Growing Daffodils

Latest Update 8th August 2015.

Growing Daffodils
  • Binomial name:                                   Narcissus pseudonarcissus.
  • Variety                                                King Alfred.
  • Family group:                                      Amaryllidaceae.
  • Classification:                                      Perennial flowering plant.
  • Mature plant size:                                600mm high.
  • Garden bed type:                                 Drip line irrigated. 
  • Recommended soil pH:                         pH tolerant 
  • Climate:                                              Warm temperate.
  • Geography:                                          Southern hemisphere. 
  • The foliage and bulbs of daffodils contain the alkaloid lyorine which is very poisonous and renders these plants inedible.
  • Daffodils begin flowering in late winter and continue for several weeks in spring.  They are best planted in autumn under the canopy of a deciduous tree.  Here they enjoy full sun during the growing season and get the tree's shady protection in their summer dormancy.
  • The bulbs survive hot dry conditions quite well whilst dormant, but if they get too wet during summer storms, it may be better to lift them and store them in a shaded, cool dry place.  They will eventually rot if left in wet soil.
  • Grow them in raised garden beds to ensure good drainage and don't water them in summer.  Keep the soil cool during their dormancy using straw mulch.
  • They will grow for 3 or 4 years in the same spot provided good soil fertility is maintained.  During this time, each plant will multiply producing young bulbs from its base.
  • It is particularly important to allow the plant's foliage to die back naturally in spring.  The plant builds up nutrient reserves in its bulb ready for the next season, so resist the temptation to tidy the plant up by removing foliage.  However, you can remove the dead flower heads.
Growing Conditions.
  • They grow well in heavy clay soil providing it is fertile and well structured.
  • They do not like wet soil conditions while dormant in summer.
  • They need good sun during the growing season in late autumn through to early spring.
  • Minimise soil disturbances to maintain a natural soil structure. 
  • They will live for about 3 years before they need to be removed.  Replant any young bulbs attached to the old plant when it is removed.
Feed the Soil.  
  • In winter, remove old mulch, fallen leaves and other decaying organic material from around your daffodils.  Dispose of this waste in the compost heap.  
  • Apply a 60mm thick top dressing of home made compost, and cover the compost with fresh mulch.
Growing Instructions.
  • Prepare a new bed for daffodil bulbs in late summer by removing old mulch and other organic waste, and covering the soil with a 60mm layer of homemade compost.  Cover this with fresh straw mulch and leave it for 4 weeks to build up worm and microbial activity.  Then remove the mulch ready for the next crop.
  • Plant daffodil bulbs 150mm deep in the prepared soil in early autumn.  Make sure the bulbs point upwards in the ground.
  • They propagate by growing young bulbs around their base.  They can be left to grow attached to the parent in a large clump while the parent is still viable, but are best removed in winter when the parent is past its best.  They should be replanted the following autumn in prepared soil.
  • Deadhead the flowers when they are finished in spring and allow the foliage to die back undisturbed.
  • Spray the daffodils' foliage with aerated compost tea once a month during their growing season.
Organic Pest Control.
  • My daffodils have been pest and disease free for many years.  Because they grow through winter, there is very little insect activity, but they can be effected by the following:-
  • Slugs and snails.
    • Daffodil bulbs should be protected against slugs and snails using organically approved iron based snail pellets as soon as they appear.  You should only need to use a small number of pellets.
  • Caterpillars.
    • When mixed with water, Bacillus thuringiensis becomes a potent (organically certified) killer of caterpillars.  It is sprayed onto the plants leaves, and when ingested by the caterpillar, kills it by releasing toxins into its gut.  It stop feeding and dies within a few days.
    • I use aerated compost tea as a foliar spray on all my ornamental plants.  I don't claim this is as effective as the bacillus, but since using it, I seem to have less pests of any kind on my plants.
    Aphids (greenfly).
    • I usually just rub them out when I find them with my fingers, but if there are lots of them, I remove them with a jet of tap water.  They seem unable to regain their place on the buds and shoots of my daffodils and (I guess) starve to death where they land.
    • I spray my daffodils with aerated compost tea every month during the growing season, and I am sure this increases the plants resistance to aphids.
  • General:
    • Regular foliar sprays of aerated compost tea boost the natural defences of daffodils by colonising the leaf surfaces with beneficial microbes.  These microbes defend the plant against airborne pests and diseases.
    • Similarly, proper soil preparation including regular applications of home made compost boosts the community of beneficial microbes, which defend the plants roots against plant pathogens.