My favorite flower is the little ‘Tete-a-Tete’ daffodil. Of course, I should confess that being designated favorite is somewhat a passing fancy, for my head is easily turned by the next pretty face to grow on by. But, among the thousands of daffodils on the market, this little gem is one of the best. Its popularity is reflected in the sales numbers: Worldwide, it’s the fourth most popular Narcissus cultivar in the bulb trade.

Narcissus ‘Tete-a-Tete’ and Spirea

‘Tete-a-Tete’ flowers with early blooming shrubs like baby’s breath spirea.

Photo Credit: Gerald Klingaman

Narcissus ‘Tete-a-Tete’

‘Tete-a-Tete’ is one of the earliest blooming Narcissus, usually appearing as winter makes its last gasp.

Photo Credit: Gerald Klingaman

Narcissus ‘Tete-a-Tete’ is a little plant by daffodil standards, growing only about 6 inches tall, with two or three rich-golden, 2½-inch-wide trumpets atop the sturdy stem. The cup is about ¾ of an inch long, and the petals are slightly reflexed. The plant’s foliage is only about 8 inches long and very tidy. In most years, it’s the first daffodil to bloom in my garden, appearing about the first of March.

This free-branching plant continues to produce lots of new bulbs each season and continues to flower freely year after year. It’s also fertile, and if pods form and are allowed to mature, the daffodil will reseed in favorable climates. (It takes four years from seed to first bloom.)

Being vertically challenged – or as some would say, a runt – ‘Tete-a-Tete’ has developed two specialty uses: In the garden, it’s the premier choice for rock gardens or front-of-the-border locations, where the plant’s diminutive stature is a benefit. Its second use is as a forced plant in 4-inch pots. In fact, most gardeners are first introduced to this little daffodil as a forced bulb, then later discover it does fabulously in the garden.

‘Tete-a-Tete’ is easy to grow in full sun or part shade. Because it multiplies freely, it should be divided every five to 10 years to prevent overcrowding. Like all bulbs, plant this one in well-drained soil. Allow the foliage to remain at least eight weeks after flowers fade to provide nourishment for next year’s blooms.

If you’re fertilizing your entire planting bed to help other plants, your bulbs will get what they need. But if you want to fertilize the bulbs specifically, use a low-nitrogen fertilizer with a 1-2-2 ratio. Apply the fertilizer in spring just as the new leaves push above the ground and again at full bloom. A rate of 1 pound per 100 square feet is about right for each feeding.

Eventually ‘Tete-a-Tete’ will become too crowded, and division will be required. Lift the bulbs as their foliage begins to die down in spring. Rework the soil, then replant immediately. If you choose to delay replanting until fall, store the bulbs in a well-ventilated area, where temperatures never exceed 90 degrees F. When replanting, space the bulbs 6 inches apart, with the base of the bulb at least 6 inches deep.