After a dreary winter, there are very few more cheerful spring sights than displays of daffodils and narcissus flowering their heads off and producing a bright, colourful display.
There are literally hundreds of different varieties and species to choose from. Although most flower in spring, there are a few that start flowering in late winter. Yellow is the commonest flower colour, but you can also plant those with white, orangey-red and pink flowers, as well as those with flowers containing two colours. There are singles as well as double-flowered types.
Daffodils are very versatile, and there are dwarf ones suitable for rock gardens, those that can be planted to produce informal swathes in lawns and on banks, or for more formal planting in beds and borders. They also grow well and look fabulous when grown in containers - including dwarf ones in hanging baskets.
How to grow daffodils
Daffodils grow well in a sunny position, although most will tolerate light shade.
They will grow in just about any soil, providing it has been improved with bulky organic matter, such as compost, and is reasonably well drained and doesn't become waterlogged in winter.
Daffodil bulbs are planted in autumn - the best time is September, but you can plant all the way through to December if necessary.
Dig planting holes deep enough so that the bulb is covered with twice its height of soil or compost; so a bulb 5cm (2in) tall is planted in a hole 15cm (6in) deep. For the most colourful displays, don't plant bulbs individually, but plant in bold clumps with bulbs 10-20cm (4-8in) apart depending on their growing height.
If you miss out on planting bulbs in autumn, most garden centres sell a selection of potted bulbs from winter. These are useful for filling gaps in beds and borders or for instant colour in containers.
Suggested planting locations and garden types
Flower borders and beds, patios, containers, city & courtyard gardens, cottage & informal gardens, naturalising.
How to care for daffodils
Daffodils are generally pretty easy to look after. The bulbs should be left in the ground from year to year, so they can develop into large, bold clumps.
When they finish flowering, the bulbs start to build up their strength and produce their flower buds for the following year. This is the most important time of year and when the plants need some care and attention.
Start by deadheading as soon as the flowers have faded. You can either carefully pull or cut off the faded flower, plus the developing seed pod behind the flower, but leave the flower stems and leaves to die down naturally. Don’t be tempted to remove the foliage before it has turned yellow or brown, or tie it into neat knots, as the bulbs need the leaves to feed them.
You can build up their strength further by giving them a liquid feed every 10 to 14 days while they’re still in leaf.
Daffodils can be propagated by lifting and removing offsets in autumn or lifting and dividing large, congested clumps as the leaves die down after flowering.
Daffodils sometimes fail to flower - or go 'blind'. There are numerous reasons for daffodil blindness.
Daffodils may be susceptible to the following pests and problems.