ISSUE 12  |  Spring Forward

Field Guide: Narcissus

March 24, 2014 6:30 PM

BY Julie Chai

Narcissus: “The Sure Thing”

The Greek pretty boy Narcissus was universally considered beautiful, and in today’s terms might be the equivalent of People’s Sexiest Man Alive. Passing a pool, he spotted his own reflection and was captivated: He couldn’t stop gazing at himself. Some say he fell into the water and drowned, and others claim he died of starvation because he couldn’t tear himself away from his image. We don’t know the full story, but we know the flowers that share his name are also entrancing enough to hold anyone’s full attention.

Longest Lasting Spring Blooms-narcissus-day-1-Gardenista.

Above: Photograph by Justine Hand.

There are literally thousands of varieties of narcissus –commonly known as daffodils–that vary in height, flower form, and the number of flowers per stem (which can range from one to as many as 20).

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Above: Photograph by Erin Boyle.

Cheat Sheet:

  • After they bloom, allow foliage to wither in place completely before removing (to replenish bulbs)
  • Favorite garden companions include pansies, Iceland poppies, violas, alyssum
  • Hardy in growing zones 3-9

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Above: Photograph by John Merkl for Gardenista.

Keep Them Alive:

  • Full to part sun
  • Regular water during growth and bloom
  • Plant bulbs in fall, before ground freezes

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Above: Photograph by Howard Sooley.

Many varieties of narcissus are fragrant, including jonquils and tazetta types (which include the popular ‘Paperwhite’ that’s commonly used for forcing indoors around the winter holidays.)

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Above: Forcing bulbs requires planting them pointy side up, giving them good drainage, and setting them in a sunny spot. Photograph by Erin Boyle.

These early spring bloomers are so easy to grow, they’re really a sure thing. The main tip to remember is you have to plant them in fall before the ground freezes. Set bulbs, pointy side up, about twice as deep as their width in a sunny spot. You also can put a clump under deciduous trees that won’t leaf out before they emerge.

Read More:

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Above: Photograph by Erin Boyle.

For more, see where the World’s Best Narcissus grow. Are you enjoying our Field Guide posts as much as we are? See our Field Guide Archive for tips on growing Crocus, Carrots, and Hornbeam.