How to Grow Daffodils

Daffodils are beloved for many reasons, but one of the best is that they send promise of warm weather to come. Long before winter’s chill has melted away, daffodils burst from the earth, filling the garden with the sweet scent of spring in a wave of beautiful light. Not only are daffodils exceptionally easy to grow, they are resistant to garden pests and stunning when cut and displayed in vases, where they’ll last for days. To welcome these little beauties to your own garden in the spring, here’s what you need to know.

Before You Plant

Choose the Right Daffodil Bulbs:

  • Daffodils are grown from bulbs. There are dozens of varieties, with hybrids numbering into the thousands.
  • Look for large bulbs for big blooms in the spring. If cost is a concern, you can buy dozens of the smaller bulbs rather inexpensively, but be aware that they may not all bloom the first season.
  • Bulbs should feel heavy for their size. Light or hollow feeling bulbs may have been the victim of pests or disease and are not likely to grow at all.

Find a Suitable Place:

  • Daffodils are hardy in USDA zones 3-8, which covers much of the continental United States. Only the southernmost portions of the U.S. may prove to be too warm for this well-loved harbinger of spring.
  • Daffodils prefer full sun to part shade. Keep in mind that they appear long before leaves do, so your deciduous trees will not pose a shade problem for daffodils.
  • Plant in well-drained soil, as bulbs will rot in soggy conditions.
  • Daffodils like slightly acidic soils with low pH (below 7.0) Test kits are available at garden centers, or visit your local cooperative extension office for help.

Prepare the soil:

  • If your soil is wet, add sand or build the ground up before planting. Bulbs tend to rot in perpetually wet conditions. Alternatively, build a raised bed.
  • To add acidity to your soil, turn in a bit of garden sulfur.
  • Sprinkle bulb booster and work it lightly into the soil, or use it when planting.

Planting/Growing Daffodils

What You Will Need:

  • Daffodils
  • Garden trowel
  • Prepared soil
  • Bulb booster

Steps for Planting Daffodils:

  1. Daffodils should be planted in the fall before the ground freezes. If possible, it’s best to allow time for the roots to establish before the first freeze.
  2. Scatter the daffodils to the position you’d like to plant them. Ideally, you should allow 3-6″ between bulbs.
  3. Dig a hole that is three times deeper than the height of the bulb (6-8″).
  4. Sprinkle bulb booster at the bottom of the hole.
  5. Place the bulb in the hole, making sure that the pointy side is up.
  6. Cover the bulb with dirt, patting the surface firmly.

Growing/Pruning Daffodils

Daffodils require very little care. Here’s what you need to know to keep them looking their best.

What You Will Need:

  • Pruning shears
  • Garden trowel

Steps for Care and Maintenance:

  1. Once daffodils begin to bloom, remove dead and fading flowers. Do not remove foliage.
  2. Allow foliage to turn completely yellow before removing it. This allows bulbs to restore nutrients and energy for a better show the following spring.
  3. To remove leaves, snip them off at ground level with pruning shears.
  4. Many gardeners suggest digging up bulbs at the end of the season. Daffodils are particularly hardy and resistant to rodents (squirrels and deer don’t like them) so you can skip this step without consequence in most cases. If you prefer to dig your bulbs up for the summer, do so carefully. An inadvertent run-in with the sharp edge of a trowel can damage the bulb. It’s best to dig them before you remove the foliage so it’s easier to locate the bulbs. Store bulbs in a cool, dry place until it’s time to replant in the fall.

Additional Tips and Advice

  • For an uplifting burst of spring in the dead of winter, you can “force” bulbs to grow early and daffodils are easy candidates. Plant the bulb in a small pot or container in early fall, and then treat the container to a cold winter by storing it at 35 to 48 degrees in darkness for 12-14 weeks, watering as needed. Once shoots begin to appear, bring the pot to a sunny, warm location and wait for the show to begin!
  • Daffodils are also known as Narcissi – the two words are interchangeable.
  • The ideal time to plant daffodils is when trees begin to lose their leaves.
  • Divide heavy clumps of daffodils by digging them up and breaking the bulbs apart gently.

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