How to Grow Daffodils

How to Grow Daffodils

Daffodils, also known as narcissus, are early bloomers that herald the arrival of spring. They're low maintenance, deer-resistant, and available in a range of colours and sizes to suit any garden. While daffodils are fairly simple to grow, here are a few tips to ensure a successful planting and years of flowers in your garden. Find our full range of fall bulbs available to order here.

How to Choose Daffodil Bulbs

White and yellow daffodils

Before you can plant, you must first choose your daffodil bulbs! There are several kinds of daffodils that bloom at different intervals throughout the spring. Here are a few popular types:

Trumpet - Early flowering with large blooms and trumpets
Large & Small Cupped - Available in a range of colours, early to mid-flowering
Double - Blooms are large with a ruffled center rather than a cup, early to mid-flowering
Butterfly - Unique split-corona blooms in a range of colours, mid-season flowering
Mini & Rockgarden - Available in heights as short as 4", early to mid-flowering
Bunch Flowering - Multiple blooms per stem, early to mid-flowering

Consider bloom time, height, and capacity for naturalizing when making your selection. Many daffodils are great naturalizers, which means they will establish and spread from year to year. Daffodil heights can range from tiny 4" rock garden varieties to large 18" Trumpets. They're most commonly available in yellow and white, but there are also shades of orange, apricot, pink, and red. Pair daffodils with early blooming tulips and crocus for a colourful array of flowers popping up in your garden throughout the early and mid-spring. 

Tulip Bulbs

When shopping for daffodils, choose bulbs that are large and firm with a good weight (you may need to check out a few bulbs before you get the hang of this evaluation!). The larger the bulb, the more energy the plant will have to put towards flowering. For the biggest, hardiest blooms, look for jumbo or XL daffodil bulbs. For multiple flowers, look for double-nose bulbs which will look like two bulbs attached at the base. Small attached bulbs may not produce a flower in the first year, but will develop over time. A little bit of surface mold or powdery mildew on the outside of the bulb shouldn't have too much impact on its growth, but you should avoid any bulbs with soft spots or penetrating mold. Bulbs that feel too light may be desiccated from exposure to heat or pests and should also be avoided.

How to Plant Daffodils

Daffodil Bulbs on Soil

Daffodils should be planted in a full sun area with well-draining soil, though they will tolerate part shade. Drainage is critical as areas that become waterlogged or soggy will lead to diseased and rotten bulbs. Daffodils are deer-resistant, and while nothing is truly deer-proof they're typically not the first choice of snack when hungry visitors pass through your garden.

Your bulbs should be planted around 6 weeks before the ground freezes to allow a healthy root system to establish. It’s important that the soil temperature be low at the time of planting to ensure roots are able to grow and to avoid triggering foliage growth before spring. Aim for a planting time after the first frost in your area when the ground is still workable. In Halifax, we usually plant our bulbs after mid-November.

Prepare your planting location by loosening the soil and adding several inches of compost. Bulbs should be planted at a depth of 3x the height of the bulb. We recommend adding a sprinkle of bone meal to the holes to stimulate root growth. Place your bulb in the hole with the pointy side up, and space them at least 4” apart. Use a bulb planting tool to simplify the process! Fill the hole back in with soil and water thoroughly after planting.

How to Protect Daffodils from Pests and Diseases

White and yellow daffodils

Daffodils are typically quite hardy and are not as susceptible to the common pests that target other fall bulbs, but there are a few pests and diseases that can affect them.

Bugs: Bulb flies, aphids, mites, thrips, and other small insects on daffodils can be controlled with insecticidal sprays. Slugs and snails can be controlled with slug bait.

Fungal Infection: Purchasing high quality bulbs in good condition is the best way to prevent fungal infections. If you store bulbs from year to year, dust them with a fungicide powder as a preventative. Dispose of any affected plants and bulbs away from the rest of your garden and compost pile.

How to Care for Daffodils

Daffodil bud with foliage

Daffodils don’t require much work once they’re in the ground. Only water your daffodil bulbs in very dry conditions. Deadhead daffodils after their blooms fade, but always leave their leaves so they can photosynthesize and store energy for next year. Foliage can be pruned after it yellows and dies back, usually a few months after blooming.

When established plants become crowded, you can lift and divide bulbs after the foliage has died back or in the fall - once every three to five years is usually sufficient. To separate clumps, carefully dig them up with a shovel and pull apart any bulbs that separate easily. Replant them in a new location as soon as possible, and leave any healthy leaves to photosynthesize. Daffodils perennialize and naturalize very well and can be fertilized in the spring to ensure they continue performing well year after year. Top dress with bone meal, bulb fertilizer, or any other slow-release fertilizer that contains a high amount of phosphorus. 

How to Harvest Daffodils

Daffodils in a vase

If you’re growing your daffodils for cut flower arrangements, harvest them when their buds show colour but have yet to fully open. Cut the stem just above the base of the plant but be sure to leave the foliage intact so the bulb can continue to build energy and flower again next year. Daffodils produce an irritating sap that can aggravate skin and cause other flowers to wilt, so handle them carefully and let them soak in their own vase for a few hours before adding them to an arrangement. 

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