation will keep storage rot at a minimum.
  10. Join the ADS and a local daffodil society near you and have a good time socializing with another group of garden folks. The following spring, bring your prize blooms to one of our events and show your growing skills.

Your Best-in-Show daffodil is but a year away!

How to Grow Bulbs in Containers

Growing bulbs in containers is a fantastic solution for gardeners with limited spaces, or for those who want to decorate their decks, patios, or front entryways with the beautiful colors and lovely fragrances of spring-blooming bulbs. You can try forcing bulbs earlier in the spring, so when you put out your containers, you will have full-sized plants rather than having to wait for nursery plants to fill in. Although it is easy to do, here are a few things you need to know about planting spring bulbs in outdoor containers.

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Getting Started

Growing bulbs in containers is easy. You can grow virtually any bulb in containers, and you can mix different types of bulbs together, too. In fact, it’s a lot like growing bulbs in the ground. Start with a container with drainage holes so that excess water can escape, and plant your bulbs in the fall. Most spring-blooming bulbs prefer well-drained soil and will rot and die if their feet are too wet for too long.

If you want to leave your bulbs outdoors all winter, select a large container that will hold enough soil to insulate the bulbs. In the coldest-winter regions, that means a container at least 24 inches in diameter.

Planting Spring Bulbs

Fill your container with a high-quality potting mix (don’t use garden soil) and plant your bulbs as deeply as you would in the ground; for instance, 6 or 7 inches deep for tulips and daffodils, and 4 or 5 inches deep for little bulbs such as crocus and Siberian squill. Water your bulbs well after planting.

If you grow bulbs in a container that’s too small to spend the winter outdoors or one that is made from a material such as terra-cotta that needs protection, keep the planted bulbs someplace cold, such as a garage or shed. Don’t bring your bulbs indoors; most basements will be too warm for them to develop properly.

Spring Bulb Planting Partners

Once temperatures begin to warm in spring, you can augment your containers of spring bulbs with cool-season annuals such as lettuce, Swiss chard, pansy, viola, nemesia, or African daisy.

Or pack more punch in one pot by mixing types of container gardening bulbs. Plant your bigger bulbs, such as tulips and daffodils, deeper. Cover them with soil, then plant smaller bulbs, such as crocus, grape hyacinth, or snowdrops, directly above them.

  • By BH&G Garden Editors

Yard and Garden: Planting Daffodils

AMES, Iowa– Daffodils are a welcome sign of spring. To enjoy their beauty, gardeners must plant daffodils in the fall. There are several thousand daffodil varieties (cultivars), but standard planting practices. Horticulturists with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach answer questions about planting daffodils and forcing blooms indoors. The horticulturists are available to answer gardening questions by email at [email protected] and by phone at 515-294-3108.

When is the best time to plant daffodils?

October is the ideal time to plant daffodils, tulips and other spring-flowering bulbs in Iowa. When planted in October, spring-flowering bulbs have time to develop a good root system before the ground freezes in winter. If the weather permits (the ground isn’t frozen), bulbs can be planted as late as late November and early December.

What would be a good planting site for daffodils?

Daffodils perform best in partial to full sun. Planting sites should receive at least six hours of direct sun per day. Daffodils will gradually decline in vigor and won’t bloom well in shady locations. Daffodils also need a well-drained, fertile soil. Bulbs may rot in wet, poorly drained sites.

How deep should I plant daffodils?

Plant spring-flowering bulbs at a depth equal to three to four times their maximum bulb diameter. Accordingly, daffodils and tulips should be planted 6 to 8 inches deep, crocuses and grape hyacinths 3 to 4 inches deep. Large bulbs, such as daffodils and tulips, should be spaced 6 inches apart. A 3-inch spacing is adequate for crocuses, grape hyacinths and other small bulbs.

How do you force daffodil bulbs indoors?

To successfully force daffodils indoors, you’ll need high quality bulbs, a well-drained commercial potting mix and suitable containers. Containers for forcing can be plastic, clay, ceramic or metal. Almost any container can be used as long as it has drainage holes in the bottom.

Begin by partially filling the container with potting soil. Then place the daffodil bulbs on the soil surface. Adjust the soil level until the tops of the bulbs are even or slightly below the rim of the container. The number of bulbs to plant per pot depends on the size of the bulbs and the container. Typically, three to five bulbs are appropriate for a 6-inch-diameter pot. However, a 6-inch pot will usually accommodate five to seven bulbs of miniature cultivars. Once the bulbs are properly positioned, place additional potting soil around the bulbs. However, do not completely cover the bulbs. Allow the bulb tops (noses) to stick above the potting soil. For ease of watering, the level of the soil mix should be ½ to 1 inch below the rim of the container. Label each container as it is planted. Include the name of the cultivar and the planting date. After potting, water each container thoroughly.

In order to bloom, daffodils and other spring-flowering bulbs must be exposed to temperatures of 40 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit for 12 to 16 weeks. Possible storage sites include the refrigerator, root cellar or an outdoor trench. During cold storage, water the bulbs regularly and keep them in complete darkness.

