When it comes to images that represent spring, daffodils must be included! I discovered this cluster of flowers during a walk through the UC Davis Arboretum last weekend. The weather was sunny, leading me to believe spring had returned (as winter often allows us glimpses of spring before it returns), but of course the next day the climate turned rainy and wintry yet again.
The other plants in this photo along with the daffodils (a type of narcissus) are rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) and spurge (Euphorbia sp.). I really liked this plant combination of blues, greens and yellow which I found to be soothing and indicative of spring. Although these plants normally prefer sun, they can also tolerate some shade.
Daffodils emerge in late winter to early spring from bulbs planted the previous fall. So if you want to have them in your yard next year, plan ahead! You can either 1) purchase them from local nurseries in late August-early September, or 2) find an online company soon and order bulbs before June, for delivery in September. Plant daffodils before mid November. To look for unusual daffodil varieties not seen in local stores, check out these online companies recommended by the American Daffodil Society.
To prepare soil for planting bulbs, add compost, purchased at a nursery or gardening center. Your city may also sell compost by the truckload for a great price. (I’ve used city compost for years without any weeds or plant disease problems). Before planting, add 6 inches of compost, then mix in with a shovel or rototiller. If you choose to add fertilizer, use 0-10-10 or 0-0-5 or one labeled “bulb fertilizer.” These fertilizers contain phosphorus and/or potassium which help bulbs form flowers.
The key to planting daffodils is to plant 2x the height of a bulb. So a 2 inch tall bulb would be planted 4 inches deep, a 3 inch bulb planted 6 inches deep, etc. Plant bulbs with the pointy end “up” 4-6 inches apart. To plant just a few bulbs, use a bulb planter or a garden trowel. For a larger area, use a shovel and dig a big trench. Cover gently and water well. Then wait for spring!
Daffodils can be left in the ground for 3-5 years. If they stop blooming, it’s time to dig them up. Wait until the foliage dies down completely, then dig up bulbs and separate them gently. Brush off soil and immediately replant, or store in onion sacks or panty hose in a cool place until fall, then replant.
Bulbs can also be planted in pots placed strategically throughout your landscape. Use at least a 2 gallon pot for standard size bulbs, and a 1 gallon pot for miniature types. Add enough bulbs to fill the pot, but make sure they do not touch.
“Forcing” is a fun way to bring a little spring into your home or office during winter. Only certain types of bulbs can be forced. For more information on which types of daffodils to force and when, check out this publication posted by North Carolina Cooperative Extension.
Here is a neat Q&A page for answering questions about why daffodils may not bloom.
Happy almost spring!