- Plant your bulbs soon after you receive them in October, or when ground temperatures are below 60F.
- Avoid areas that get less than 6 hours of direct sunshine in the spring.
- Avoid areas that get standing water or are constantly wet, or that get irrigation in the summer months.
- Plant the bulbs to a depth of two to three times the diameter of the bulb.
- Space the bulbs equal to their diameter apart or more.
- Water after planting.
- Apply about two inches of mulch after planting or preferably after the first hard frost.
Daffodils grow freely in all kinds of conditions from zones 4 to 8. Your cultivation habits may be different depending on your location and your first hand experience.
Upon receipt of your shipment open the bags and take a look and a squeeze. If there are any hollow or rotted stinkers we will refund or replace them. Just as important, separate the good from the bad to discourage any of the good fellows from going over to the bad side.
If you cannot plant right away, store the bulbs out of the sun, in a consistently cool environment with the best air circulation you can provide. If you have many bags, remove them from the box. We generally pack in paper bags, instead of nylon net, which may be preferable for larger quantities.
Bed Selection and Preparation
Daffodils will grow in most any soil condition, but they do enjoy a looser, well-draining soil with a moderate amount of organic material. A soil test from your state Ag Extension, nearby University, or a web service is always recommended if you are unsure of what conditions you have. You may then prep your beds before planting with any additions indicated, to lighten heavy soil and improve drainage.
If you are making a large planting it is good to plan and prep the bed earlier in the spring or summer so it has time to settle and get rained on. When your bulbs arrive you can concentrate on planting and garden design. Planting is so pleasurable that you will forget about the hard work it took to prepare the bed earlier in the year.
Daffodils planted inside of the drip line of deciduous trees are probably OK, particularly the earlier bloomers and cyclamineus. Daffodils close under evergreens, not such a good site. The 45 days after the plants bloom is a most important period of the life cycle for photosynthesis to bulk the bulbs back up to blooming size.
If daffodils become crowded or suffer too much shade they can go blind, meaning that they will not set flowers for the next year and you have only foliage. Divide and move, or thin the tree canopy.
Fall is the best time to send out for a soil test, but any day of the year is better than no test at all.
Here is a list of extension offices that provide soil testing services by state: https://gardeningproductsreview.com/state-by-state-list-soil-testing-labs-cooperative-extension-offices/
Here are some commercial (paid) soil testing services. We have never used them as we live near the excellent CT. Ag Experiment station:
Millions of daffodils flower in the landscape each spring without the benefit of additional fertilizer. But fertilizer is a benefit to the number and quality of blooms. Bulbs in general are slow feeders – the best times to fertilize are Thanksgiving and/or St Patrick’s day, or when the roots are actively growing, but when no foliage or blooms are showing.
A soil test will help you determine deficiencies and amendments.
Low nitrogen fertilizers are recommended, excess nitrogen encourages leaf growth over flowers and can encourage rot. A good fertilizer would be 5-10-20 if you can find it. 5-10-10 and 5-10-5 are suitable. Bulb-Tone is 3-5-3 and a premium product.
In new or renovated beds add the fertilizer and till or turn deeply so the fertilizer is under the plants in well loosened soil. Phosphorus is slow to migrate downward and really needs to be under the bulbs. Add super phosphate, if indicated, when you are digging or renovating the beds, it will be your last chance for a while to do so. For established beds, top dress with fertilizer even if there is snow on the ground.
In general daffodils are quite adaptable and somewhat agnostic about soil Ph. Your soil test will give you an understanding of your base line. We have seen large daffodil farms on the Island of Texel in the Netherlands where the soil is quite acidic, 4.5 or below. We also hear from daffodil growers in the States that bulbocodiums and tazzetas are more robust with a more alkaline soil, up to a Ph of 8. Your experience and soil test will tell you if the application of lime in the fall is beneficial. Fireplace ash is a traditional soil sweetener.
Here is a rule of thumb: Plant three times as deep as the width of the bulb. But for very large bulbs this can be 9 inches, which is very deep, and for the small bulbs one and half inches, which is very shallow. For small bulbs count two inches of mulch on top in addition to the three times width number to keep the small bulbs from being ejected from the ground due to frost heave in early spring. This is measured from the base of the bulb.
Planting bulbs shallower ( 4-7 inches) will encourage propagation of the smaller offsets, deeper (9”) will keep the bulbs larger and intact. As a single bulb progresses over the seasons into a clump of offsets it may work its way upwards to the surface. If you want to propagate your bulbs, plant them shallower and amend the soil freely with manure. If you want to avoid having to lift the bulbs later, plant deeply.
Spacing for the bulbs is also three times the diameter apart. This may be too spacious for some designs. Use your judgment, leaving room for future growth. For standard daffodils four per square foot is a good number to determine spacing, small bulbs eight per square foot.
