10 Steps to Growing Tête à Tête Daffodils in Pots

Tête à Tête Dwarf Daffodil: World’s Most Delightful Yellow Flower

I see them in my local grocery store’s floral department, on websites like Holland Bulb Farms available for fall planting, and for sale as pre-chilled bulbs from retailers like Tulip World! What is this most popular daffodil for indoor forcing and growing in pots? It is the fun and dainty dwarf daffodil Tête à Tête!

This fun to say flower bulb name had me wondering A.) What does Tête à Tête mean? and B.) How do I say Tête à Tête correctly? Holland produces over 77% of all the flower bulbs in the world, often flower bulb variety names are Dutch or named after a famous Dutch person, place or thing. That is not the case with Tête à Tête Daffodils. Tête à Tête is a French word that means a “face-to-face meeting or private conversation between two people, usually in an intimate setting”. It can also mean a bench or sofa that allows two people to talk face to face.* Now knowing the meaning of Tête à Tête, it makes sense that the growers and cultivators in Holland would name this adorable dwarf daffodil Tête à Tête. The yellow bell-shaped blooms of these dwarf daffodils are often in an intimate setting, where the faces of their blooms are very close together, like the blooms are having an intimate conversation. If you want to really impress your friends and tell them about your yellow dwarf Tête à Tête daffodils you have blooming be sure to pronounce the name Tête à Tête correctly, here is how I breakdown the syllables in the Tete a Tete “Tet ah Tet”.

Now that you have a little fun information about these cheery little yellow daffodils, follow these 10 steps to grow Tête à Tête Daffodils indoors this winter!

Guide to Forcing Tête à Tête Daffodils in Pots

Step 1.) Purchase pre-chilled Tête à Tête Daffodils.

Step 2.) Acquire a pot with adequate drain holes

Step 3.) Find or purchase soil that is made for container gardening or potted plants. You want soil that is light and loose which will provide good drainage.

Step 4.) Once your Tête à Tête Daffodils arrive, you are ready to plant in pots!

Step 5.) Add soil to your pots filling up 70% of the way.

Step 6.) Plant the bulbs with the pointed end facing the sky.

Step 7.) Add more soil around the bulbs, leaving the tops (neck) of the bulb exposed.

Step 8.) Add water until you see water draining through the bottom of the pot to ensure the soil is fully moistened and you have eliminated air pockets.

Step 9.) Place the pot with the Tête à Tête Daffodils in a cool location (between 32 degrees and 55 degrees) for 4 weeks. Storing in a cool location initially will help the bulbs establish roots at a proper rate while the leaves and buds prepare for growth.

Step 10.) Once you notice 2-3” leaves forming from the Tête à Tête Daffodils you may move the pot to a warmer and sunnier location in your home. Now just sit back and wait for the cheery little Tête à Tête Daffodils to have a conversation with you!

Tête à Tête Daffodils are easy to grow, and one of the top bulbs for indoor forcing. If you are new to gardening with bulbs indoors, Tête à Tête Daffodils are great bulbs to start experimenting with!

*If you aren’t able to find pre-chilled Tête à Tête Daffodils you can purchase bulbs that haven’t been chilled and refrigerate them yourself. Here are steps to the chilling http://www.bulbblog.com/forcing-flower-bulbs/ and forcing bulb process. http://www.bulbblog.com/forcing-flower-bulbs-part-2/

Credit to Wiktionary for information on the origin and definition of the word Tête à Tête

Growing Daffodils Indoors: Steps to Forcing Bulbs

Botanical Name: Narcissus spp.

Growing daffodils indoors will bring a bright bouquet of spring-fresh flowers to your home in the middle of winter.

Naturally spring-bloomers, daffodils are easy to force into bloom early. Making a plant bloom at a time other than its natural bloom time is called “forcing.” Start forcing daffodils sometime in October or November for mid-winter to early-spring flowers.

Gorgeous daffodils brighten up a sunny window long before spring arrives.

You have beautiful daffodil varieties to choose from — in shades of yellow, cream, orange, pink or white. The trumpet, also called a cup, may be a color contrasting to the ring of petals. Sizes vary quite a bit, from pint-sized minis to tall plants with giant flowers.

As if daffodils aren’t showy enough, some of them flaunt double petals, frilly trumpets — even 2 colors per bloom.

