It is almost time for the daffodils to bloom here at Whimsey Hill House. I always expect them to be blooming around the middle-end of April, when a late Easter is celebrated.
Over a two-year period, in 1995 and 1996, I planted a thousand daffodils in the beds and boarders that surround my house. Since then some died off, while others made enormous clumps. The ones that died off were planted toward the back of the great border, behind the house, which is 14 to 16 feet deep, and 125 feet long. Large perennials grew up in front of the daffodils and blocked their light collecting ability (photosynthesis), which weakened them.
Planting Daffodil Bulbs
Daffodils can be ordered from mail order catalog companies, bought from nationally known hardware stores, like Home Depot and Lowe’s, discount stores like Wal-Mart and K-Mart, or from local garden centers. The nationally known stores will have more commonly known varieties of daffodil bulbs for sale, where as mail order and local garden centers will sell the rare and odd.
When buying daffodil bulbs look for the biggest ones possible. Pick bulbs that are firm and meaty. The bigger the bulb, the larger and more flowers you will get the first year you plant them.
Daffodil bulbs are planted in the fall, and need about 12 weeks of below freezing weather, to set flowers for the coming Spring. On most daffodil packages they suggest that you plant them about 6 inches apart. This kind of spacing, to me, is too close. I suggest that you plant them 12 to 16 inches apart in all directions, if you are looking for the clumps to get big and become naturalized.
When planting daffodil bulbs, stick them in the ground pointed side up. Bury them so there is 3 to 4 inches of soil on top of the bulb. Daffodils need NO fertilization at their time of planting. The daffodil bulbs were most-likely not allowed to bloom the Spring before they were readied to be shipped. All of their energy was put into making a big-healthy bulb for you to buy, not flower production.
Daffodils are poisonous, so not their bulbs, leaves, or flowers are attractive to pesky deer, squirrels, voles, or mice.
Fertilizing Daffodil Bulbs
The time to fertilize daffodils is in the Spring. Fertilize them anytime from when they have made about 3 inches of Spring growth, to before they bloom. You can throw a big pinch / two to three tablespoons /or/ one eighth cup of a granular ALL PURPOSE fertilizer on them. Pennington All Purpose 6-10-6, Jonathan Green 5-10-5, and Espoma 5-3-3 are all good choices. Drop / Throw / Sprinkle the fertilizer from where the plant emerges from the ground, and out-around the daffodil about 2 to 3 inches. Adjust UP the amount of fertilizer for Bigger Clumps! No need to work it into the soil. Granular fertilizer is a time release, which means it will feed the plant for many weeks.
Photosynthesis… Daffodils get their nourishment TWO ways. They absorb moisture and nutrients from the soil, and they collect light from the sun through their leaves (photosynthesis). When you buy a daffodil bulb, it is an element filled with enough energy to produce foliage and flowers. When the daffodil starts to emerge from the soil in Spring, the energy leaves the bulb and goes up the plant to produce the foliage and flowers. The energy in time has to work its way back down to the bulb so the plant can continue living, and produce more flowers the following Spring.
The foliage has to be allowed to collect light, and over time naturally turn yellow and die back. When the foliage goes limp and turns yellow, it signals to you, that it has sent its energy downward, back into the bulb. If you cut off the foliage too early, you will eliminate its ability to collect light (which feeds the bulb), and you eliminated the transfer of energy from plant above ground, to bulb below. Daffodil foliage can be cut back about 2 to 2 1/2 months after the plant has bloomed.
If your daffodils are fed in the Spring, they will most likely give you a nice display of flowers the following Spring. Sometimes, even if you daffodils are properly fed, they stop blooming. The clumps might have gotten too big, and crowded. If this occurs, soon as you notice an absence of flowers, Dig Up the clump, divide out the bulbs, and replant them in your garden. Try not to damage the foliage.
After your daffodils have bloomed it is time to tidy them up a bit. With a pair of scissors cut off their wilted heads, just below the beige onion skin, that is at the top of the stem, and below the flower head (see illustration Top Right). Leave the Stem in place. I once read, a lot of the daffodil’s energy was in the stem. A man in the flower growing business, noticed daffodils that had their heads and stems picked, produced less flowers the following year than daffodils that naturally went through a full growth cycle with stems left in place.
