Daffodils are among my favorite spring flowers. Those cheerful faces in various shades of yellow grin and bear it, even on the coldest of spring days. The flowers are easy to snip for a vase to bring that cheerfulness indoors. And, if you plant a variety with different bloom times, you can stretch out your daffodil season. Knowing when to plant daffodil bulbs (and when to order or buy them) is a good way to ensure you’ll have some flowers opening at a time of year when we’re all eager for signs of life in the garden. In this article, I’m going to share tips on when to plant daffodil bulbs, where to dig them into the garden, how far apart to space them, and a few other helpful tips.
One of the reasons I love daffodils is the squirrels don’t go near them. I live on a ravine and there is a regular squirrel party in my front and back gardens. Tulip bulbs are tasty snacks to discover, and the flowers are appealing to the neighborhood bunnies and deer. But plants in the Narcissus family are toxic to all animals, so are left unbothered.
Shopping for daffodils
Autumn is when to plant daffodil bulbs. Bins or bags of bulbs usually start to appear at the garden center in early September. If you think about it in the summer, you can order bulbs from a number of sources online that probably offer a great breadth of selection.
If you are in a store, make sure the bulbs are firm to the touch (don’t be afraid to give them a little squeeze), and not totally desiccated or moldy looking.
If you can’t plant your bulbs right away, store them in a cool, dry place until you’re ready to dig them in.
When to plant daffodil bulbs
Spring-flowering bulbs are planted in fall, as they need the cold of winter to come out of dormancy. Daffodil bulbs are hardy down to USDA zones 3 or 4 (average temperatures of -30 to -40°F or -34 to -40°C).
Planting daffodils can be done in September or October as the roots need some time to develop before the ground freezes. Planting too early during a warm fall can cause the bulbs to sprout—the soil temperature should be in and around 55 to 60°F (13 to 15.5°C). This usually isn’t a cause for too much concern, especially if it’s just leaves poking through. They may look a little rough after it gets cold again, but it’s just cosmetic. If flower buds appear above the soil line, add some mulch for protection.
With our milder autumns, depending on where you live, you could get away with planting daffodil bulbs closer to November. And if the snow does start to fly, and you have some bulbs kicking around, you can still try digging them into the ground if it hasn’t frozen yet. They’re pretty hardy.
Choose a spot that gets full sun and with well-draining soil. It’s sometimes recommended that you plant bulbs on a slope, but I’ve had success growing daffodils in my flat front garden. The soil is loose and the garden has good drainage. If a garden has poor drainage, the bulbs can rot if they’re sitting in too much water.
Planting daffodil bulbs
Generally a package will provide all the growing information you need, including depth, spacing, and timing. I find there are a couple of tools that make my job easier. One is a bulb planter, which works well when the soil is fairly friable. It usually has a ruler on the side, so you can place it in the ground to the correct depth and it pulls the soil out. Pop the bulb in the hole you created and then release that soil back in place from the tool. Easy peasy!
The bulb should be planted with the roots pointing downward and the neck of the bulb pointing upwards.
Another item I use often is a soil knife. It’s a great tool to create a hole (one with a ruler is handy to see the correct depth), place the bulb, and cover with soil. A trowel can also get the job done, if that’s what’s in your collection.
If you’re planting a ton of bulbs, a bulb auger like the ones offered by Power Planter, gets the job done quickly and easily.
Space your daffodils about two bulb widths apart. You may also want to mix your planting design with other bulbs. As you would with perennials, planting in drifts, in odd-numbered groups of five or seven, makes for a lovely display.
Plant your bulbs around perennials that die back completely in the fall. The daffodils will start coming up in spring, but then as they yellow and fade, the foliage from other perennials will start filling in to cover it up.
Bulb care tips
If you’re wondering about adding fertilizer, you don’t have to worry about that at the time of planting. This article shares advice on fertilizing bulbs the following year. Flower bulbs have all the energy and nutrients they need to grow next year’s flowers and leaves. That said, I will amend the soil with compost before planting. And, once all the bulbs are in, I will add leaf mulch overtop.
Water your daffodil bulbs after planting. If it’s an exceptionally dry fall, you may need to water again, but if it rains, you’re off the hook. The moisture from winter rains and snow over the winter will provide water to bulbs.
Another reason I love daffodils is they come back year after year. If they multiply, eventually you may have to divide a clump here and there to give them space to grow.
You can deadhead the flowers and stems, but allow the foliage to die back completely in the spring. This allows all the energy of the leaves to return to the bulb and form next year’s bloom. I usually wait until it’s easy to pull the dead leaves away by hand.
For more bulb-planting tips, check out this video:
More bulb-growing articles and advice
- Tips for tulip planting depth
- Unique flower bulbs
- Deer-resistant spring bulbs
- Planting perennial tulips
- Allium varieties for the garden
Pin this to your spring-flowering bulbs inspiration boards