Daffodil/Narcissus Planting Guide

Cheerful, hardy, unappealing to hungry animals and willing to flower for 20+ years, daffodils are great garden investments. Wherever you live in this big country of ours, there are likely to be narcissus that will blooms and thrive. Many varieties are even sweetly fragrant. How nice is it to be able to start cutting flowers from the garden in March or April, and for every spring thereafter for two decades?

Choosing a Site

Choose a site with full sun to ¾ day sun. Since daffodils are active in the spring and slip into dormancy by mid to late June, areas near/under open-branched or limbed-up deciduous trees can often work. These site are sometimes sunny and perfect before the trees fully leaf out. Other areas well suited for daffodils are garden beds where perennials will sprout and fill out by late spring, hiding the maturing daffodil foliage.

Soil Prep

Look for a site that drains well. Daffodils are happy in average garden soil, and as with most bulbs, good drainage is important to help avoid bulb rot. If your soil is heavy (clay or compacted) consider digging in generous amounts of soil amendments such as a balanced mix of course sand and compost, leaf mold or well-rotten manure. (Your local cooperative extension office can recommend good mixes that are appropriate for your local soil conditions.)

A granular fertilizer (5-1-3) mixed into the planting soil according to package directions gets your plants off to a great start and feeds over a long period of time. Note: we do not recommend using bone meal as it encourages pets and pests to dig up the bulbs you just planted.

When to Plant

Plant in the fall, when soil in your area has started to cool. Typically, daffodils can be planted when the soil is quite chilly, but not frozen, although earlier planting provides more time for bulb roots to grow. Note that the roots continue to grow, albeit more slowly, when soils are cold but not frozen. Give your bulbs 4-6 weeks to root in before the ground freezes.

These bulbs should not be held over for planting in the spring. It's important for bulbs to have time to root in if they are to be able to absorb the required moisture and nutrients needed to thrive.

How to Plant Daffodil Bulbs

Dig holes 8” deep and add a handful or two of compost to the soil you removed. Add a little of the amended soil back in the hole. Examine your bulb and find the pointed end(s). Those tips are where spring sprouts will appear. Plant standard daffodils so that the points are 6-7” below the soil line. For mini daffodils a little shallower, 4-5”, is recommended. (Exactness on depth isn't critical for narcissus, they'll adjust.)

Put the bulb in the hole with the pointed end facing up, fill the hole with soil, pat to eliminate air pockets and water well to settle the soil around the bulb. For standard daffodil bulbs, plant 4 to 5 per square foot. For miniature daffodils, plant more closely, 6-10 per square foot.

During the Spring Growing Season

Daffodils need about 1” of water a week from rain, irrigation or a combination of the two. After spring flowering has finished, let the foliage ripen until it yellows before removing it.

At Season’s End

After flowering, your daffodil leaves will photosynthesize and create food for next year’s show. Then the bulbs will go dormant and sleep through the summer. They don’t need any extra moisture during the summer. When fall temperatures cool, the bulbs will develop new roots and then wait for spring's rain and warmth to prompt the next cycle of growth and blooms.

Forcing Bulbs & Pre-Chilled Bulbs

Planning to force your bulbs or plant pre-chilled bulbs in winter? Read this! Forcing Bulbs & Pre-Chilled Bulbs

Insider Tips

  1. For standard daffodil bulbs, plant 4 to 5 per square foot. For miniature daffodils, plant more closely, 6-10 per square foot.
  2. When your daffodils have finished blooming do not cut off the foliage. The bulb needs those leaves to photosynthesize and produce food to store for next year’s flower display. When the foliage has yellowed and pops off with a gentle tug, then its work is done and the leaves can be removed.
  3. Daffodil plants – flowers, foliage and bulbs – contain an alkaloid compound that makes them distasteful to rabbits, deer, rodents and other critters that tend to bother garden plants. For this reason, daffodils are excellent options for areas with predation problems.
  4. Chemicals found in daffodils are being used to treat symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Not just pretty, but medically miraculous, too!
  5. Daffodil flowers are wonderful for bouquets but aren’t recommended for mixing with other flowers. Sap from the daffs will prompt the other flowers to wilt.
  6. If you live in a hot part of the country, where spring arrives very early, make sure to plant your outdoor narcissus by late November/early December to give the bulbs time to root in. Otherwise, they may begin to sprout before supporting roots have developed. Allow 8-12 weeks for your bulbs to develop a solid network of roots.
Shop Narcissus
Shop Narcissus

Success Snapshot

Light: Full sun to ¾ day sun

Soil: Average, well drained

Depth: Cover bulb with 4" of soil

Water: Average moisture

Uses: Beds, pots, borders and naturalized meadows

Tip: Know what size bulbs you’re getting; bigger daffodil bulbs produce more flowers (we ship the nice big ones)

GUIDE: Daffodil/Narcissus Planting Guide

They Start Out Looking Like This: