Information on Planting Daffodils


Typically earlier flowering than tulips, daffodils (Narcissus spp.) gain favor with gardeners since they reliably return in the garden year after year in USDA zones 3 through 8. The bulbs taste bad to rodents and the foliage and flowers also taste bad to deer and rabbits, making daffodils resilient where diverse and high critter populations exist.

Bulb Health

Robust and larger flowers develop from mature, large-sized bulbs. Often nurseries or mail-order bulb suppliers note bulb sizes and you should equate larger, "top-sized" bulbs with having better quality and health. You also pay a slightly higher price per bulb. Examine daffodil bulbs before planting. Accept none that smell, feel soft or rotten or look crushed or damaged. Inform mail-order companies immediately of subpar bulbs received, and avoid purchasing bulbs of this quality in packages from brick-and-mortar stores.

Timing of Planting

Typically, daffodil bulbs' availability coincide with autumn, and gardeners across the Northern Hemisphere plant them in September through November, depending on climate. The colder the climate, or earlier the onset of frost and frozen soil, the earlier the bulbs need planting. For example, in USDA hardiness zones 3 and 4, daffodils bulbs need planting before mid-October. Conversely, in warmer regions, such as USDA zones 7 and 8, delayed planting until late November yields good results. Regardless of location, daffodil bulbs need six to 10 weeks of a chilly soil environment, in which soil temperatures range between 30 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit.

Site Selection

Daffodils appreciate sunlight, and need at least four to six hours of it daily to support leaf growth and develop flower buds in spring. Often these bulbs are planted in meadow, garden or woodland settings where deciduous trees permit sun to reach the soil in early to mid-spring. The soil needs excellent drainage, as bulbs will rot in soils that flood or are soggy. Daffodil foliage persists after flowering ends, absorbing light to nourish the bulbs for next year's display.

Planting Depth/Spacing

Generally speaking, plant a daffodil bulb two to three times deeper than the height of the bulb. Measure the bulb's height from the wide base to the tip of the neck. If a bulb measures 3 inches in height, dig the hole 6 to 9 inches deep and place the wide base of the bulb in the bottom, with the tapering neck pointing upwards. Consult specific planting directions that accompany the bulbs in packaging. In heavy clay soils, the planting depth is slightly shallower, in loose sandy soils, a bit deeper. Space daffodils in holes 8 to 12 inches apart. The bulbs multiply over the years creating an attractive, multi-flowering clump, so spacing as far as 12 to 18 inches between initial bulb planting is OK, too.

Design Ideas

Daffodils come in an array of colors, flower shapes and flowering season, such as "early," "mid-" or "late" season. Select varieties that intrigue you, and utilize varieties that flowering in successive seasons to prolong the display across the late winter and spring in your garden. Often daffodils make wonderful underplantings around spring-flowering shrubs. Grassy meadows and perennial borders that are stark and lifeless come alive if interplanted with daffodils for spring bloom. Sunny nooks of woodland gardens support these plants, too.

Keywords: Narcissus, spring flowering bulbs, rodent-resistant bulbs

About this Author

James Burghardt has written for "The Public Garden," "Docent Educator," non-profit newsletters and for horticultural databases, becoming a full-time writer in 2008. He holds a Master of Science in public horticulture from the University of Delaware and studied horticulture and biology in Australia at Murdoch University and the University of Melbourne.