How to grow daffodils
All you need to know about growing narcissus, including planting daffodil bulbs and great daffodil varieties to try.
Daffodils (Narcissus) are spring bulbs that brighten our gardens and herald the arrival of longer, brighter days ahead. There are many different varieties, some flowering as early as January and others as late as early May.
Daffodils range in height from about 5cm up to 45cm, and come in a variety of colours and forms apart from the usual yellow trumpets.
How to grow daffodils
Plant daffodil bulbs in autumn in moist but well-drained soil in full sun. They work well with a variety of other spring flowers, including wallflowers and primulas, and are perfect for a spring pot display. Deadhead after flowering and let the foliage die down naturally, for the best display the following spring.
More on growing daffodils:
Where to plant daffodils
Daffodils do best in full sun but will tolerate light shade. Plant them in a moist but free-draining soil. Daffodils can be grown in containers, in borders or naturalised in lawns.
Daffodils look fantastic when planted with wallflowers. Here, Monty Don explains how to plant daffodils with wallflowers:
When to plant daffodil bulbs
The best time to plant daffodil bulbs is autumn, from September to November. This gives the bulbs time to develop roots before temperatures drop, so they can put on new growth and flower as soon as temperatures rise again in spring.
This doesn't mean you can't plant them at other times of year. There are plenty of bargains to be had from November to January, with garden centres trying to sell remaining stock. Buying a discounted bag of daffodil bulbs and planting them in December is completely fine – just make sure the bulbs are firm and not showing signs of mould. You can plant daffodil bulbs as late as January. After planting, the bulbs may take longer to establish and flower, but they should catch up in years to come.
Find out about when to plant daffodils bulbs in pots, in our project for a spring pot display.
How to plant daffodils
Always choose large and firm bulbs, avoiding any soft or visibly rotting ones. Dig over compacted soils and improve with organic matter such as home-made compost or well-rotted manure.
Most daffodil bulbs should be planted about 10cm deep, roughly twice the depth of the bulb itself (follow instructions given for individual varieties). In open ground, plant up to six daffodil bulbs together – any more than this and they will quickly become congested. In pots you can plant as many bulbs together as you like, because the display will be less permanent, and you can replant the bulbs in the ground in one to two years' time.
If planting daffodil bulbs in a container, use a peat-free John Innes No. 2 or 3 mix, and position the container in a sunny spot. Water pots so the soil remains moist but not wet. It's possible to leave daffodil bulbs in a pot for many years, but remove and replace the compost above the bulbs each year.
Watch our No Fuss video guide with Kevin Smith, on how to layer daffodils and other bulbs in a pot:
When planting daffodil bulbs in grass, the easiest way to create a natural look is to throw a handful of bulbs onto the lawn, and plant them where they land. Use a bulb planter to pull out plugs of soil and then pop the bulbs in the holes, pointy end up. Cover with the soil and turf you've just removed.
In this video clip from Gardeners' World, Monty Don explains how to naturalise bulbs in grass:
Bulbs can be planted into open soil using a hand trowel or bulb planter. Space bulbs two bulb-widths apart.
Here, Monty Don demonstrates how to plant daffodil bulbs in a border:
How to look after daffodils
Apply a slow-release bulb fertilizer to pots each spring. Deadhead plants after flowering and leave the foliage to die down naturally, so the nutrients in the leaves are returned to the bulb (this improves flowering potential the following year). If growing narcissus in a grassy area then you might not be able to cut the grass until June.
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How to propagate daffodils
Established daffodil clumps can be divided in autumn. Lift clumps carefully with a garden fork and peel the bulbs apart. Replant straight away. If you have time and patience, you can grow daffodils from seed. Rather than deadheading after flowering, leave a few seedheads to develop and then sow the seeds when ripe. Bear in mind that it will take a few years before the daffodils flower.
Growing daffodils: problem solving
Daffodils can suffer from 'blindness'. This is where they produce a healthy crop of foliage but fail to flower. There are several reasons why this may happen, including poor soil, overcrowding and shade. You can usually rectify the problem but it can take a couple of years for the bulbs to flower again. Simply dig them up in autumn and replant. If they were growing in shade, plant them in a sunny spot. If the bulbs are overcrowded then divide them and plant them in smaller groups. If the soil is poor then enrich with well-rotted manure or home-made compost. Water the bulbs in well and top-dress with organic matter. You should see daffodil flowers again within a couple of years.
Find out why your daffodils aren't flowering, in this video with Alan Titchmarsh
Daffodil varieties to grow
- Narcissus ‘Tete-a-Tete’ – a miniature with bright yellow trumpet flowers in April. Height of 15cm
- Narcissus ‘Rip Van Winkle’ – a stunning multi-petalled daffodil flower that appears in April. Height 14cm
- Narcissus ‘February Gold’ – popular thanks to its early bright-yellow flowers in February. Swept back outer petals. Height of 30cm
- Narcissus ‘Fragrant Rose’ – a soft pink daffodil flower with scent in April. Reaches a height of 45cm
- Narcissus bulbocodium ‘Golden Bells’ – March to April flowers that have just a trumpet and no outer petals. Reaches a height of 20cm
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