The beautiful trumpet-shaped blooms of a daffodil are such a wonderful indication of the arrival of spring. They make a great addition to any garden when you want to see bright colors before most other plants even begin to grow. You can easily learn how to grow daffodils in your own landscape, all by following just a few simple tips.
Daffodils are actually one of the hardiest yet easiest flowers to grow. Unlike some bulbs, they are deer resistant and also rodent proof. That makes them a great fit for locations where squirrels and other pests can be an issue.
Daffodils look great when they are planted in rows along garden beds and pathways. In addition, daffodils can multiply each year if they are in well-draining soil and have plenty of sunlight.
These sunny spring bloomers have a hardiness growing zone of 4 to 8. (You can find your own USDA Plant Hardiness Growing Zone Here.) About a month after the last frost in your area, their brilliant blooms will fill your landscape with bright, cheerful colors.
Varieties of Daffodils – How To Grow Daffodils
There are several different species of daffodil flowers that are grouped into 13 divisions. Those divisions are divided up based on the characteristics of their petals, trumpets, coronas, etc. Some of the more popular ones are Trumpet, Large-Cupped, Small-Cupped, and Double Daffodils. They all range in height from around 6 to 30 inches tall and grow to be about 6 to 12 inches wide.
Traditional daffodils grow on long stems and have a trumpet-shaped central corona that are surrounded by 6 petals. Their long leaves grow from the base of the stem. Daffodil flowers bloom only once each season, and those blooms last around 2 to 3 weeks.
Daffodils typically come in colors of yellow, white, orange, red, and pink. They are a great addition to other spring-blooming flowers such as tulips, hyacinths, and crocuses.
How To Plant, Grow, And Maintain Daffodils
Soil Requirements for Daffodils
Daffodil flowers can grow in about any soil type, but they prefer neutral to slightly acidic soil with a pH of around 6.0-7.0. As long as the location has well-draining soil, daffodils should grow just fine.
If you have heavy, more compacted soil such as clay, you will likely need to amend it with a good dose of organic matter and possibly sand. Adding sand will also help any type of soil with excess water drainage. Wait until your soil temperature is at least 60º Fahrenheit (15º Celsius) or below before planting.
Daffodil bulbs require a cold period of 12 to 16 weeks with temperatures below 35 to 45º Fahrenheit (1 to 7º Celsius). This means that bulbs need to be planted in the fall for most midwestern and northern locations.
You also need to bring any blooms in containers indoors since containers cannot provide enough protection against the winter elements. In addition, if your winters are milder and you are in Zones 9 or above, you can force the bulbs to bloom indoors. More on this later.
Purchasing Your Bulbs
If you are picking daffodil bulbs up at a local garden center, make sure to choose larger bulbs that are not dried out. They should be free of mold, disease, or any other damage. You can also choose to order bulbs online as well.
Once you receive your bulbs, store them in a dry location with temperatures between 40 to 70º Fahrenheit (4 to 21º Celsius). The location needs to have plenty of air circulation.
Planting Bulbs In The Fall
For locations with colder winters, aim for getting the bulbs in the ground around 2 to 4 weeks before your ground freezes. Planting early allows the daffodil bulbs to get their roots established before going dormant in the winter.
Choose a location that receives full sun or dappled light. The most important part is to make sure that the location has well-draining soil.
Dig a hole that is around 4 to 8 inches deep and around 4 to 6 inches wide. You may choose to dig a trench instead of individual holes if you prefer. A good rule of thumb for the depth of your hole is to dig it 3 times as deep as the bulb is tall. Add an additional inch or two to account for compost.
Add an inch or two of compost into the bottom of the hole. Place the daffodil bulb into the hole with the pointy end up. Back fill with a 50/50 percent mixture of soil and compost. Lightly tamp down the soil, and water well. You should not need to water again until spring.
You may choose to add a couple of inches of mulch in order to keep weeds at bay and add additional protection from the elements. If you add mulch in the fall, you may loosen it up in the spring but do not remove it to help protect bulbs from late-season frosts.
