Daffodils are great investments for your garden. For very little money, you can plant daffodil bulbs in the fall and enjoy their bloom every spring for years to come. Reliable and dependent, these sunny flowers can be used to landscape your garden or cut for indoor flower arrangements.
Daffodils are long lasting and are not bothered by deer or other animals. They can be divided to increase the numbers or simply left in place. Bulbs are available at local nurseries in the fall or through mail order catalogs. Select large healthy bulbs and plant about 5 to 6 inches deep and apart. Daffodils can be planted in the garden bed, in large swaths for a naturalizing effect, under a deciduous tree, or in containers with other bulbs. One caveat is that after the daffodils bloom, the leaves must be left in place until they yellow so you may want to think about disguising the foliage with other perennials. Do not fold the leaves down, tie with rubber bands, or cut until they are so yellow they detract from the garden’s beauty.
Daffodils prefer full sun but will tolerate part sun (a half day of sun). They are not particular about soil but because they are bulbs the soil has to drain well to avoid rot. When planting, apply a balanced fertilizer. On an annual basis apply a low nitrogen fertilizer in the spring and fall. Daffodils do not need to be divided, they multiply naturally, but they can be dug up and divided if you want to increase your number of bulbs. Division should occur after the blooming period, when the leaves yellow. Dig up, divide, and replant immediately if possible. If not possible, store the bulbs in a dry area with good air circulation until can plant in the fall. If you see a decline in blossoms after several years of growing, you can also dig up and divide daffodils because the bulbs may have increased to the point that they are too crowded.
Daffodil Societies and Shows
While most people are familiar with the foot high daffodil with large yellow blossoms, there is a wide spectrum of colors, sizes, and bloom times. In fact the spectrum is so great that daffodils have been categorized into 13 divisions and there are thousands of cultivars. The divisions below illustrate the diversity but for more information contact the American Daffodil Society or a local daffodil society.
In the Washington DC metro area, there are three daffodil societies, each with their own spring shows that are open to the public. If you want to know what to plant this fall, visit these shows to see how the flowers will look, meet other daffodil enthusiasts, learn best cultivars for this area, and identify additional resources for purchasing bulbs. There also are local garden clubs that have their own daffodil shows such as the Garden Club of Virginia Daffodil show in Richmond, VA, on March 26; and the District II Federated Garden Clubs of Maryland Daffodil show in Severna Park, MD, on April 9-10. The daffodilfestivalva.org website provides a listing of local daffodil festivals and areas that have substantial daffodil collections.
One flower to a stem (corona is the center trumpet or cup)
- Division 1: Trumpet: corona not more than one-third the length of petals
- Division 2: Large cupped: corona more than one-third but less than equal to the length of petals
- Division 3: Small cupped: corona not more than one-third the length of petals
One or more flowers per stem
- Division 4: Double: many petals
- Division 5: Triandrus: pendulous blooms, petals turned back
One flower per a stem
- Division 6: Cyclamineus: petals turned back significantly and flower at an acute angle to stem
Several flowers per a stem
- Division 7: Jonquilla: petals spreading or reflexed, usually has fragrance
- Division 8: Tazetta: stout stem, petals spreading but not reflexed, usually has fragrance, have minimal to no chilling requirements, this is the division for paperwhites, which often are forced indoors
Division 9: Poeticus: white petals, short corona with green or yellow center and red rim
Division 10: Bulbocodium hybrids, one flower per stem, petals very small compared to a large corona
Division 11a: Split cup collar
Division 11b: Split cup papillon
Division 12: Other types
Division 13: Species or wild variants
Local daffodil societies and shows (open to the public)
The Washington Daffodil Society will have their spring show on April 13 & 14, 2019, at the Alexandria Valley Scottish Rite Temple, 1430 W. Braddock Road, Alexandria, VA.
The Maryland Daffodil Society will have their spring show on April 24 & 25, 2019, at a new venue, Vollmer Center, Cylburn Arboretum, 4915 Greenspring Avenue, Baltimore MD.
The Virginia Daffodil Society will have their show on March 30 & 31, 2019, at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, Richmond, VA. This society does not have a website but the contact person is Jennifer Potter, Jpotter890@msn.com
- Brent and Becky’s Bulbs
- John Scheepers
- Old House Gardens
- Longfield Gardens
- McClure and Zimmerman
All photographs are courtesy of Brent and Becky’s Bulbs