Choose bulbs for forcing. Some common varieties that are good for forcing are listed below. Some large flower heads get pretty heavy and will need to be staked.

Miniature varieties are ideal for growing indoors. Don’t dismiss miniature daffodils — they’re charming planted close together in a pot.

What to Know About Buying Daffodils

Green Thumb Tip

Because daffodil varieties tend to bloom at different times, it’s best not to mix them. They tend to look best, anyway, in a mass planting of 1 variety per pot.

  • It’s a good idea to order daffodil bulbs early to ensure their availability. Try to have them shipped no earlier than mid-September.
  • Buy the best-quality daffodil bulbs you can find from a reputable company. Bulbs should be firm, without soft spots or scars. Bulbs with 2 “noses”, or tips, will produce 2 stems.
  • For sure success, buy varieties that are labeled “good for forcing.” You’ll find this noted in bulb catalogs.

Mini daffs are charming planted in a pot. Don’t be afraid to crowd them for the best display.

Daffodil Varieties

There are several cultivars available that are especially dependable for forcing.

Daffodils with bright yellow blooms include ‘Dutch Master’ …’Soleil d’Or’…and ‘Unsurpassable’.

Bi-color daffodils include ‘Barrett Browning’, a long-time favorite with snowy white petals and an orange-red trumpet. ‘Fortune’ has soft-yellow petals with a trumpet edged in dark orange. ‘Ice Follies’ is white with a creamy yellow trumpet.

Miniature daffodils only reach about 6 in (15 cm) tall and include ‘Little Gem’, ‘February Gold’ and ‘Tete-a-Tete’.

Double-bloom varieties include buttery-yellow ‘Bridal Crown’ and pink-and-white ‘Repleat’.

The only difficult thing about growing daffodils may be choosing a variety.

Steps for Forcing Daffodils

  1. Choose a wide pot about 6 in (15 cm) deep with drainage holes in the bottom. Fill the pot loosely with potting mix. Set bulbs side by side — close but not touching — pointed end up, so that their tips are even with the pot rim. Do not press the bulbs into the mix. It should be loose to allow the roots to grow through it easily. Cover with additional potting mix, just so their noses are barely covered.
  2. Water thoroughly and empty drainage tray.
  3. Daffodils need a cold treatment for 8-10 weeks. If you bought pre-chilled bulbs, you can skip this step. Move pot to a dark, cool, but not freezing (40-45°F/4-7°C) location such as a basement, unheated garage or refrigerator. Avoid storing bulbs near ripening fruit or vegetables because they give off ethylene gas which can damage the bulbs. Keep them in cold storage for about 8-10 weeks. Keep the medium barely moist.
  4. When shoots reach about 2 in (5 cm) tall, bring the pot out of cold storage and place the growing daffodils in a slightly warmer (50°F/10°C) location with low light. Over the next few days, gradually move it toward a sunny window. (By moving it in small steps while it’s growing, daffodils will last longer.) Turn the pot every day for even growth.

When in full bloom, keep potted daffodils in a bright location out of direct sun. Make your daffodils last longer by keeping the pot in a cool room. Flowers will last about a month if kept at a maximum of 60°F/16°C.

Growing Daffodils – Care Tips

Origin: Europe

Height: Up to 18 in (46 cm); miniature varieties reach 6 in (15 cm).

Light: Bright indirect light. Rotate the pot once in a while because growing daffodils will tend to lean toward the light source.

Water: Keep soil lightly moist. Growing daffodils are thirsty, so it’s a good idea to check the soil often.

Humidity: Average indoor (around 40% relative humidity).

Temperature: After the cold treatment (see “steps to forcing” above) keep cool 60°F/16°C while plants are in bloom.

Soil: Peat moss-based potting mix.

Fertilizer: Feed every 2 weeks with a balanced liquid fertilizer diluted by half.

Propagation: Daffodil bulbs cannot be forced a second time indoors. You can transplant the bulbs outdoors, but it may take 2-3 years before they’ll bloom again. If you want to keep them, allow the foliage to die back naturally, storing daffodil bulbs in a cool, dry place. Then plant the bulbs in your garden in the fall.

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Plant of the Week: Tete a Tete Daffodil

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture does not promote, support or recommend plants featured in “Plant of the Week.” Please consult your local Extension office for plants suitable for your region.

