If you live in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 7 to 11, and want to see these cheerful yellow flowers bobbing in next year's spring breezes, now is the time to begin planning for and ordering daffodils and jonquils.
Winter temperatures in most of these zones stay too high to provide many daffodil varieties with the chilling time they need to produce flowers. The good news is, unlike many other spring-blooming bulbs such as tulips and crocus, which need a sustained period of cold weather for flowers to develop, there are daffodil bulbs available in heat-tolerant varieties that can handle hot weather.
So planning your planting in September gives you a couple of months to choose your favorites and order your bulbs. In warm climates, daffodils can go into the ground anywhere between November for zones 7 and 8 to mid-December for zone 11.
Popular varieties that will bloom in these zones include 'Campernelle', 'Carlton', 'Avalanche', 'Pink Charm', 'Thalia', 'February Gold', 'Erlicheer' and 'Mt. Hood'. These varieties don't need to be chilled to bloom.
Where bulbs are planted is important for the best performance. In regions where it is hot, daffodils need a location in part shade or full morning sun and afternoon shade while they are growing and blooming. Ideally the planting area should be completely shaded in summer.
A daffodil planting will look the most natural if you toss the bulbs on the ground and plant them right where they land. Plant deep – 6 to 8 inches. Daffodils will pull themselves deeper into the soil by their roots if you can't dig that far down.
Mulch after planting with shredded leaves or pine straw. Avoid planting in rich soil, or soil that stays wet, such as an area that receives regular summer irrigation. While the bulbs do need water from November through April, they will rot in soggy ground.
Though they find tulips and crocus delectable, deer, squirrels, rabbits and other wildlife won't eat daffodils. That's because the bulbs are toxic (to people, too). A creature that eats one won't die, but will get sick enough to never make the same mistake again.
Narcissus, jonquil, daffodil: What's in a name? As common names, they are interchangeable to a degree, though botanically there are distinct differences. Daffodils have larger flowers with a prominent center trumpet, and straplike leaves. Jonquils have multiple flowers on one stem, and are usually fragrant. Narcissus is the botanical term for both. Jonquils are often called daffodils, but not all daffodils can be called jonquils, so when in doubt as to which you have, refer to them as Narcissus and you'll be covered.
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By Nancy Buley, J. Frank Schmidt & Son Co., Wholesale Tree Growers
Photographs courtesy of J. Frank Schmidt & Son Co.
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