The Homeowners Column

The Homeowners Column

Plant Daffodils Now for a Burst of Spring Color

Photo of Sandra Mason

Sandra Mason
State Master Gardener Coordinator

You say daffodil, I say narcissus. Not a very catchy song lyric but the correct term is a mystery to most. However nothing sings spring like daffodils.

The names narcissus and daffodil are used interchangeably. The diversity of the genus Narcissus adds to the confusion. There are 13 descriptive divisions for Narcissus depending mainly on the size of the trumpet/cup in relation to the size of the petals. The name narcissus is derived from the genus name Narcissus. The name daffodil applies primarily to flowers with large trumpets. The name jonquil originally applied only to Narcissus jonquilla, but now is usually applied to all jonquilla daffodils of Division 7.

There are at least 25 species of Narcissus with over 13,000 hybrids. You should be able to find something you like. Fortunately rabbits don't find anything they like so narcissus are usually safe from chewing critters except for the occasional bored squirrel.

Narcissus range from 6 to 24 inches tall. Narcissus flowers are extremely variable. Flowers may have one or several flowers to a stalk. Flowers may be one-half to five inches in diameter and may be yellow, white, pink, orange and orange-red or may be bicolor. The trumpet may be long and tubular or short and cuplike. Flowers may be single or double petaled. Some flowers are fragrant. Narcissus may flower from early spring into spring depending on the cultivar. Shorter ones usually bloom first.

Spring bulbs may be planted now through October. When purchasing bulbs, the bigger the bulb the more expense but the greater the flower show. Narcissus bulbs are sometimes double nosed (two bulbs together). Double bulbs may be pulled apart before planting.

When landscaping with narcissus and other spring bulbs, remember they generally look better in large masses of a single color or naturalized rather than in single rows. Spring bulbs work well planted into a perennial flower bed, ground cover area, rock garden or between shrubs. I like planting them next to daylilies or hostas. Ground covers such as periwinkle or bugleweed are also good companions.

Narcissus also interplant well with other bulbs especially grape hyacinths, crocus or snowdrops. Experiment with planting narcissus at the recommended eight-inch depth then plant grape hyacinths right above them at four-inch depth.

For a few bulbs you may want to dig individual holes. The bulb augers that fit onto power drills are useful. Be sure to use drills according to directions. Augers may be difficult to use in rocky areas or areas with many tree roots. For large areas the entire area should be tilled. Add compost and one pound per 100 square feet of 12-12-12 fertilizer.

Spring flowering bulbs generally need well drained soil and do best under deciduous trees. They will be short lived under evergreens.

Plant large bulbs such as tulips and daffodils at an eight-inch depth. Small bulbs are planted at 4 inches deep. The rule of green thumb is to plant them at 2 to 3 times the height of the bulb. Plant point up. It is a good idea to map their location or place a colored golf tee above the bulb. Mulch with 3-4 inches of wood chips. Water thoroughly after planting.

If you would like more information on bulbs, check out the University of Illinois Extension website Bulbs and More. Lots of great info and wonderful links.

Spring Flowering Bulbs for the Home Landscape

Ron Cornwell, Horticulture Educator will be the instructor for this Telenet program on Tuesday September 17 at 7:00 p.m. and repeated Thursday Sept 19 at 1:30 p.m. at the U of I Extension office. Within the TeleNet program instructors speak from a remote location while slides are shown locally.

There is no cost but please register to receive handouts. Call 217-333-7672.

View Article Archive >>