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Tete a tete Daffodil
Latin: Narcissus ‘Tete-a-Tete’

My favorite flower is in bloom, the little Tete-a-Tete daffodil. Of course, I should confess that being designated favorite is somewhat a passing fancy, for my head is easily turned by the next pretty face that passes by. But, among the thousands of daffodils on the market, this little gem is one of the best.

Tete-a-Tete is a little plant by daffodil standards, growing only about six inches tall with two or three rich gold blooms each 2 1/2 inches across atop the sturdy stem. The cup is about three-quarters of an inch long and the petals are slightly reflexed.

In most years, it is the first daffodil to bloom in my garden, appearing about the first of March. But this year, now that global warming seems to have firmly established a hold on our winters, all of my early and midseason daffodils are blooming at the same time.

Tete-a-Tete is what the daffodil society calls a Division 12 daffodil — their catch-all miscellaneous class where all of the selections go that defy the arbitrary rules used to classify the 28,000 daffodil cultivars that have appeared over the past four centuries. Its foliage is only about eight inches long and very tidy. Tete-a-Tete is free branching and continues to produce lots of new bulbs each season and continues to flower freely year after year.

Being vertically challenged — or as some would say, a runt — it has developed two specialty uses. In the garden it is the premier choice for rock gardens or front-of-border locations where its diminutive stature is a benefit. Its second use is as a forced plant for sale in 4-inch pots. In fact, most gardeners are first introduced to this little plant as a forced bulb then later discover it does fabulously in the garden.

Is Tete-a-Tete a daffodil, a jonquil or a narcissus? To the botanist all of these plants are called by the genus name Narcissus which is made up of 25 Old World species which have been variously combined through breeding to give us the cultivars we grow today. If in doubt, call any of these plants “Narcissus” and you will never be wrong. The word itself is of ancient Greek extraction and shares the same root word as “narcotic” in reference to the fact that an extract of the bulbs could induce a drugged stupor.

The name “daffodil” in Old English was affodil which is derived from the Greek word asphodelos which, is a name for several bulbous flowers said to be the flower of the dead that cover the meadows of Hades. I must have missed Sunday school the day they discussed what kinds of flowers grew in the meadows of Hell! Generally, the name daffodil is assigned to flowers that have one bloom per stalk. No doubt the word was carried to England by the conquering Roman soldiers in the early years of the Christian era.

The name “jonquil” — frequently used by Arkansas gardeners to describe daffodils — is derived from the Latin word for a rush, which the foliage of N. jonquilla resembles.

Tete-a-Tete is easy to grow in full sun or part shade. It multiplies freely so should be divided every 5 to 10 years to prevent overcrowding of the bulbs. Like all bulbous plants, the bulbs should be planted in well drained soil. Allow the foliage to remain at least eight weeks after flowers fade to provide nourishment for next year’s blooms.

By: Gerald Klingaman, retired
Extension Horticulturist – Ornamentals
Extension News – March 3, 2000

The University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture does not maintain lists of retail outlets where these plants can be purchased. Please check your local nursery or other retail outlets to ask about the availability of these plants for your growing area.

Latin Name Pronunciation: nar-sis’-us

Bulb size: 12-16 cm; miniature varieties 8-12 cm

Harbingers of a new season, these spring-flowering bulbs light up the landscape. Glorious gold, lemon-yellow, and snowy white blooms are often accented with contrasting trumpets or centers and vary in height from two inches to two feet with flowers in elegant proportion. Easily grown, the majority of these bulbs are very tolerant of cold winters. Paperwhite Narcissus are hardy only to Zone 8, but are forced indoors in pots in cold climates during the winter months for their fragrant blooms. Many of the hardy varieties can also be successfully forced indoors. Many Daffodils can be grown throughout the South, except in regions that are frost-free, since cold temperatures are necessary for the formation of the flower buds.

Color: Narcissus color can vary based on the age of the flowers as well as environmental conditions, such as temperature and light intensity.

Light/Watering: While Daffodils prefer full sun they will usually tolerate half-day shade, especially Cyclamineus hybrids such as ‘Jack Snipe’ and the Poeticus variety ‘Actaea’. Those cultivars with orange, red, or pink cups generally retain deeper color when planted in a location that receives protection from the hot afternoon sun. Watering during the fall is essential for good root growth before the ground freezes in cold regions. Try not to water excessively in the summer months when bulbs are dormant.

