The Homeowners Column

The Homeowners Column

The Dazzling Diversity of Daffodils

Photo of Sandra Mason

Sandra Mason
State Master Gardener Coordinator

About this time every year I wish I had planted more daffodils last fall. Their flowers trumpet in spring like no other. Daffodils are easy to grow, long lasting, need little care, and rabbits don't eat them. The bulbs are poisonous.

The question always comes up. Is it daffodil, narcissus or jonquil? The answer is yes. Narcissus is the scientific genus name. Daffodil is the often used common name for plants in that genus especially the trumpet flowering forms. Jonquil refers to a particular division of narcissus.

Daffodils like sunny well drained areas. They do well under deciduous trees but not under pine trees. Make a note now of perfect spots for daffodils. They are good companions to ornamental grasses, groundcovers and hostas. Plant them around shrubs in landscape beds.

Once the flowers fade, remove the spent flowers but leave the leaves until they yellow naturally. The leaves produce food for next year's flowering. It is fine but not ideal to braid, rubber band or otherwise try to hide the leaves. If needed, fertilize daffodils after flowering with 5-10-10.

By selecting early to late season varieties, it is possible to have daffodils flowering from late March to early May in our area.

The dazzling diversity of daffodils include 25 species of Narcissus with about 13,000 listed cultivars. You should be able to find one you like.

There are 13 divisions of daffodils according to the American Daffodil Society. Miniatures have smaller flowers usually less than 1 1/2 inches in diameter in the same descriptive divisions. Divisions describe cup size and appearance. Cup size? Victoria has no secrets here.

  • Trumpet - cup as long or longer than the petals. One bloom per stem. 'King Alfred', 'General Patton', 'Mount Hood'.
  • Long cupped - cup measures more than 1/3 of, but less than or equal to, the length of the petals. One bloom per stem. 'Big Gun' white with orange cup, smells like cotton candy, midseason.
  • Short cupped - cup length measures not more than 1/3 of the length of the petals. One bloom per stem. 'Sinopel' white and yellow, fragrant, very late blooming.
  • Double - clustered cup and petals. One or more flowers per stem. 'Bridal Crown' cream, early midseason; 'Sir Winston Churchill' white and orange, late season.
  • Triandrus - flowers hang like bells. Usually two or more blooms per stem. 'Hawera' yellow, fragrant, late.
  • Cylcamineus - have a wind-swept appearance. Petals are reflexed back like a badminton shuttlecock. One bloom per stem.
  • Jonquilla - small flowers with flat petals. Usually one to three blooms on a stem. Known for their fragrance. Foliage is narrow and reed-like. 'Buffawn' very fragrant, yellow, midseason. 'Trevithian' deep yellow, very fragrant, early. 'Bell Song' pink and ivory, late. 'Baby Moon' miniature, yellow, late midseason.
  • Tazetta - clusters of flowers, usually more than three on a stem. Leaves and stem are very broad. Flowers are very fragrant. 'Canarybird' yellow orange, very fragrant, late mid season.
  • Poeticus – known for their extremely white petals. Cup small, crinkled disc usually with green center, surrounded by yellow and a red rim. Usually one fragrant bloom per stem. 'Actaea' spicy fragrance, late midseason.
  • Bulbocodium Hybrids – flowers look like hoop petticoats.
  • Split cupped - cups split at least one-third of their length. 'Tripartite' yellow, very fragrant, late.
  • Miscellaneous – "catch all" category. Many inter-division hybrids.
  • Species and wild variants - wild, natural flowers. N. gracilis pale green and yellow, fragrant, very late.

For more information: American Daffodil Society,, 4126 Winfield Rd., Columbus, OH 43220-4606

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