James H. Schutte
Plant Common Name
Nothing brings on spring like the bright, sunny colors of daffodils. These hardy, spring-blooming bulbs may flower in early, mid or late spring, depending on the cultivar, and are distinguished by six showy petal-like tepals that surround a protruding, tubular floral structure called a corona. Daffodil flowers are most commonly found in shades of cream, yellow, orange, or orange-red and have long, green strap-like leaves.
These long-lived bulbs are clump-forming and good for naturalizing. Unlike tulips, they are poisonous, so their bulbs are not eaten by small mammals and their green tops are not browsed by deer.
Daffodils are some of the easiest bulbs to grow. They prefer full to part sun and require average to fertile soil. After blooming, it is good to let their green tops photosynthesize to allow them to store plenty of fuel for next spring’s display. Once their leaves start to turn yellow, they can be cut to the ground. Hardiness is cultivar/species dependent, but all Narcissus require a chilling period to bloom.
There are thousands of daffodil species and cultivars and approximately 60 species. These fall under 13 separate classes that distinguish plants by floral form and parentage. These classes are:
(1) Trumpet daffodils: Stems bear only one flower; the corona is cup-like or trumpet-like and the same as the length of the petals/tepals, or longer.
(2) Large-cupped daffodils: Stems bear only one flower; corona length is one third the height of the petals/tepals.
(3) Small-cupped daffodils: Stems bear only one flower; corona length is less than one third the height of the petals/tepals.
(4) Double daffodils: One or more flowers per stem; corona and tepals/petals are doubled.
(5) Triandrus daffodils: generally more than one flower per stem; flower heads often droop and tepals/petals are often lightly reflexed or bent backwards.
(6) Cyclamineus daffodils: Stems bear only one flower; coronas are straight and tubular and petals/tepals are highly reflexed, or bend backward.
(7) Jonquilla and Apodanthus daffodils: There is generally more than one flower per stem; blooms are sweetly fragrant, and foliage is often thin, stiff and linear.
(8) Tazetta daffodils: Multiple flowers per stem; corona is very short, petals/tepals have a rounded or crinkled appearance and blooms are fragrant.
(9) Poeticus daffodils: Stems commonly bear only one flower; corona is often small, flattened and edged in red-orange and petals/tepals are often white or ivory. Blooms are fragrant.
(10) Bulbocodium daffodils: Stems commonly bear only one flower; coronas are large and balloon out like a hoop skirt, petals/tepals are significantly smaller than the corona.
(11a) Split-corona daffodils (Collar daffodils): the corona is split and is parted in two rows of three.
(11b) Split-corona daffodils (Papillon daffodils): the corona is split and is parted in a single whorl of six.
(12) Other daffodils: Daffodils that fall outside all other categories.
(13) Species daffodils: All putative wild forms.