Fertilizer/Soil and pH: Daffodil bulbs will not survive in soils that are wet, especially during the winter. Avoid low-lying areas where water gathers or where the snow is late to melt in spring. Plant each bulb at a depth 3 times the height of the bulb. Daffodil bulbs appreciate deep planting in light soil. If your soil is heavy, try planting less deeply than we recommend, making up the difference with a layer of mulch on top. Plant larger or bedding-size bulbs 5–6″ apart (4–5 bulbs per sq ft), smaller or landscape-size bulbs 3–4″ apart (5 bulbs per sq. ft.), and the miniatures 3–4″ apart (5 bulbs per sq ft). When planting, keep in mind that the blooms tend to face the prevailing direction of the sun; in a border viewed from the north, they will look away from you. Do not separate bulbs that are attached at the base; the smaller bulb (known as an off-set or a “daughter” bulb) should not be detached from the parent bulb before planting. The best time to fertilize is in the autumn, when the bulbs are sending out new roots. To make clumps of Daffodils easy to find, plant a few Grape Hyacinths (Muscari) amongst them; the Grape Hyacinths send up a bit of leaf growth in the fall. The next best time to fertilize is in early spring, just as the Daffodil foliage begins to push through the soil. We recommend using a granular slow-release fertilizer formulated especially for bulbs.

Naturalizing with Daffodils: In naturalizing with Daffodils, begin with the idea that they look best in groups of individual varieties. Mother Nature does it this way, and she is a reliable guide. Plant your bulbs in sweeps or drifts, or scatter them in clumps or clusters. Scatter Daffodil fertilizer over the top of the soil after planting, with repeat applications every fall. Once bloom is complete, allow the leaves to remain in place until they yellow (8-10 weeks). Do not cut back or mow the foliage. This ensures the following year’s display, and they’ll reward you with larger clumps each year.

Pests/Diseases: Few if any pests bother Daffodils. The bulbs and foliage are poisonous to most insects and animals, including deer and voles. If you see vertical streaks in the Daffodil leaves, dig up the bulb and put it in the trash as it may be infected with a virus. Watch any surrounding Daffodils for symptoms as the virus is spread by contact.

Companions: Narcissus reach dormancy 6 to 12 weeks after flowering depending on weather and variety. The period between the end of flowering and the withering of the foliage is crucial to the future vigor of the plant. If you cut, fold, or braid the leaves before they have yellowed and collapsed, you may prevent the bulb from storing the energy required to bloom the following year. You can hide curing foliage by interplanting bulbs with leafy perennials such as Hostas, Daylilies, and Ferns or with annuals or ground covers like Brunnera or Vinca. If you plant the bulbs in a lawn, do not mow the grass until the bulb foliage begins to yellow. Daffodils do well under deciduous trees, but avoid planting under evergreens and in areas where large roots are close to the surface.

Dividing/Transplanting: The best time to move or divide bulbs is when their foliage has withered, signaling the end of active growth. Lift them with a digging fork or a spade, taking care to avoid injuring the bulbs, and replant them immediately at the same depth and about three times their diameter apart. Water well.

End of Season Care: Remove dried up foliage after it has died down completely. A mulch of evergreen boughs after the ground freezes may help plants stay dormant if warm periods occur during the winter months.

Calendar of Care

Early Spring: Fertilize now if you missed the fall opportunity.

Late Spring: Water if the season has been dry, and deadhead as needed. Watch for vertical lines in the foliage and remove and destroy any bulbs showing signs of viral infection.

Summer: Try not to overwater in areas where Daffodils are planted. Allow foliage to cure naturally without intervention.

Fall: Use a granular slow-release fertilizer to feed Daffodil bulbs now. Gently lift and divide clumps of bulbs now. Plant new bulbs and include a few Grape Hyacinths to mark the planting spot. Remove dead foliage, and mulch with evergreen boughs after the ground has frozen. Water bulb plantings thoroughly through the fall if rain is scarce.

The tête-à-tête daffodil – enjoy it twice, once in a pot and forever in your garden!

