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How To Plant Daffodil Bulbs - Daffodil Care & Planting Tips

When planting daffodils, you will get the best results and many years of blooms by taking the time to plant properly. Luckily, these plants are simple to plant and easy to maintain. Daffodils naturalize readily, and they're resistant to deer and squirrel damage. They also earn points with northern gardeners—in almost every zone in the United States, you don't need to lift your daffodils to avoid cold damage. Daffodils are hardy down to Zone 3, or temperatures down to -30 degrees Fahrenheit. That means that, with a bit of care, your daffodils will come back year after year.

Daffodils Bulbs

What Is a Daffodil?

Daffodils, or narcissus, are a member of the amaryllis family. These plants, grown from bulbs, feature some of the most distinctive blooms in the spring garden. In most daffodils, each flower had six petal-like tepals, surrounding a cup-shaped corona. However, daffodils with double-flowering traits, as well as unique trumpet-shaped coronas, diversify this impressive genus. Daffodils primarily bloom in shades of white or yellow, but breeders have also created lovely pinks, creamy apricots, and remarkable two-tone varieties. Paperwhite narcissus is popular for growing indoors in the winter, or "forcing," while classic daffs are favorites in spring and Eastertime gardens. Daffodils have been cultivated since ancient times—their name comes from Greek mythology—and are one of the most recognizable springtime flowers.

How to Plant Daffodil Bulbs

Planting daffodils is an easy process, especially if you plan. Here are some things to consider when planting your daffodil bulbs:
  • Best Soil for Daffodils: Daffodils are relatively easy plants, and don't require much in the way of soil amendment. Like most other bulbs, daffodils prefer light, loamy soil with a neutral pH. If your soil is particularly clay-heavy, add loam or peat moss when preparing your planting site. Choose a location for your daffodils that drains well, and where water doesn't pool.
  • Sunlight: Select a sunny, or partly sunny, location for your daffodil bulbs. For maximum blooming, daffodils need a planting site that receives six or more hours of sun each day. In less shade, they might not bloom, or won't bloom as fully.
  • Protection from Wind: Daffodils don't require much protection from wind, but taller varieties can break in heavily gusting weather. Plan to cover your bulbs with mulch to protect them from drying in winter and spring.
  • Aesthetics: Daffodils shine all on their own but can really look appealing in a group with other plantings. They're also great for naturalizing. Consider bloom time, heights, and colour as you choose which daffodils to plant in groups, and how to pair your daffodils. Consider mixing daffodils of different heights, from miniature paperwhites to jumbo varieties.
  • Spacing Daffodil Bulbs: Spacing preferences vary by variety, but most daffodils should be spaced six to twelve inches apart. Planting closer together will give you a full-looking display faster, but you'll also need to divide your daffodils sooner, and daffodils' growth can be stunted by planting closer than three inches together.
Once you've determined the best placement for your daffodils, you're ready to plant your bulbs! Here's how to do it:
  1. Loosen the soil to about twelve inches deep in the place where you intend to set the bulbs. If you want to mitigate tightly-packed soil or heavy clay, mix in loam or peat as you work the soil.
  2. Mix in your fertilizer if you plan to fertilize. Some gardeners find success with mixing a small amount of nitrogen-rich fertilizer, or a natural fertilizer like manure, into the earth. Choose a gentle, low-concentration fertilizer, and make sure that fertilizer doesn't come into direct contact with your bulbs, to avoid burning them. Breck's Bulb Food is a great option.
  3. Check your spacing. Most varieties require between four and twelve inches of spacing for each bulb, so check your packaging for spacing preferences.
  4. Dig your holes. Daffodils should be planted at about three times as deep as the bulbs are tall. Some gardeners prefer creating a trench to plant several daffodils in a row. You can also give each daffodil bulb a small custom-cultivated hole. Usually, this means lifting out soil with a spade. One clever way to make precise bulb holes is to use a battery-powered drill—a half-inch drill with a 3" bit usually does the job.
  5. Set the bulbs into the holes. Make sure the pointed ends are facing up.
  6. Backfill soil over the bulbs, water them in and dress the soil with a layer of mulch to retain moisture over the winter.
The planting is the fun part—and it's also surprisingly easy. The hardest part of gardening with daffodils is waiting until spring to see them sprout.

How Deep Do I Plant Daffodil Bulbs?

Daffodil bulbs should be set at a depth of approximately two to three times their height. If you have a small bulb—usually for a smaller variety of daffodil—it may be only an inch tall. Plant that bulb at a depth of two to three inches. If you're planting a jumbo daff, that bulb may be two inches tall, and should be planted at four to six inches deep.

When to Plant Daffodil Bulbs?

