Nothing is more indicative of spring than splendid drifts of golden daffodils - one of the most popular of all our spring flowering bulbs.

Family: Amaryllidaceae (amaryllis)
Botanical Name: Narcissus
Common Names: averill, bell rose, bulrose, chalice flower, daffodil, eggs and bacon, Lent cock, Lent rose, Lent lily, trumpet flower, yellow crowbell.

Foliage: Tall green, strap-like, glaucous leaves. Deciduous (dies back after flowering).

Flowers: A central cup or trumpet (corona), surrounded by a disc of six petals, in shades of yellow, white and orange, depending on variety. Flowers appear at the top of tall firm stems. Single, double and multi-headed varieties are available.

Flowering Period: From February to early May (depending on variety).

Soil: Any well-drained garden soil (chalk, clay, sand or loam). Any pH. Soil must be kept moist during the growing season.

Conditions: Full sun or light shade. Can be gown in any aspect.

Habit: Tufted.

Type: Bulbous perennial.

Origin: Western Europe, North Africa and Asia.

Hardiness: Most varieties are fully hardy in the UK (-10 to -20°C).

Toxicity: Ingestion may cause severe discomfort.

Planting and Growing Narcissus

Easy to grow. Plant the dormant bulbs between September and October, at 1.5 to 2 times their own depth, in a fertile well drained soil. Pot grown specimens can be planted out at any reasonable time.

Daffodils will tolerate most soil types and conditions but they do prefer a moderately fertile, well-drained soil. Bulbs tend to rot-off if the soil is waterlogged during the winter.

Narcissus be grown in virtually any part of the garden, in beds, borders, short grassland, rockeries, raised beds, baskets and containers. Most forms are good for naturalising in grass or under deciduous trees and shrubs.

To naturalise bulbs in a lawn or grassed areas, throw the bulbs gently onto the grass and plant them where they fall, to create a random look. Use a purpose built bulb-planter or lift some turf, dig out the sub-soil to the correct depth, then plant and refill.

Note: For bulbs that have been naturalised in grass, the grass should not be cut until the daffodil leaves have died-down naturally.

Taking Care of Narcissus

If they fail to flower or produce small pale flowers (known as daffodil blindness), this is mainly due to overcrowding, early removal of the leaves or lack of sufficient nutrition during the growing season; but there are many other reasons. If this condition happens, dig the bulbs up when dormant and check the conditions. If overcrowded, divide and replant. If damaged, diseased or withered then discard and replace the bulbs with fresh stock. However, it is best not to plant narcissus in the same spot where a disease or pest is prevalent, as the new bulbs will just be infected by the same problem.

Naturalized bulbs can be left in the ground, but those grown in containers or borders they can be lifted and stored from July onwards.

Pruning Narcissus

No pruning necessary. Deadhead the spent flower heads and allow the foliage to die back naturally. This will allow the bulbs to build-up full reserves for next seasons flowers. Do not tie the leaves up or cut them down in the green.

Pests and Diseases

Susceptible to attack by slugs and snails, narcissus bulb fly and narcissus eelworm. Can also be affected by virus diseases and bulb rot.

Propagating Narcissus

Propagate in the Autumn by lifting and dividing mature clumps. They can also be propagated by seed or by chipping. Although, narcissus bulbs are so cheap and readily available it is hardly worth the effort, unless you plan on cross-breeding to create new forms or need to increase the stock of rare forms.

Popular Varieties of Narcissus Grown in the UK

Due to years of extensive cross-breeding these popular spring flowering plants are now available in an almost exhaustible range of forms and cultivars. These have been classified into the following groups by the RHS, according to flower shape, form, colour and fragrance:

Division 1 – Trumpet Daffodils: One flower to a stem. The flower trumpet (or corona) is longer than its petals. Average height: 12-18in (30-45cm). Good forms include: 'King Alfred', 'Flower Carpet', 'Golden Anniversary' and 'Rembrandt' (all yellow flowers), 'Queen of the Bicolours' and 'Spring Glory' (white petals, coloured corona), 'Beersheba' and 'Mount Hood' (all white or creamy flowers).

Division 2 – Long-cupped: One flower to a stem. The flower has very long/large trumpet (or corona). Average height: 12-18in (30-45cm). Good forms include: 'Carlton', 'Scarlet Elegance', 'Flower Record', 'Louise de Coligny' and 'Castella'.

Division 3 – Small-cupped: One flower to a stem. The flower has a small trumpet (or corona), which is shorter than its petals. Average height: 14-18in (35-45cm). Good forms include: 'Edward Buxton', 'Verger' and 'Verona'.

Division 4 – Double: The flowers have double blooms, often with a ruffled appearance. Average height: 12-18in (30-45cm). Good forms include: 'Golden Ducat', 'Irene Copeland' and 'Texas'.

Division 5 – Triandrus: Small-flowers with up to five blooms per stem. Height 8-10in (20-25cm). Good forms include: 'Liberty Bells' and 'Thalia'.

Division 6 – Cyclamineus: Small flowers with petals that sweep backwards from the trumpet (or corona). Height 6-15in (15-37cm). Good forms include: 'Dove Wings' and 'February Gold'.

Division 7 – Jonquilla and Apodanthus: Fragrant flowers, with multiple flowers per stem. Height 10-18in (25-45cm). Good forms include: 'Suzy' and 'Trevithian'.

Division 8 – Tazetta: Up to 20 small flowers per stem. Height 15-17in (37-42cm). Good forms include: 'Geranium' and 'Paper White'.

Division 9 – Poeticus: Flowers with small trumpets (or coronas) in contrasting colours to the larger petals. Height 14-17in (35-42cm). Good forms include: 'Actaea'

Division 10 – Bulbocodium: Short form, with rush-like leaves. the trumpet (or corona) is larger than the petals. Often early flowering.

Division 11a – Split-corona (Collar): The trumpet (or corona) is split into segments, usually in two whorls of three segments.

Division 11b – Split-corona (Papillon): The trumpet (or corona) is split into one whorl of six segments, with a more flat open face.

Division 12 – Miscellaneous: Forms that don't easily fit into any other classification. Such as ‘Tête-á-Tête’.

Division 13 – Species and wild daffodils: distinguished solely by their botanical characteristics.