Daffodils

Daffodils have long been considered one of the heralds of spring. Planted in autumn, they spend several months developing roots before the flowers burst forth in spring. They can be planted in borders and containers.

Narcissus 'Jet Fire. Credit: RHS Herbarium.

Quick facts

Common name Daffodil
Latin name Narcissus
Group Bulb
Flowering time Typically February to early May
Planting time September and October
Height and spread 5cm (2in) to 50cm (20in)
Aspect Sun or light shade
Hardiness Mostly fully hardy
Difficulty Easy

Cultivation notes

Growing daffodils is similar to growing other garden bulbs. See our advice on growing and planting bulbs, and how to naturalise them in areas of grass.

Choosing daffodils

Daffodils are divided into 13 divisions, based mainly on flower form, and these divisions are often referred to in bulb catalogues. Some divisions are known particularly for their fragrance, or for their ability to naturalise in grass. A brief summary is given in the photo gallery below.

    Division 1 – Trumpet: These have flowers with cups (known as the corona) that are longer than the petals (known as perianth segments). E.g. Narcissus ‘Barnum’ AGM.Division 2 – Large-cupped: These have large cups but the corona is not longer than the perianth segments. E.g. Narcissus ‘Rainbow’ AGM.Division 3 – Small-cupped: These have small cups that are much shorter than the petals. E.g. Narcissus ‘Spindletop’ AGM.Division 4 – Double: These have double blooms, giving a ruffled appearance without an obvious distinction between cup and petals. E.g. Narcissus ‘Tamar Fire’ AGM.Division 5 – Triandrus: These are small-flowered daffodils with up to five pendent blooms per stem; they naturalise well in grassy areas. E.g. Narcissus ‘Petrel’.Division 6 – Cyclamineus: These have small flowers with petals that sweep backwards from the cup (reflexed perianth segments); they flower early and can be naturalised in grass. E.g. Narcissus ‘Warbler’.Division 7 – Jonquilla and Apodanthus: These are fragrant, with two to five small flowers per stem. E.g. Narcissus ‘Dickcissel’ AGM.Division 8 – Tazetta: These have up to 20 small flowers per stem; some are scented and some are only half hardy. E.g. Narcissus ‘Highfield Beauty' (shown here) and 'Paper White’.Division 9 – Poeticus: These have small cups in contrasting colours to the large white petals; they can be naturalised in grass. E.g. Narcissus ‘Actaea’ AGM.Division 10 – Bulbocodium: These are short, with delicate, rush-like leaves; the cups are much larger than the petals; they flower early and naturalise well in grass. E.g. Narcissus 'Little Soldier'.Division 11a – Split-corona (Collar): These have a cup that is split into segments, usually two whorls of three segments, giving the flowers an orchid-like appearance. E.g. Narcissus ‘Menehay’ AGM.Division 11b – Split-corona (Papillon): These have a cup split into one whorl of six segments, resulting in a flatter, more open face than the collar types. E.g. Narcissus ‘Centannees’.Division 12 – Miscellaneous: These are daffodils that do not fit into any other division. E.g. Narcissus ‘Toto’ AGM.Division 13 – Species daffodils (including wild narcissi): Some of the small species grow well in pots and rock gardens. E.g. Narcissus romieuxii.

    Propagation

    Daffodils can be propagated by seed, division and chipping.

    Cultivar selection

    N. ‘February Gold’ AGM: Division 6, flowers in early spring, blooms 7.5cm (3in) across, golden yellow
    N. ‘Tête-á-Tête’ AGM: Division 12, dwarf daffodil wiht golden yellow, slightly swept-back petals; good in containers
    N. ‘Paper White’: Division 8 strongly scented daffodil usually forced for indoor display, with clusters of white blooms 1.5cm (0.5in) across; not fully hardy
    N. ‘Rip van Winkle’: Division 4 daffodil flowering in early spring with greenish-yellow spidery blooms, 5cm (2in) across, with irregular, pointed petals
    N. ‘Stratosphere’: Division 7 daffodil with up to three scented blooms per stem, each 6.5cm (2.5in) across, golden yellow with small cups

    Links

    RHS Plant Finder
    AGM Plants

    Problems

    Daffodils can be troubled by slugs, snails, virus diseases and Narcissus bulb rot. Other problems include various rots and fungal diseases.

    Sometimes daffodils can fail to flower or produce unusually small, pale flowers. This is known as daffodil blindness, and has a number of causes.

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