As we go through March into April, I always reflect on the best daffodils for spring. It’s a good idea to check out which ones seem to suit the conditions you are growing them in: are they holding up to the wind, do they flower well and ultimately do you like them? For me, the basic yellow coloured, standard daff is such a welcome relief from the dark, grey days of winter, but they’re often planted in such abundance that I think I get a bit blasé about their beauty.
Look into the trumpet (corona) at the centre of the flower, however, and you’ll discover beautiful details that you never knew existed. The curved walls of this cone are pleated or corrugated – undoubtedly giving some grip to the humble bumble bees that visit them on warm day. And inside your discover a stout stalk that supports the pistil with the female parts of the bloom, ringed with stamens carrying the pollen-bearing anthers or male parts.
But we have come to value the more unusual forms and colour combinations that plants breeders and hybridisers have created over the years. And in such diversity. From large trumpets and cups at the centre of the flower, to double forms and ‘split’ trumpets, there has been plenty of variety put into the basic daffodil form. Colours have been intensified from pale yellows and creams to numerous shades of gold, pink, lime, orange and hints of red.
What is the difference between daffodils and narcissi
Both the common name names of daffodil and narcissi are used to refer to these lovely spring bulbs. Generally many gardeners refer to the daffodil as those with well-defined large trumpets, and narcissi as those with smaller crown-like structures at the centre of the bloom. Florists also refer to the small bloomed and often scented forms as narcissi. But strictly speaking it simply comes down to daffodil being the true English or common name and narcissi being the plural form of the botanical name Narcissus.
If you are keen on classifying and sub-dividing daffodils (Narcissus species and cultivated varieties) into different groups then the Royal Horticultural Society recognise no less than 13 Divisions.
Which daffodils to choose
With so much diversity, it can be baffling to choose which daffodil varieties to grow. Some gardeners are purists and stick with the ‘traditional’ yellow trumpet varieties, but there are masses of those to choose from. Others are more experimental and want to try different coloured forms and those with unusual flower shapes. Flowering time is also a consideration – early types can be in bloom from late December in the garden (and there are autumn-flowering species too) while the latest daffs may not be in flower until May and even early June. One of the other things to take into account is the height of the flowers and leaves, especially if you have a plot which is exposed to strong winds.
Taller, vigorous varieties are well suited to growing in border amongst other plants where their foliage can be hidden while it dies down after flowering. One of my favourites is ‘Birma’ shown in the main picture on this post. I love the strong colour combination and the way it coyly hangs its head. But for traditional ‘daffodilliness’ look out for the early ‘February Gold’, the stunning ‘Unsurpassable’ and old-favourite ‘King Alfred’.
Those that combine two different colours, however, are really appealling. ‘Spellbinder’ has a creamy inner to the trumpet which makes it aptly named, while the pink trumpets of ‘Spring Charm’ and ‘Easter Bonnet’ are a real conversation point. I’m also a great fan of later-blooming ‘Actaea’ and ‘Geranium’ which flower in April.
What are the best daffodils to grow in pots
Short, compact varieties are also really popular. These can stand up to spring winds and keep themselves tidier in smaller gardens, pots and windowboxes. Popular ‘Tête-à-Tête’ is hard to beat for flower power and longevity – I have some that have been blooming regularly for the past 10 years in the same place. But I also love ‘Jet Fire’ with its bright orange trumpet and reflexed petals. Then there is ‘Minnow’ a tiny multi-head variety, that is perfect for small pots to enjoy close up.
Where to buy daffodil bulbs
There is a daffodil to suit every taste and it really is worth reflecting on what you currently grow, when they are in flower, and looking at what some of the wonderful UK nurseries have on offer to plant in the autumn. The choice will be much greater than the range you’ll find in garden centres. And getting your order in early means that you’re much more likely to get hold of the varieties that take your eye. Have a look at Avon Bulbs, Bunkers Hill Plant Nursery, Harts Nursery, Scamp’s Daffodils and Walkers Bulbs. Many will be out of stock if you look in the spring, but get your eye in and keep check back or join their mailing list so you know when to get your order in.
How to deadhead daffodils after flowering
Removing the old flowers correctly from your daffodils, as they start to fade, is important. It stops the plants putting energy into producing seed pods, which would otherwise be used to bulk up the bulbs ready for next year. To deadhead, simply remove the flower at the top of the stem, pinching or cutting just below the bulge (ovary) behind the fading flower petals. Leave the green stalk in place as this, along with the leaves, will make sugars that will feed the bulb and help it bloom well next spring.
It is also best to leave the foliage to die down naturally for at least 6-8 weeks. Resist the temptation to cut it off or wrap up the leaves and tie them as this will weaken the bulbs and reduce their ability to flower. I leave the foliage on my daffs till it turns yellow and then cut it off.