Daffodils Bring Cheer in Spring


Daffodils (Narcissus) are spring-flowering bulbs known for their propensity to naturalize, or spread, in the garden, and their cheerful cup-shaped flowers. The terms “daffodil” and “narcissus” are interchangeable, according to the American Daffodil Society. Daffodils hail from Spain and Portugal, but gained prominence in the 16th century in Holland alongside their colorful spring cousins, tulips. Daffodils today account for billions of sales worldwide and are seen as a cheerful harbinger of spring.

The American Daffodil Society lists 13 divisions and cultivars, grouping flowers according to their height, petal formation and cup shape.  The list includes:

  1. Trumpet daffodils:  Perhaps the most common form, and one which many florists stock year-round. A central trumpet-shaped cup surrounded by petals of equal or longer length.
  2. Large-cupped daffodils: The cup of large-cupped daffodils must measure 1/3 the length of the length of the petals, with one bloom per stem.
  3. Small-cupped daffodils: The cup measures 1/3 the length of the petals or smaller. Like the large-cupped daffodil, there is one blossom per stem.
  4. Double daffodils:  Doubles feature multi-petaled cups, resembled roses or furled petals. They can have multiple blooms per stem.
  5. Triandrus daffodils: Triandrus daffodils resemble trumpets, but the cups or central trumpet have a bell-like form. The flower arches over the stem, and there are typically two or more blooms per stem.
  6. Cyclamineus Daffodils: The petals are swept back and away from the trumpet, as if caught in a strong wind. There’s only one bloom per stem, and the trumpets tend to be elongated.
  7. Jonquilla daffodils:  These daffodils are the most fragrant of all and feature smaller flowers with flat petals. The foliage is thinner than traditional daffodils.
  8. Tazetta Daffodils: Tazettas have small clusters of flowers or florets with a strong fragrance. The foliage is broad, thick and dense. There are usually three or more flowers per stem, arranged in a cluster.
  9. Poeticus Daffodils:  Poeticus is known for nearly pure white petals and a flattened cup shaped like a disk. The cup is colored with a green center, while the petals are always white. Like the Jonquilla and Tazetta, Poeticus is also fragrant, but tends to have one bloom per stem.
  10. Bulbocodium Hybrids: Round, bulbous flowers are the hallmark of this group.
  11. Split-Cupped Daffodils:  This group features daffodils with the cup petals split and folded back. The petals on the cups are unusually large, covering the back petals almost completely.
  12. Miscellaneous:  The American Daffodil Society includes in this group any new hybrids that don’t fit easily into the other categories.
  13. Wild Daffodils:  This group includes flowers most closely resembling the wild-grown plants. Miniatures may also be included in this group.

Daffodil Colors

Daffodil colors include white, yellow, golden yellow, pink and salmon. Some groups, like Poeticus, are known for a certain color. The cup and petals may be the same color or bi-colored, with the cup one shade and the petals another.


Daffodils are sold in bouquets or used in arrangements. Typical bouquets contain stems of the same variety. They are readily available November through April, and last approximately three to six days.

Purchasing Hints

Purchase daffodils while the buds are tightly closed. This helps them last longer. Costs vary according to the season and demand. Demand rises near Mother’s Day (May) and may cause shortages or price increases.


Cut stems under water and place narcissus/daffodils in their own container with floral preservative and warm water for six hours or more to condition them. During this time, they should not be mixed with other flowers, especially tulips.

The stems exude a sap which drastically shortens the life of other flowers. After six to eight hours you can use daffodils in arrangements as the sap stops flowing. Don’t re-cut the stems after conditioning.

by Jeanne Grunert

image:  delayedneutron (Creative Commons BY-NC-SA no changes)