How and When to Plant Daffodil Bulbs

Daffodil bulbs are so easy to plant that anyone can do it – no matter your level of gardening experience or where you live. These beautiful flowers are associated with happiness, hope, and renewal. They’re also sturdy plants that can withstand snowfall and thrive in hot weather. Plus, once you plant daffodils they’ll come back year after year and multiply.

Types of Daffodils

Daffodils (Narcissus) are an antidote to the winter blues. Choose bulbs from all three blooming times: early, mid-season or late, and keep the daffodil show running for months in your garden. If you want the first possible flowers, try ‘Rijnveld’s Early Sensation’, a classic yellow trumpet daffodil that blooms in January or February. The early, miniature, yellow ‘Tete a Tete’ deserves a starring location next to your front walk.

Daffodil expert Becky Heath of Brent & Becky’s Bulbs points out that most of the popular daffodils bloom in mid-season, which for many climates is a 6- to 8-week period in March and April. She recommends the poet’s daffodils like ‘Actaea’ as the last to bloom. Shop around to find windblown looks of the cyclamineus daffodils, frothy double daffodils, and colors ranging from all shades of yellow to white, bi-color, orange and even pink.

When to Plant Daffodil Bulbs

Once you’ve chosen which types to grow, you’ll need to get your daffodil bulbs into the ground at the right time. The bulbs need to develop a root system before the ground freezes. The soil temperature should be 55-60℉, which will signal the bulbs to grow roots. Any warmer and the bulbs may begin to sprout leaves ahead of schedule.

Planting time depends on your area but is usually September and October. Daffodils need moderately cold winters for their life cycle so if you garden in USDA Zones 5-7, you’re in the sweet spot.

Southern gardeners in USDA Zones 8-10 will have their best luck with jonquil daffodils. Gardeners in warm areas in the West, where it cools off at night, can get repeat performance from ‘Barret Browning’ and ‘Thalia’. But for diehard daffodil lovers in warm climates like San Diego and Florida, daffodil sellers will come to the rescue, pre-cooling bulbs and shipping to you for December or January planting.

How to Plant Daffodil Bulbs

Daffodils require two things to thrive: sunlight and drainage. If you want your daffodils to get full sun exposure in the spring, plant the bulbs in open spaces or under deciduous trees. Give the bulbs the drainage they need by planting them on a slope (never in a soggy spot). If you don’t have a slope, no problem. You can create good drainage in a level area by digging one big hole about 8 inches deep and loosening the soil throughout.

Planting daffodils in groups of 5 or more creates a stunning display of flowers. If you have the space, naturalizing them on the edge of a woodland is ideal. To achieve this, choose daffodils like ‘Ice Follies’ that are good naturalizers.

They will multiply and spread around an area on their own over time. Plant daffodil bulbs in clumps of 10 with spaces between to allow for spreading, then add new drifts each year as you are able.

In garden beds or for naturalizing, a good planting technique for planting large quantities of daffodil bulbs at once is to dig trenches of any irregular shape, like a teardrop. If you want to tuck one bulb at a time in a garden that’s already closely planted, use a slim spade or trowel, a bulb-planting tool, or even an auger that attaches to a power drill to create individual holes. Plant daffodil bulbs about 6 inches apart (if you’re growing them in a container, you can pack them in about a finger-width apart for a big show).

What to Plant with Daffodil Bulbs

Daffodils are one of the first signs of spring, and you can make them even more special by planting a rainbow of spring-blooming bulbs around them. Hyacinths and tulips can go in at the same depth as daffodils, spaced the same way.

Even more fun is layering in miniature bulbs that aren’t often planted; they’re even called the “minor bulbs.” Some of these may become squirrel snacks, but most will bloom for you in blue, white, yellow, or pink. For example, try crocuses that bloom before daffodils or grape hyacinths that usually bloom at the same time as mid-season daffodils such as large cups.

Another good planting strategy is to place your daffodil bulbs around perennials that will mask the dying bulb foliage in spring. Daffodils don’t appreciate extra water in the summer, so choose their plant companions accordingly.

If the daffodil location is under trees that leaf out in late spring, pop a collection of dry shade perennials in the ground at the same time you plant the daffodils. For a dry, sunny area, the classic follow-ups to daffodils are daylilies.

How to Transplant Daffodil Bulbs

Snip the flowers off as soon as the blooms fade, otherwise, the plant will use energy to produce a seed pod. Daffodils may produce fewer flowers after 3-5 years as they get more crowded, so expand their space by replanting the bulbs after the leaves die back.

Snip off the flowers as soon as the blooms fade, otherwise the plant will waste energy producing a seed pod. The leaves will continue to feed the bulbs until the leaves turn yellow (after about 8 weeks). At that time, you can cut off the stem and leaves and put them in your compost pile.

After 3-5 years, your daffodils may produce fewer flowers as they get more crowded. Expand the space for your daffodils by dividing and replanting the bulbs after the leaves die back to the ground. This will give them plenty of room to grow and ensure a bountiful amount of blooms for years to come!

You can also store your newly divided bulbs until fall planting time. First, rinse the bulbs off to get rid of any dirt and set them out to dry for a week. Once they’re dry, place the bulbs in mesh onion bags or pantyhose and store them in a cool, dry space. By planting them back into your garden in the fall, you’ll have an increasingly colorful welcome to springtime.

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