Most daffodils (Narcissus) are hardy bulbs that can tolerate most anything including frost and droughts. However, the one thing a gardener cannot do is leave daffodil bulbs unplanted. They must be preserved--or stored--until you are ready to plant them, otherwise they will rot. In addition, to care for daffodil bulbs during harsh winters, you must dig them up and preserve in a manner that will keep them both dormant and moist.
Store new daffodil bulbs immediately if you are not planting them right away. Proceed to Step 6 to learn how to preserve the bulbs until planting.
Wait for the foliage to turn brownish-yellow, which usually occurs in the fall. Leave the bulbs (and foliage) alone until the foliage dies away to enable the plant to store food and nutrients for next year’s growth. Then, cut off all of the dead foliage so that only an inch or two of foliage is remaining above the ground. Do this whether you are planning to dig them up or not.
Preserve your daffodil bulbs during the winter. If you have tender daffodil bulbs, such as peruvians (Hymenocallis) or paper whites (Tazetta), dig them up before the first frost. All other daffodil bulbs are hardy and can be safely preserved in the ground for the entire winter under a couple inches of mulch; no other care is needed.
Use a shovel and carefully dig the tender daffodil bulbs up. Daffodils are generally planted about 8 inches below the soil. Dig a bit further than that in a circle around the plant. Then pull down on the shovel in several areas to lift the bulbs out of the ground.
Shake off the excess dirt and divide the bulbs with your hands if several bulbs are growing together. Lay them out on newspaper in a warm area (not in the sun) to dry--also called curing--for one to three days.
Mix the bulbs and a couple handfuls of slightly moist peat moss or vermiculite. Place them in an open container, mesh bag or paper bag to store and preserve the bulbs until you are ready to plant them in the spring. Adding just a little bit of slightly moist soil helps prevent the bulbs from drying out. Store the bulbs in a cool, dry and dark location such as a crawl space or garage.
Check on your bulbs every couple of weeks. Discard any rotting ones and add a little bit of water if the soil has dried up. Plant the preserved bulbs in the spring when you can dig into the ground again.