Daffodils | “heralds of Spring”

Daffodils - This cheerful yellow flower is not only one of the first signs of spring; it’s also March’s birth flower.

It’ll be March in two days and it feels like mid-April outside. Not able to look anymore at the winter debris that mother nature deposited beneath the 20 ft American Holly off the patio, I grabbed the garden rake and started to pull back the leaves, twigs, composting foliage and whatnot to expose the moist soil. Lo and behold there were masses of 4 inch tall daffodil stalks emerging from winter’s slumber. A few tulips were bursting through here and there and grandma’s peonies were shooting up in their bed.

Mother Nature Is Awakening

Daffodils have been around since at least 300 BC. The Ancient Greek botanist and philosopher Theophrastus was perhaps the first person to document the daffodil in his nine-volume Enquiry into Plants. He documented many different types of narcissus in these books.

Native to parts of Europe and Northern Africa, daffodils were introduced to Britain by the Romans after they invaded and captured the country in AD 43. Daffodils (also known as “Lent Lilies”) spread naturally and eventually became the favorite flower of England. After the establishment of the Virginia Company in 1606 and the settlement of the Jamestown colony in 1609, daffodil bulbs were transported by sailing ships from Britain to America, often by women colonists who brought them along as a reminder of home. The bulbs adapted readily to the climate and conditions of the Virginia Tidewater region, and within a few years were adapting and flourishing in all the colonies, often used within the trading and bartering for goods, thereby spreading somewhat rapidly.

Daffodils represent hope in many cultures, and are symbols of multiple charities because of this. They also represent revival, new beginnings and rebirth because they bloom at the end of winter and beginning of spring.

Daffodil Care

Daffodils are a great entry-level plant for novice gardeners developing their green thumbs. Daffodils require little care other than watering during the active growing season and topdressing with bulb fertilizer in instances where the bulbs are not producing ample flowers.

Daffodils will not bloom more than once a season, so when you notice the petals fading, allow the foliage to turn yellow and dry up. Do not cut the foliage. It’s important to leave the leaves, as they absorb sunlight that helps feed the bulb for next year’s blooms.

After the leaves dry up, some gardeners dig up the bulbs, then save them until fall replanting time. This approach allows the space vacated by fading daffodils to be filled with other plants for the summer. Most gardeners, however, leave the daffodil bulbs in the ground, lifting and dividing them every fourth year or so.

Cutting Daffodils for a Vase

Daffodils are lovely as cut flowers. Here’s how to keep your garden daffodil plants alive and make a floral bouquet with daffodils last longer.

‘Thalia’ daffodils – also called Old Narcissus – have big and showy pure white blooms.

To keep your bulbs alive, use a sharp, sterile pair of scissors and cut the fleshy flower stem as close to the base of the leaves as possible at a 45-degree angle. Leave the leaves in the ground and allow them to brown on their own.

For your cut flower to last longer, immediately upon cutting, put the daffodils in a lukewarm vase of water.

For your cut flower to last longer, immediately upon cutting, put the daffodils in a lukewarm vase of water. If adding daffodils to a bouquet of mixed flowers, it’s essential to allow them to leech their sap in the water separately for at least 30 minutes; when mixed with other flowers, their sap can diminish the longevity of the other flowers in your bouquet.

As the weather grows warmer and more flowers begin to blossom, remember the first flower you see in spring and the hope that grows with it.

Happy spring!

'Thalia' daffodils – also called Old Narcissus – have big and showy pure white blooms.

Common Name Daffodil
Botanical Name Narcissus spp.
Family Amaryllidaceae
Plant Type Bulb, perennial
Size 6–30 in. tall, 6–12 in. wide
Sun Exposure Full, partial
Soil Rich, moist,well-drained
Soil pH Neutral, acidic
Bloom Time Early Spring
Color Yellow, white, orange, pink
Zones 4–8 (USDA)

Daffodils are some of the easiest spring flowering bulbs to grow, and are perennial, so they reliably come back year after year.

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