North, South, East, West: There's a Daffodil for you

Wed, 08/02/2006 - 8:58am
By: The Citizen

For gardeners the arrival of fall means it's time to plant spring-flowering bulbs: tulips, crocuses and, perhaps most valuable of all, daffodils.

The appeal of daffodils lies in their beauty and durability. Their flowers come in a range of colors (yellow, of course, but white, too, often with contrasting cups of orange or pink) and in a variety of shapes and sizes. They bring the spark of life to the early-spring landscape.

And they ask little in return. Planted in a sunny location where the soil drains well, most daffodils are willing to come back year after year, their clumps increasing in size over time. And perhaps best of all, deer and rodents leave them alone.

Tim Schipper, a third-generation flowerbulb merchant and owner of Colorblends, sums up the value of daffodils this way: "To plant a daffodil is to make a long-term investment in your landscape."

A World of Choices

There is a daffodil for every climate, every garden situation, every taste. Gardeners in the northern half of the country may have the most varieties to choose from because the majority of daffodils available today were selected by hybridizers who reside in cold climates. "We steer northern gardeners who are new to daffodils to tried and true favorites," says Sjoerd Van Eeden of the Amsterdam Tulip Museum in Holland. "For those who want a classic golden trumpet, we suggest 'Golden Harvest'. If they're looking for a good white, we point them to 'Ice Follies'. And if they want something a little more exotic, we suggest a double like 'Tahiti.'"

Some daffodils have a hard time in the heat and heavy soil that is common in the South, but there are plenty that do well in those conditions. Jonquils (daffodils that are descended from the species jonquilla) such as 'Quail' and 'Pipit' love the heat, and a group of fragrant, multiflowered daffodils called tazettas perform beautifully in southern humidity. "Southern gardeners can't go wrong with a tough old tazetta like 'Geranium' or 'Avalanche'," says Schipper. "And if they want the look of a traditional daffodil, we recommend 'Carlton', a gold-flowered variety that grows pretty much anywhere."

Gardeners in the West are limited only by the amount of water they can supply their bulbs. Daffodils need plenty of moisture from fall, when the bulbs make roots, until the leaves yellow in late spring or early summer. "If western gardeners can provide the necessary moisture, they can grow most daffodils," Schipper says.

Daffodil Blends

As an alternative to planting blocks of single varieties, Colorblends offers pre-blended combinations of complementary daffodils. The aim, Schipper says, "is to create a planting that will catch the eye, to present something familiar in a different light." New this year is a blend called Sushi, which is composed of two white-petaled daffodils -- one with an orange cup and one with a salmon cup. The combination is bold and bright, just right for early spring.

For gardeners who have trouble choosing or who simply crave variety, Colorblends offers what Schipper calls "the encyclopedia of daffodils," The Daffodil 100. Each bag contains 100 different bulbs selected from the largest collection of daffodils in Holland. Every flower size, shape and color is in the mix, providing a tour of the surprisingly large world of daffodils.

Daffodils in the Landscape

Daffodils can be used in a variety of different ways. They look perfectly natural planted in clusters in a garden bed, where they serve as islands of early color. If space permits, they can also be planted en masse in formal beds.

Many gardeners like to naturalize daffodils-that is, to plant them so that they look as though they had come up on their own. The ideal location is a rough grassy area that doesn't have to be mowed until the daffodil foliage yellows in preparation for summer dormancy. The bulbs should be set out in informal groupings called drifts, rather than straight lines. To avoid even a hint of human purpose, some people go so far as to toss the bulbs over their shoulders and plant them where they fall.

Getting the Most from Your Bulbs

Daffodils are tough perennials that can grow and flower for decades. To ensure success, Schipper provides three basic rules:

1) Daffodils must be planted where they receive at least six hours of direct sunlight -- even after they have finished flowering and the trees have leafed out. "Daffodils need lots of sun after they bloom to produce next year's flowers," according to Schipper. In addition, their leaves must be allowed to yellow and wither naturally.

2) Daffodils must be planted in soil that drains well. Areas where water stands after a rain storm should be avoided. Why? Bulbs in constantly wet soil will rot.

3) Daffodil bulbs benefit from a light fertilizing just as the shoots emerge in late winter or early spring. Schipper stresses that a light scattering of a low-nitrogen fertilizer such as 5-10-10 is plenty. "More is not better when it comes to fertilizer," he says.

For More Information

You can learn more about daffodils by visiting or, or you can call toll free (888) 847-8637 to request the Colorblends 2006 wholesale catalog.

Courtesy of ARA Content

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