If your daffodil foliage starts to get in the way, after the plant bloomed, gently fold it over, without creasing the leaves, and loosely secure with a rubber band. You can also fold the plant down, and bring blades from the back, to the front, and tie them into a knot. Some people even gently braid the foliage. I do this to some daffodils in the front of the borders to make room for other plants.
So now you know about the planting, fertilization, and maintenance of daffodils. They are the easiest to grow, and longest living of the Spring flowering bulbs. So tell me, Do you have daffodils in your garden? Did you plant some last fall, or have you had them for a while? AND what is your favorite variety of Daffodil?
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The site is nice. I liked the piece on daffodils. about 1/2 of mine never come back the next year even though they are suppose to be naturalizing.
Every gardener, even me, has the bulbs that don’t come up, or plant that dies. It could be the soil they are in, the amount of sun light they get (daffodils need about SIX hours of direct sun light per day), or the fact that they were disturbed in some way. I have planted many daffodils, and every so often, I have to add more. The King Alfred, which is the most common/classic yellow one, is the strongest of the bunch. From all that I have planted, the fancy ones are the weakest, and seem to disappear first. Try again next fall, and plant the bulbs deep. Try mixing some spagnum moss into the dirt to amend it, then plant the daffodils. The spagnum would add organic material, and water retention to sandy soil, and it would help to separate the clay soil. Good Luck, and Thank You for your comment ;-}
Some of the bulbs are too big, even after seperating, that all I get are leaves in the spring. Am I doing something wrong? Sheila
Hi Sheila Daffodils need two things to bloom ..4 plus hours of direct sunlight each day, preferably 6 hours, and fertilizing each Spring. I found that the daffodils that have their foliage blocked by other plants that emerge in the Spring, in front of them, can’t collect enough light, which makes them stop blooming and they eventually die off.
I laugh when I see articles and pictures in magazines which show plantings of daffodils that are supposedly still blooming at abandoned farms. The articles even try saying they do this yearly. They would all eventually die off, no matter what. This week I went out and divided flowerless daffodil clumps that I fertilized last Spring. The once big bulbs are now many little ones. I separated them, and replanted everything. Hopefully in a year or two, whey will be big enough to bloom again.
Here at Whimsey Hill House, I see that the daffodils, some years are better blooming than others, and many have petered out, and died. I walk across the beds, while weeding, and that probably also damages the bulbs. Last year at my Mother’s house, her daffodils did poorly. I fertilized them and this year there are many blooms again. Her garden is watered only on rare occasion, so the daffodils are taken care of by Mother Nature. I say Fertilize again, and see what happens next year. Good luck, and thanks for the comment.
We built on my husband’s grandmothers home place in East Texas, which had been abandoned for over 30 years. The daffodils that she planted 50 years ago have naturalized and make a show stopping display across my front yard every spring. They get no help from us.
Hi there Ellen, your husband’s grandmother’s property must be in the perfect location, with perfect weather conditions and perfect drainage, and soil that the daffodils; love to keep going that long. I expect/hope everything you plant will also do as good as they did for her. Thanks for your comment, and best of luck with your new home, many happy years living there ;-}
Hi. 5 years back I cut back my daffodils too early after the flowers had died. They had been sitting in my garden bed for 10 years. Since then, they have not bloomed once. What sort of fertilizer should I use to cause them to flower again?
Hi Yauming Dig the bulbs up and separate them, if you can. Buy a bulb fertilizer by Espoma for Sring flowering bulbs, it will be sold now because of the Fall bulbs being offered. Don’t buy bone meal, the rodents will dig up your bulbs. Sunlight also effects bulb blooming. If the bulbs are in too much shade, under trees, it doesn’t help with blooms either. How about buying some NEW daffodil bulbs and inter-planting them with what you have now. One way or another something will bloom. Good Luck ;-}
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Thank you so much for your advice now I know what I am doing. My neighbor had giving me some of her bulbs last year and they just bloomed so beautifully this year. I don’t want to stop the cycle. Thank you again.