Planting can start when soil temperatures are below 60F. It is better to plant early to promote healthy root development over the first winter. Daffodils will begin to root almost immediately after planting in cool, moist soil. Yes, you can viably plant as late as early January, but you will not benefit from the root development of earlier October and November planting. As the temperature drops, growth slows.
Dig, poke or drill : For large plantings digging a hole or trench is a way to go, for smaller plantings in established beds bulbs can be poked in with a knife or trowel, an auger makes quick work in some instances. Whatever works for you.
Daffodils can be grown in raised beds as long as they are massive enough not to freeze through in colder climates. Raised beds are a good location to prevent miniatures from getting lost among larger neighbors in the landscape.
Water the bed(s) well after planting. The bulbs are thirsty, they haven’t had a drop to drink since July, planting into dry soil only makes their desiccation worse.
Once the bulbs root, they become more cold tolerant and able to manage excess water. Daffodils can manage a great amount of moisture over the winter, unless they are so submerged that they suffocate.
Mulch after planting, or better after the ground first freezes. Mulch with your readily available locally sourced, and preferred material : straw, wood chips, buckwheat hulls, leaf mold, pine needles. Shredded Oak leaves enjoy a very good reputation. Mulching retains moisture in the soil, prevents erosion, suppresses weeds, protects from frost heave, and will make your display that much nicer in the spring. Clean straw, especially shredded straw, will prevent dirty rain splashback from soiling the faces of your new friends.
Cool temperatures and plenty of sunshine will improve flower color and substance. Pick when the flowers are “cracking” stage, when the bud is opening and color is clearly visible. Some say at the “marshmallow” stage. Doubles are better when they are open at least 50%.
Pick prized flowers before a heavy rain to prevent damage to open blooms, or use row cover if you are so motivated.
Do not use shears to cut the stems; run your forefinger to the base of the stem, pinch firmly with your thumb and give a sharp pull. You can label your daffodils with their cultivar name on the stem with a ball point pen, this saves time and prevents a lot of confusion later.
Use clean buckets. Condition the flowers for an hour or two in clean cool water. This allows some sap to drain and the stem to close, preventing further sap bleed. If enough daffodil sap accumulates in the vase it will poison daffodils or any other flowers in your arrangement. After conditioning place the bunches in fresh water; a half teaspoon of bleach per quart of water will help to prevent the stems from rotting. If you need to recut the stems later you may want to recondition them. You can store daffodils for at least a week at 40-45F, changing the water periodically.
You can make your own floral preservative: dissolve a half cup of sugar, a half cup of white vinegar, and 2 teaspoons of bleach in a gallon of water.
Daffodils may be stored dry. After conditioning hydrate the stems for an hour in water with some bleach. Then place the bunches in a plastic bag, seal, place horizontally in a cooler at 40-45F. If you have a lot of blooms this can save space and time. Rehydrate the stems for 24 hours in clean cool water before you are ready to use them or put them on the market.
Daffodils have exceptionally long holding and vase life, especially if the water is changed.
Deadheading daffodils after bloom is mostly cosmetic. There are no pressing horticultural or sanitary reasons for deadheading daffodils. We have never seen a Dutch grower deadhead their daffodil crop. If you pick daffodils note that the stem probably contributes 20% to the surface area of the plant towards photosynthesis. They won’t notice much, so pick with abandon.
Wait until the leaves have laid down and have started to brown to dig the bulbs or remove the foliage. This is about 45 days after bloom. Try to avoid irrigation over the summer.
Its Fall and my Daffodils are coming up
Established daffodils enjoy a vigorous growth spurt in the late fall. Tazettas and jonquils seem especially inclined to try to bloom during the winter months. This is normal behavior, they will send up foliage but hunker down until spring. You may get some freeze burn on the foliage, but it should not adversely affect the blooms.
All daffodils can be grown in pots. Average potting soil can be used, choosing a deep container to allow for vigorous root growth is recommended. You may bury the bulbs shallow or let them sit up on top of the soil for showing. A cover of gravel will help to prevent the root growth from pushing the bulbs up and out of the soil. Water well and label. We sometimes add Osmocote for slow and even fertilization. Give your pots 14 weeks at consistent temperatures between 35 and 45 F. Water if the soil becomes dry. Plastic pots require less watering than clay.
A refrigerator is best, or you may heel the pots into the ground and cover with several inches of soil and mulch. You must protect the pots from freezing solid which will kill the bulbs. Temperatures under 38F will retard the growth and your 14 weeks will stretch into 18. An unheated garage, basement or crawl space may work depending on your climate, but consistent temperatures that you can control are the best.
After the 14 weeks are up, move the pots to a 50ishF environment for a week or two. Then place them into direct sunlight before the flower bud emerges. It is hard to hold back the growth after a certain point, so get them into full sun so they don’t get too leggy and blanched. After blooming water well and let the foliage cycle complete.
Then you can plant the bulbs in the earth, or let them go dormant in the pot. You can leave them in the pot if they are not rootbound, repot them, or discard.
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