Daffodil Bulbs: Fall Planted Perennial Bulb
Planting Bulbs in Fall:
- Because your bulbs will probably be left where you plant them for several years, good soil preparation is highly desirable. Daffodils grow best in full sun in a light, well-drained soil enriched with organic matter. Loose, crumbly soil beneath a bulb encourages good growth and promotes drainage; it is a good idea to prepare the soil at least a few inches deeper than the recommended planting depth. Check the proposed site for standing water after a rainfall. If you must plant where the soil is known to remain wet, raise the soil level by 6-12 inches above the surrounding soil.
- It is a good idea to add fertilizer, such as bonemeal, when you prepare the soil. Be sure to mix the fertilizer into the soil so it does not come into direct contact with the bulbs.
- The general rule for planting is to cover the bulb with soil to 3 times its vertical diameter. In very cold climates, or where the soil is very light and sandy, plant a little deeper. In heavy soils, or in areas with a high water table, plant slightly more shallowly. Plant all bulbs of a kind, when grouped together, at the same depth so they will bloom at the same time and attain the same height.
- For planting clumps of bulbs in beds and borders, dig a hole large enough to hold all the bulbs in one group or drift. Set them upright at the bottom of the hole, tops up (pointed side up), and space properly. Press the bulbs into the soil and cover with the prepared soil to the recommended depth. You can also use a trowel to dig individual holes.
- Daffodils should be planted 6-8 inches deep, 4-6 inches apart.
- After planting water thoroughly to settle the soil and to encourage the start of root growth. Sufficient moisture is vital to the health of your bulbs; lacking ample rain, it may be necessary to water new plantings once a week in fall. The roots will continue to grow in fall until the soil freezes.
- Be sure to mark where you planted your bulbs so you know where they are in spring.
- Add 1-3 inches of mulch for winter protection after the ground freezes.
How to Grow
- Flower bulbs also require watering after blooming, while the foliage is ripening. Water weekly if conditions are dry.
- In spring after flowering do not cut the foliage off; the foliage is part of the perennial growth cycle. Allow it to die back naturally. Do not braid daffodil foliage, allow maximum exposure of the green plant part to the sun.
- Dig up and separate daffodils after several years if blooming becomes sparse.
Common Disease Problems
Bacterial Soft Rot: This is mostly an issue with on mature bulbs. Affected scales first appear water-soaked and pale yellow to light brown or bleached gray to white. As the disease progresses, infected tissue becomes soft and sticky with the interior of the bulb breaking-down. A watery, foul-smelling thick liquid can be squeezed from the neck of diseased bulbs. It is spread by water and some insects through wounds on the plant. Burpee Recommends: Be sure to plant in a well-drained soil. Remove infected plants.
Basal Rot: This fungus invades the bulb through the roots and basal plate. It causes premature die back of the foliage and the bulb becomes brown and mummified from the basal plate up. It is more prevalent in warm, moist soils. Burpee Recommends: Remove infected bulbs. Avoid fresh manure or excessive nitrogen from fertilizing. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for recommendations.
Botrytis: This fungus causes a grey mold on flowers, leaves, stems and buds causing the leaves to stick together. It thrives in cool wet weather conditions. Burpee Recommends: Remove affected plant parts, avoid watering at night and getting water on the plant when watering. Make sure plants have good air circulation. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for fungicide recommendations.
Neck Rot: This disease spreads from the neck of the bulb to the main body of the plant. It is caused by several fungal diseases. Burpee Recommends: Remove infected bulbs. Avoid fresh manure or excessive nitrogen from fertilizing. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for recommendations.
Virus (Various causes): The most characteristic sign of virus is yellow stripes on the leaves that are more apparent as the foliage emerges. There are also mosaic viral diseases that affect daffodils. Burpee Recommends: Remove infected plants. Control aphids which can spread the disease.
Common Pest and Cultural Problems
Aphids: Greenish, red, black or peach colored sucking insects that can spread disease as they feed on the undersides of leaves. They leave a sticky residue on foliage that attracts ants. Burpee Recommends: Introduce or attract natural predators into your garden such as lady beetles and wasps who feed on aphids. You can also wash them off with a strong spray, or use an insecticidal soap.
Narcissus Fly: There is a small and a large narcissus fly. These are mostly a problem of bulbs in storage and they mostly attack damaged bulbs. Small maggots are found in the bulb. Burpee Recommends: Discard any infested bulbs. Keep narcissus separate from snowdrops, another host plant.
Slugs: These pests leave large holes in the foliage or eat leaves entirely. They leave a slime trail, feed at night and are mostly a problem in damp weather. Burpee Recommends: Hand pick, at night if possible. You can try attracting the slugs to traps either using cornmeal or beer. For a beer trap, dig a hole in the ground and place a large cup or bowl into the hole; use something that has steep sides so that the slugs can’t crawl back out when they’re finished. Fill the bowl about ¾ of the way full with beer, and let it sit overnight. In the morning, the bowl should be full of drowned slugs that can be dumped out for the birds to eat. For a cornmeal trap, put a tablespoon or two of cornmeal in a jar and put it on its side near the plants. Slugs are attracted to the scent but they cannot digest it and it will kill them. You can also try placing a barrier around your plants of diatomaceous earth or even coffee grounds. They cannot crawl over these.
Spider Mites: These tiny spider-like pests are about the size of a grain of pepper. They may be red, black, brown or yellow. They suck on the plant juices removing chlorophyll and injecting toxins which cause white dots on the foliage. There is often webbing visible on the plant. They cause the foliage to turn yellow and become dry and stippled. They multiply quickly and thrive in dry conditions. Burpee Recommends: Spider mites may be controlled with a forceful spray every other day. Try hot pepper wax or insecticidal soap. Check with your Cooperative Extension Service for miticide recommendations.
Swift Moths: These are caterpillars that make holes in the outer scales of the bulbs. Burpee Recommends: Remove weeds and grass where the moth lays its eggs.
Daffodil Bulbs FAQs
Why did my daffodils bloom the first year but not the next? The quality of the flower will depend on how well the bulb was grown the previous year. Usually bulbs bloom well the first year because the previous year they were grown in ideal conditions. The second year will depend on your growing conditions. If there is too much shade or the drainage is not adequate they will not perform well the second year. Move them to a better location. If your daffodils bloomed well for a number of years and then do not bloom they are probably overcrowded and you can dig them up and break them apart and replant in spring.
Can I grow daffodils in Florida or Southern California? No, daffodils need a period of cold dormancy in order to grow and bloom. If you see them in these areas they have been forced to bloom whereby the grower chilled the bulbs before planting.
Can I force my bulbs to bloom every year? No, bulbs may be forced one time, but not in future years.
Can I grow daffodils in a container? Yes. Make sure it has excellent drainage and protect it in winter as the bulbs are more exposed in containers than in the ground. Daffodils are happiest in the ground, however, and will multiply for years if they are well sited.
Do deer bother daffodils? No, daffodils are poisonous and deer do not eat them.