Begin to remove the potted daffodil bulbs from cold storage once the cold requirement has been met. At this time, yellow shoots should have begun to emerge from the bulbs. Place the daffodils in a cool (50 to 60 F) location that receives low to medium light. Leave them in this area until the shoots turn green, usually four or five days. Then move the daffodils to a brightly lit, 60 to 70 F location. Keep the plants well watered. Turn the containers regularly to promote straight, upright growth. On average, flowering should occur three to four weeks after the bulbs have been removed from cold storage. For a succession of bloom indoors, remove pots from cold storage every two weeks.

Daffodils and companions: Dig less, plant more! for a fabulous spring flower display

We’ve all heard the admonition to “measure twice, cut once.” I have my own rule of thumb for planting bulbs in fall: Dig once, plant twice! I love daffodils, but I never plant them alone. If I’m going to dig a hole for bulbs, I want maximum results for my efforts, so daffodils and companion bulbs get planted together. Always.

In general, bulbs should be planted at a depth equal to 2 to 3 times their diameter. For daffodil bulbs, that generally means digging a hole 4 to 6 inches deep. I like to plant bulbs in clumps. I think clumps of daffodils create a more natural, “naturalized” look than scattered single bulbs. It’s also much quicker to plant 100 daffodil bulbs by shoveling out a dozen holes for clumps of bulbs than by digging 100 little individual holes with a bulb planter.

I like to dig holes a foot or so across that can hold 5 or 7 bulbs, placed 4 or 5 inches apart. For a natural, “naturalized” look, avoid straight lines and squared-off groupings of bulbs. Circular clumps will work, but I like the look of “blobular” shapes. A handful of bulb food scattered in the hole will get your new purchases off to a good start. My grandmother, who was an artist, always said that everything looks better placed in odd numbers. So, I plant clumps of 3 or 7 bulbs rather than 2 or 8.

After you’ve placed the daffodil bulbs in the hole and filled it halfway with soil, you’ll have a hole of the perfect depth for planting smaller bulbs around and between them. Think about the effect you’d like to create, in terms of both color and bloom time.

For an earlier show of color, when the tips of the daffodil leaves have barely begun to emerge, plant handfuls of crocus bulbs around and between the lower daffodil bulbs. Snow crocus (Crocus chrysanthus), “tommies” (C. tommasinianus), and C. sieberi are the earliest bloomers, followed by the larger Dutch or Giant Crocus, C. vernus. The blooming daffodils will hide the fading crocus foliage, for a lovely succession of spring color.

There’s an assortment of “little blue bulbs” to choose from that are wonderful accents for yellow and white daffodils. Some people scatter companion bulbs among the daffodil blooms. I like to plant little bulbs in “sweeps” so their color is a less subtle accent. The “river” of grape hyacinths running between banks of ‘Thalia’ daffodils is a landmark at the Keukenhof’s famous spring display. A much smaller “streamlet” of grape hyacinths curves along the border of my front landscape bed, setting off the ‘Geranium’ and ‘Replete’ daffodils there.

Pay attention to bloom times when choosing companion bulbs. Grape hyacinths (Muscari armeniacum) and species tulips generally bloom with mid to late season daffodils, while Scilla, Iris reticulata, and windflowers (Anemone blanda) will bloom with earlier daffodils. Planting multiple varieties of both daffodils and companions for extended bloom times will ensure that you’ll have great color combinations each year.

In addition to other bulbs, consider other perennials as daffodil companions. Last fall, I planted a few handfuls of miniature daffodil bulbs around my dwarf irises. I love the combination of the delicate daffodil bells with the bolder blooms and foliage of the irises. I don’t know if their timing will be the same next year, but I hope so! Daffodils are good to plant with spring blooming perennials, and they are also great companions for late-emerging perennials such as daylilies, bronze fennel, and peonies. They take turns and play nicely with others. First, the daffodils emerge and put on a show. As the daffodil foliage starts dying back, the summer perennials take over.

Some shrubs are especially good companions for spring blooming bulbs, also. The blooms of Azaleas, Forsythia, Japonica, and Lilacs complement or echo the colors of daffodils and other spring blooming bulbs. I have a dwarf ‘Ramopo’ rhododendron by my front entrance that blooms at exactly the same time as some nearby ‘Tete a Tete’ miniature daffodils. With several different daffodils and a variety of “little blue bulbs” in our front garden, there’s always something flowering when the azalea bushes burst into bloom.

Whether you’re ordering daffodil bulbs or perennial plants for fall planting this year, make your digging do double duty. Purchase some little companion bulbs to plant around and between whatever else you’re planting. Next spring, you’ll be rewarded with extra splashes of color all over your garden!

For more about planting daffodils, see this DG article on Daffodils by Gloria Cole. Also look for Todd Boland’s articles on many of the “little blue flowers” mentioned here.

