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Daffodils are a quintessential spring flower, a sign that longer days and warmer weather are on their way! Here are our top ten tips for growing daffodils - from where to plant them, to how to keep them flowering year after year.
There are a huge variety of daffodils, from miniature daffodils such as 'Tete-a-Tete' to the traditional large varieties such as 'Golden King Alfred'. Miniature daffodils are ideal for rockeries, border edging, window boxes and spring containers. Larger varieties are excellent for creating swathes of colour in borders and containers, or they can be naturalised in grass. Try visiting your local gardens in March and April for inspiration on how to grow daffodils in your garden.
Daffodils brighten up your garden in the spring but they can also be very fragrant. Some daffodils such as Poet's Daffodil are heavily scented and even a few stems will quickly fill a room with delicious fragrance. Other good varieties for fragrance include 'Yellow Cheerfulness', 'Avalanche', 'Minnow' and 'White Lion'.
As with most plants, giving your daffodils a good start at planting time will give you the best display. If your soil is compacted break it up with a garden fork and work in plenty of organic matter such as well-rotted manure or compost. Daffodils like a moist but free draining soil. Choose a sunny or semi-shaded spot which receives at least 3 hours of sun per day; daffodils won't flower in heavy shade. If flowering is poor you can top-dress the soil around your daffodils with a slow-release bulb fertiliser each spring. Simply sprinkle the fertiliser around the soil at the base of the leaves.
Plant your daffodil bulbs with the pointed end facing upwards at a depth of about 10cm (4in). Deep planting is important to prevent the bulbs dividing and producing lots of small bulbs which won't flower. Space them about two bulb-widths apart.
Daffodils are well suited to naturalising in areas of lawn or rough grass. When planting in grass, try not to lay out the bulbs too neatly as this spoils the natural effect! Instead try casting the bulbs over the surface of the lawn and plant them where they land, using a bulb planter to remove a core of turf, before placing the bulb inside and covering back over. Take care not to mow these areas of grass until June or July to allow the foliage to die down and build the bulb up for next year.
All Daffodils can be grown in containers, which is great for bringing colour to your patio in the spring! The same rules apply as for planting in the ground, planting about 10cm (4in) deep. When growing daffodils in pots, they can be placed much closer together than normal, to give a fuller display. Space them about one bulb-width apart. For long term displays it's a good idea to use John Innes No. 2 or 3 compost rather than multi-purpose compost.
If you didn't use your daffodils for cut flowers it's a good idea to dead-head them once the flowers fade. This prevents the plants wasting energy forming seeds; energy which could be used to build up the bulb for next year.
Many gardeners advise to tie up daffodil foliage once flowering is finished to neaten up their appearance. Don't be tempted to do this as it interrupts the plant's process of storing energy for next year's flowers and may result in daffodil blindness (see below).
'Daffodil blindness' is when the leaves appear each spring but the plants do not flower. There are many causes of this including drought conditions just after flowering, when the plant would normally be forming next year's flowers; knotting or removal of foliage just after flowering, allowing seed heads to form, lack of nutrients in the soil, shallow planting and overcrowding. If you have large clumps of daffodils growing blind then it may be a sign they are overcrowded. Try digging them up and re-planting the bulbs at two bulb-widths apart.
Why not try forcing daffodils to enjoy for Christmas? You can even give them away as gifts! Traditionally when growing daffodils indoors, fragrant varieties are used such as the paper-white daffodil, but any small daffodils will work well, such as 'February Gold' or 'Avalanche'. Simply pot them up and place them on a warm sunny windowsill. Stagger plantings from late October to November to have them in bloom for Christmas.
Miniature daffodils such as 'Tete-a-Tete' are ideal for rockeries, border edging, window boxes and spring containers.
Daffodils can be very fragrant as well as colourful. Poet's Daffodil has a delicious fragrance which will quickly fill a room.
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