Daffodil bulbs are best planted in fall, after the weather is consistently below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. In most of North America, fall planting takes place in November or October. Planting too early can result in daffodils sprouting before the weather cools off, which can sap their stores of energy. For easy planting, Breck's ships your bulbs at the time when they're ready to plant. If you're not able to plant your bulbs when they arrive, simply store them in a cool, dry place until you're ready to plant.

Naturalizing with Daffodils

Naturalizing is the process of creating an informal field of bulbs that spread and fill in year over year. Successfully naturalized daffodils bloom for up to 30 or even 50 years! First, choose an area with good drainage and sunlight. An area where grass can be left unmown until the foliage has matured is ideal. Hillsides are excellent spots. The edges of woods are also good, if you are planting an early-blooming variety which will have a chance to mature before the trees come into full leaf. For best impact, plant drifts of like kinds and colours. Many gardeners "arrange" their drifts simply by taking handfuls of bulbs and throwing them about for a natural-feeling distribution—just dig where the bulbs land!

Dividing Daffodil Bulbs

Typically, daffodils are divided every three to five years, or when the quality and quantity of blooms have deteriorated. The best time to divide is about eight weeks after flowering (usually June or July, or when the leaves die back). Choose an overcast day to avoid sun damage. Before starting the division process, dig a hole that is three times as large as the clump's previous home. To divide, simply separate each clump into sections, making sure to avoid tearing the roots. After planting, water and don't fertilize until the following year.

Popular Daffodil Varieties

While daffodils are among the most recognizable bulb-grown flowers, you'll find a surprising variety within the group! Let's look at some of our favorite groups of daffodils.

Trumpet Daffodils

Trumpet daffodils feature cups that are longer than the petals, creating a trumpet-forward appearance. These are your classic daffs, and they grow extremely well in cold climates. Create a blanket of daffodils by naturalizing with our Trumpet Super Sak, delivering tons of trumpet daffodils in quintessential yellow. Or, plant Giant Trumpet Daffodils to create an even more impactful look. Looking to go even bigger? Try our colossal Mount Hood Daffodil, one of the largest, all-white daffs on the market.

Large-Cupped Daffodils

Large-cupped daffodils have cups that are more than one third, but less than equal to the length of their petals. Large-cupped daffodils feature a single bloom on each stem and may bloom in a wide array of colours and in a variety of forms. They tend to feature large flowers, too. Chromacolor Daffodil is among our favorites of the large-cup variety, featuring a coral-pink corona nearly as wide as their five-inch blooms. Or try our Curly Daffodil for a uniquely frilled look. Decoy Daffodils bring a red-hot addition to the group, as one of the best true red daffodils available.

Small-Cupped Daffodils

The flip of those large-cupped daffodils? Small-cupped daffodils! Small-cupped cultivars have cups that are not more than one-third the length of their petals. They, too, have been bred for a variety of colours. Our Altruist Daffodil features a small, dark red cup surrounded by exquisite, roughed petals in a copper hue. Falmouth Bay is a garden-worthy pure white daff with a small cup and elegant, large white petals.

Tazetta Daffodils and Paperwhites

Tazetta daffodils sprout multiple flowers per stem, featuring a pleasant fragrance and delicate appearance. Paperwhite narcissus are a form of Tazetta daffs, and you'll find a number of viridiflora, or green, daffodils in this group. Polar Hunter is a lovely example of a green daffodil, with each stem producing up to four flowers that start green and age to white. Avalanche Narcissus is another favorite, with white perianths made up of supple, overlapping petals and dotted in the centres by a vivid yellow cup.

Poet's Daffodils

Poeticus, or Pheasant's Eye, daffodils, feature airy white petals and shall, red-rimmed cups. Poet's Daffodils bloom a little later in the season and are typically quite long-lasting. They often feature incredible fragrance, too. Actaea Daffodils are true Poet's Daffodils that perform well in the shade and are a great option for gardeners with troubling dark areas.


Jonquils are heat-tolerant, and a great choice for gardeners in hot and dry climates. With grassy foliage and an extra-long bloom time, these daffodils are exceptional in a naturalized planting site. Try our Giant Jonquils for a statement-making display with a wild, casual feel.

Double Daffodils

Double daffodils feature multiple layers of petals, and some cultivars have inner petals rather than a true corona. Doubles are a lovely, frilly take on the daffodil we know and love. These beauties attract a lot of interest from gardeners and growers alike, so you'll find some truly unique colours in this class. Pink Performance is a stunning, long-lasting pink daffodil in a beautiful ballet shade. For something a bit bolder, try a copper-toned Boaz Daffodil or a lemon-and-tangerine toned Suade Daffodil. The texture of double daffodils also creates a standout in an all-white garden. Try our White Favorite or Easter Born for a white double daffodil.

Split Corona Daffodils

Split corona daffodils have coronas, but they're split to create a wide-open, butterfly-like appearance. In fact, one of the most popular split corona daffodils is named for those fluttering visitors! Love Call also features a split cup, with a truly colourful appearance.