Photos by Jill M. Nicolaus. Move your mouse over the photos for image info.

(Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on September 18, 2008. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to promptly respond to new questions or comments.)

Top ten tips for growing daffodils

‘A host of golden daffodils’ inspired Wordsworth to write one of the nation’s favourite poems.
Image: Van Meuwen

Daffodils are a joyful spring flower, announcing the welcome arrival of lighter mornings and milder days. If cared for correctly, these cheerful perennials will return year after year. Their hardy nature helps them withstand most of the UK’s inclement weather, and they come in a variety of colours – from elegant white through to warm blush and zesty orange.
Daffodils will happily grow in well drained soil in borders, containers, window boxes, naturalised in grass, or even indoors. Plant daffodil bulbs by early October to ensure a healthy display next spring. Not sure where to start? Here are our top ten tips and tricks for growing daffodils.

1. Plant daffodils to the right depth

Plant bulbs pointy end up to a depth of about 10cm (4in) – or to about three times the height of the bulb. The depth plays an important part in the success of your daffodils. Plant too shallow and you run the risk of dividing bulbs and ‘flopping’ stems. Plant too deep and your daffodils might never emerge. If in doubt, err on the deeper side.

Not all daffodils are yellow – pink pride provides a pretty pastel twist.
Image: Van Meuwen

2. Naturalise daffodils in grass

Daffodils add an early accent of colour to your lawn if naturalised in grass rather than planted out in beds. For an ‘accidental’ effect, try casting a handful of bulbs across the lawn and planting them where they land. Make planting holes with a bulb planter, or cut back a section of turf if you’re planting a lot. Don’t use too much fertiliser as this will result in overgrown grass. Be careful not to mow your daffs too early – if you like a tidy lawn, plant them in ‘tufts’ so you can mow round them.

3. Plant daffodils in containers

A container or window box is a great way to grow daffodils in a smaller space if you don’t have room elsewhere. Plant in the same way as in the ground, but slightly closer together – about one bulb width apart – for a more intense display.
In large containers you can plant at two levels. Fill your container with compost to the halfway point and lay out your bulbs. Add more compost and another layer of bulbs. Cover with soil and wait for the show. All the bulbs should grow to the same height but there will be double the number.

4. Deadhead faded daffodil blooms

Once your flowers are past their best, deadhead them to give the bulbs a chance to save their energy for next spring.

Daffodil ‘Rainbow Butterflies’ are just as easy to grow as traditional varieties.
Image: Van Meuwen

5. Don’t be too quick to cut back foliage when flowering is over

Once the bloom is finished and you’ve cut or deadheaded the flowers, the bulb uses its foliage to create energy for next year. Leave them alone for six weeks, or until the leaves start to turn yellow and deteriorate. Cutting back leaves or mowing naturalised daffs too early will result in a poor crop or no flowers next spring.

6. Split daffodil bulbs that are not flowering

Daffodils may fail to bloom, or come up ‘blind’ for a number of reasons. If they were successful in previous years, the most likely cause for not flowering is that the bulbs have multiplied and become too crowded. Try digging them up and dividing.
If they’ve never flowered, it’s likely they were planted too late, the bulbs were too small, or they’re not getting enough sunshine.

Dwarf varieties like ‘Jetfire’ are great for less sheltered gardens
Image: Van Meuwen

7. Try miniature varieties if your daffodils keep drooping

Daffodils withstand most harsh weather, but they sometimes take too much of a battering to carry on! If you haven’t got a sheltered location to protect your plants from flopping in the wind and rain, try growing a miniature variety instead. If you’re looking for a sweet dwarf option, ‘Tête-à-Tête’ daffodils are a timeless favourite.
You might also check the depth of your bulbs. Another possible reason for drooping daffodils is that the bulbs weren’t planted deep enough.

8. Feed daffodils with a high potash fertiliser in spring

When planting daffodils in borders and containers, it’s good to mix organic matter such as manure or compost into the soil. Once established, fertilise each spring, but avoid high nitrogen content fertilisers that cause daffodil blindness. Opt for a high potash fertiliser instead.

Minnow daffodils have a beautiful fragrance
Image: Van Meuwen

9. Choose for fragrance and colour

A bunch of cut flowers from your own garden is an extra special way to show loved ones you care. Daffodil ‘White Lion’ has fragrant flowers with luxurious folds of double petals in soft yellow and lemon. Or try Daffodil ‘Raffles’ which combines a bright, showy double bloom with a lovely fragrance and striking colour.

10. Grow daffodils indoors

Grow daffodils indoors to enjoy springtime cheer in the depths of winter. For indoor growing it’s best to go for a dwarf or miniature variety like the creamy Topolino, as they need less space and find it easier to adapt to the environment. Fragrant varieties are a good option, bringing scent and colour into your home.

Look after your daffodils and they’ll reward you for many years to come with welcome springtime colour. If you have any tips for growing daffodils we’d love to hear them.

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