For Warmer Locations and Containers
You can choose to force daffodil bulbs indoors if your winters do not drop in temperature for a long enough period, or if you like to plant them in containers.
Choose a container that has good drainage holes and fill it with a multi-purpose potting mix. Adding in a bit of compost will also help drainage and give the bulbs a little extra power.
Place the daffodil bulbs just below the surface with the pointy end up. Space additional bulbs about 3 inches apart if planting multiple per container, taking care to make sure bulbs never touch.
Water them well once and bring them indoors once outside temperatures start to drop. Keep the container in a dry and dark location that stays around 35º to 45º Fahrenheit (1 to 7º Celsius). An unheated garage or basement works perfectly for this. Do not let the temperatures drop below freezing however.
Keeping Bulbs Cooler
Keep the bulbs in this cooler location for around 12 to 16 weeks. There might be some shoot growth, but it should be minimal.
Water sparingly during this time so the soil stays moistened but not saturated. When the shoots reach around 1 to 2 inches long, you can start to increase the temperature and daylight. Once outside temperatures allow, place containers back outdoors or plant the daffodils in the ground when the soil can be worked in early spring.
To allow for indoor blooming after the 12 to 16 weeks, keep the container in a location with indirect sunlight. Make sure to rotate the container since blooms will grow toward the sunlight. Keep bulbs moist but not overly saturated. After about 3 to 6 weeks, your daffodils should start to bloom.
Long-Term Care – How To Grow And Maintain Daffodils
After you initially water the daffodil bulbs after planting, you don’t need to water them again in the fall. The bulbs will go dormant during the winter months.
Once spring arrives and the daylight hours start to become longer, the shoots will start to come up through the soil. This happens around March for many locations, but some varieties of daffodils bloom later in spring.
Daffodil bulbs are extremely susceptible to excessive water. Make sure to water very sparingly while they bloom, and only when the soil is dry 3 inches below the surface. Do not water your blooms overhead with a sprinkler or sprayer. Instead, water at the base of the flowers whenever possible.
Stop watering plants around 3 to 4 weeks after the blooms fade. This helps to allow the bulbs to dry out so they can go dormant over the summer. It also will make it easier to dig up the bulbs to store until fall if needed.
Daffodils are not heavy feeders, but you can fertilize with a light dose of 5-10-5 or 10-10-10 fertilizer to help assist with blooming. You can also find commercial fertilizers made specifically for bulbs to use.
Pests & Issues
Daffodils are pretty hardy, but they are prone to issues associated with overly wet soil. Diseases such as gray mold and bulb rot are the most common issues. Pests like narcissus nematode, bulb mites, snails, slugs, and bulb flies can also be problems.
A great advantage of daffodils is that they are not appealing to pests like squirrels, chipmunks, or mice. Planting them amongst bulbs that are targets for these animals can help deter them. Read How To Protect Bulbs From Squirrels & Chipmunks to find other ways to help protect your bulbs.
Once daffodil blooms start to fade, you can remove the spent blooms. Just make sure you don’t remove the remaining leaves and foliage. The leaves and foliage provide nutrients to the bulbs for next year’s blooms. After the foliage dies naturally, you can then cut it back completely if you wish.
As long as your winter temperatures drop below 45º Fahrenheit (7º Celsius), daffodil bulbs can remain in the ground for overwintering. In warmer locations, you need to dig up your bulbs to force them to bloom again the following year in a cool, dry location inside.
You should still dig up bulbs every 3 to 4 years to avoid overcrowding. Keep only the best bulbs to replant, making sure to space them out properly when you replant in the fall.
Daffodils make beautiful cut flowers. However, take care to keep daffodils separate from other flowers since they secrete a fluid that can promote wilting. Simply cut blooms off before they are fully opened to prolong their life.
Daffodils add bright and sunny unique blooms to your early spring garden and landscape areas. With proper care, they will be one of the first flowers to greet you after a long, cold winter.
Feel free to download, print out, or save our Daffodil At-A-Glance sheet. It is sized for half letter printing but can be scaled if needed.