It’s February, or maybe March. It feels like spring will NEVER get here. For those of us holed up in the frozen North, we’re really starting to get itchy. Our garden plans are waiting, carefully drawn in colored pencils. Our winter sowed containers are waiting, and our vegetable gardens are still vegetable seed packages, waiting. It feels as if the whole world is waiting, and we can’t wait fast enough! Although the days are getting a little longer, they’re still not long enough.

I can’t manage the crowds at my local flower show, which is a big pick-me-up for lots (and lots and lots and lots) of people, and anyway, for me the first big event of spring is earlier and more mundane: the first forced bulbs in my grocery store. Sorely do they tempt me. Last year the house was blooming with my new-found addiction for amaryllis (or hippeastrum) in every room, and outside dozed 75+ winter sowed containers. Last year when those chirpy little golden creatures sang to me from the Florist Department, which I usually speed to avoid, I sang back “thanks anyway, guys, my house is alive with flowers.”

This year, however, things are a lot less focused. I’m Supermom, not Putter-around-the-house-with-bulbs-mom. I’m buried in paperwork, not seeds . . . and when I heard the familiar call from the florist aisle, “we’re ba-a-ack!” I’m afraid to say it, but I succumbed. I bought one pot of tête-à-têtes for my father, who lives at an assisted living center where they seem to have only artificial plants, and one for myself. It was supposed to be for the whole family, but none of us noticed whether it was getting watered or not, and eventually … it wasn’t! But that’s okay, because tête-à-tête daffodils will naturalize in nearly any part of the country. So if this happens to you, oh ye of forgetful watering can, take heed!

Let the foliage on your tête-à-têtes ripen until the stems turn brown; they need to store all the energy they can, in the form of carbohydrates, if they are going to flower again another year. Then carefully dig out the bulbs and plant them in any sunny, well-drained spot where you want a touch of low-growing early spring color. Reports vary on whether forced tête-à-tête bulbs will flower the very next spring or skip a year. (Flowering out-of-sync with a bulb’s natural rhythms taxes it heavily, and it may take a year to recover.) You can learn more at the Bulb Forum, and of course you can plant tête-à-têtes in the autumn like the rest of the world. But whatever you do, if you buy the potted type, don’t throw them out!

Tête-à-tête means “head to head” in French, like a head to head talk, and often these miniature daffodils look as if they’re having a close conference, with two or more blooms per stalk.They flower in early spring, and should spread happily in any zone with a discernible winter, say zone 8 and colder. They would do well with a little bulb fertilizer, if you happen to remember. Their perky bright yellow goes particularly well with grape hyacinth (muscari armeniacum) or blue creeping phlox (phlox subulata). Mine are planted with forget-me-nots (myosotis sylvatica), which sometimes forget that they’re supposed to reseed prolifically.

I think these days at the big box stores, they actually get to send back miniature roses that didn’t open and daffodils that dried out. But if you have an opportunity to pick up a lot of these once-flowered beauties on the cheap, do it! I’m planning to stalk the halls of my father’s assisted living center and see if any other dutiful daughters said it with daffodils this winter.

Cyclamineus Daffodils
Smaller in size but sizable in their popularity, the Cyclamineus grouping of daffodils are some of the season’s earliest bloomers – sometimes poking forth through the snow to share their cheerful colors. Characteristics include a straight and slender trumpet, petals that do not overlap, and a single flower per stem. Because of their smaller size, these daffodils hold up especially well in harsh weather conditions while also thriving in normal climates. A great choice for border areas, Cyclamineus types look especially nice when planted in groupings or small clusters and pots as well. Consider mixing Tete a Tete or Jack Snipe amongst some hyacinth bulbs for a nice combination of different blooms.
Perhaps the world’s most easily recognized flower, daffodils can be grown almost anywhere in the United States and Canada and naturalize extremely well in most climate zones. Daffodils are famous for announcing the arrival of spring with their famous trumpet shaped blooms. Most commonly seen flowering in yellow colors, daffodil blooms can be found in a handful of other colors and a number of bi-colored combinations as well.
Daffodil bulbs must be planted during the autumn months so that they can grow and develop a flower that blooms during the spring. Each bulb should grow multiple stems; some varieties will have one bloom per stem while others will grow multiple blooms per stem. Flowers last for an extended period of time in the garden and make great fresh cut blooms as well. Daffodils require very little gardening care, naturalize very well, and perhaps most appealing: are completely resistant to deer and rodents!

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