How to Plant Daffodil Bulbs in Pots and Containers

Daffodils are some of our favorite bulbs for planting in pots and containers. Their tall stature makes them ideal for lasagna plantings, and there's just something about daffodils that screams, "spring has sprung!" Planting in containers lets you bring the celebration to your porch, patio, or even indoors. Let's look at some tips for successful container growing with daffodils:
  • Plan to cool your bulbs. Daffodils bulbs need a chilly period and, if you're starting them indoors, they need at least 12 weeks of cold before sprouting. Place them in a refrigerator or other cool, dark place a few months before you want them to sprout. Or go ahead and plant the bulbs in a container, then place them in cold storage for up to sixteen weeks before placing them in a sunny location.
  • Choose a container that's at least 12 inches deep and no less than 12 inches in diameter. You want to give your daffodils room for roots to grow. Make sure the container has holes for easy drainage.
  • Speaking of drainage, be sure to use a well-draining medium! Use potting soil for planting daffodils in containers. Even though topsoil, or earth from the landscape, may be cheaper, potting soil has better drainage properties and will prevent rot.
  • Consider good spacing for your bulbs. Keep them about three inches apart. This means that, for a 12-inch planter, you could plant three or four bulbs.
  • Plant your bulbs at the same depth that you'd plant them in the ground, about two to three times the height of the bulb. Plant with the pointed ends facing up. For a nice, full-looking planter, consider putting your daffodils in a circle or triangle—this spacing fills in the edges of the planter, while keeping your daffodils well-spaced.
  • If you're planting smaller bulbs, such as snowdrops or crocuses, alongside your daffodils, you can layer soil atop your daffs and then plant right over top of them! Those smaller bulbs will need to be closer to the surface of the soil.
Daffodils in containers are the perfect solution for gardeners who want a head start on spring. Plus, they're a surprisingly easy way to bring a floral favorite indoors!

Common Daffodil Pests and Diseases

Fortunately, daffodils have plenty of natural defenses against garden pests and diseases. However, as with any plant, you should watch your daffodils for signs of damage. Here are a few common causes of disease experienced by daffodil bulbs:

Slugs and snails: Slugs and snails can cause damage to the flowers of your daffodils. Watch for eaten-looking edges. If your garden tends to attract mollusks, try slug bait or diatomaceous earth to alleviate the problem.
Basal rot: Basal rot is typically sparked by too much exposure to too much nitrogen from manure or fertilizer, which makes the bulb susceptible to attracting spores. Watch for wilting leaves and brown rot spreading from the base of the bulb. If you find a case of basal rot amongst your daffodils, remove the bulb, and the soil surrounding it, to rid your garden of associated spores.
Narcissus fly: The larvae of narcissus flies feed on daffodils' bulbs, hollowing them out and killing the plant. Dispose of any bulbs you find with larval infestations and use an insecticide at the base of the newly-planted bulbs if you've had a previous infestation.
Squirrels: Squirrels, mice, and deer don't love daffodils as much as their lusher, leafier counterparts. However, some mammals may still nibble at leaves. Use a commercial deer repellent to deter grazing among your plants.

Daffodil, Jonquil, or Narcissus?

Narcissus is the Latin name for the family of bulbs commonly called daffodils. The term daffodil comes from "affodill," borrowed from Latin "affodillus" and "asphodelus" and the Greek "asphodelos," all of which mean "that which comes early." The "d" in daffodil probably comes from the French "d" or "de" (meaning "the"). The term was coined in French and English writings of the late 1500s. Although daffodil is an accepted common name for the Narcissus family, some use "daffodil" to refer only to the yellow trumpet-shaped flower and call the rest of the family "narcissus." In the Southern states, the family is called jonquils, which are actually a variety of narcissus.

History of Daffodils

Ancestors of daffodils first sprouted in the Mediterranean region, from Spain and Portugal to Turkey. They grew wild and unnamed until the Greek "Father of Botany," Theophrastus, named the plant "narcissus" in one of the first botanical registers, Inquiry into Plants. Greeks believed the flower was poisonous, due to the irritation its sap causes on one's skin and associated it with death. They also believed the daffodil was a favorite of Hades, the god of the underworld. Later, Roman cultures came to believe the flower possessed healing qualities (although its sap still causes skin irritation). The Romans took the daffodil to Britain during their pre-Norman occupation of that island. By the 1200s, the flower was a staple of English gardens. The flower's popularity culminated in a "golden age" that spanned the later part of the 19th century and the early 20th century, during which time breeders created more than 7,000 cultivars. Interest in the bright spring flower leveled out in the years to follow, but it did not disappear entirely. Breeders continued to develop even more varieties, and today roughly 10,000 daffodil varieties exist.

Did You Know?

The first American collection of daffodils was kept by John Bartram, who grew them on his farm along the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia in the 1730s.

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