When to plant daffodil bulbs for a sunny spring display

Cheerful daffodils, with their vibrant yellow, white, ivory and bicoloured trumpets, herald the arrival of spring in the garden. Whether grown in pots or golden drifts, they'll treat you to a joyful display that comes back better each year.

Easy-going daffs are forgiving and undemanding once established. However, a little effort to give daffodil bulbs the best possible start when planting is well worth it. You'll be rewarded with healthier plants and more impressive blooms.

Here we'll cover how to plant daffodil bulbs, including soil preparation and the best time, location, and method for planting. Read on and look forward to a sunny spring spectacle in your own garden next year.

when to plant daffodils for top spring displays
when to plant daffodils for top spring displays

When to plant daffodil bulbs

Daffodils flower in spring, and the golden rule is to plant spring flowering bulbs in autumn. The best time is early autumn, ideally no later than mid-September. This allows the bulbs plenty of time to develop strong root systems. Daffodil bulbs also need the cold to initiate flower development, so early planting guarantees them the cold snap they need.

If you don't get bulbs in by autumn, you can plant them until January as long as the ground is workable. Later planting can hamper their performance, so you might have to wait another year to see your daffodils at their best.

How to plant daffodil bulbs

Planting daffodil bulbs is very straightforward, whether in open soil, pots or naturalising in the lawn. Here's how to plant the bulbs in soil:

1. How deep to plant daffodil bulbs

Aim to plant daffodil bulbs at two to three times the height of the bulb. Typically, this means planting them approximately 15-20cm (6-8 inches) deep. If you've heavy clay soil, it's best to plant them slightly shallower, around 10-15cm (4-6 inches) deep. Scatter some sharp sand in the base of the hole to improve drainage first.

2. Choose the right location

Daffodils thrive in well-drained soil and prefer areas with full to partial sunlight. Choose a spot in your garden that receives at least six hours of direct sunlight daily.

If you're not sure, it's worth spending a day just observing where the light falls in your garden. Get up early and make a note of which areas are in light and shade every hour or two. Record it in your garden journal so you'll know for future planting.

3. Prepare the soil

Before planting, make sure the soil is loose and well-drained. If the soil is hard and compacted, loosen it first with a garden fork, cultivator or tiller. Remove any weeds, rubble or rocks that might impede the growth of your bulbs.

4. Dig the holes

Decide whether you want to arrange the bulbs in natural drifts or group them together in clusters. Dig your planting holes using a bulb planter, trowel or soil auger. If you're using a bulb auger it's easier to remove the soil from the holes in stages rather than all in one go. Space the bulbs at least 10-15cm apart to allow plenty of room for growth.

5. Planting the bulbs

Nestle the daffodil bulbs in the holes with the pointed ends facing upwards. Cover the bulbs over with soil and gently firm it down so bulbs are in good contact with the soil below.

6. Watering and mulching

After planting your bulbs, water the area thoroughly to settle the soil. Applying a layer of organic mulch, such as composted bark or composted wood chips, helps conserve moisture and suppresses weed growth.

7. Feeding

After they've flowered and the blooms have faded, start feeding your daffodils with a high-potassium fertiliser (tomato feed is ideal). Feed every 1-2 weeks until the foliage starts to yellow. Deadhead the spent blooms and allow the leaves to die back naturally.

Planting daffodils in pots

If you'd like a pop of colour to enliven a seating area, daffodil bulbs are ideal for planting in large pots. Choose a pot about 30-45cm deep and fill it with a peat-free, multi-purpose compost.

Plant bulbs two to three times their own depth, spacing them evenly. You can plant bulbs much closer together in pots, but avoid them touching the sides of the pot or each other. Cover them with compost and water well. In early spring move the pot to a bright sunny spot to kickstart growth and encourage flowering.

In little pots, dwarf varieties will give you an abundance of smaller blooms. One of our favourites is Narcissus 'Minnow', a delicate pale yellow scented Narcissus that slowly fades to cream as it matures. 'Tête-a-tête' daffodil with its vivid clusters of golden-yellow trumpets looks especially sweet in window boxes.

how to create a daffodil lawn, naturalising daffodil bulbs
how to create a daffodil lawn, naturalising daffodil bulbs

Planting daffodil bulbs in the lawn

Many daffodil varieties will take very well to planting in a sunny, well-drained lawn. Our Narcissus mix for naturalising includes 350 bulbs with a good mix of varieties to help you create a diverse tapestry.

Take a handful of bulbs and scatter them randomly or in small clusters. You can then plant them where they land, allowing 10-15cm between each bulb and planting them 10-15cm (4-6 inches) deep.

After flowers have faded, deadhead and allow the plants to die back naturally. Avoid mowing the lawn until they've died right back.

Daffodils in your garden

Daffodils are one of the most charming plants in the spring garden and are so easy to grow. A patch of golden daffs nodding and swaying in the sun is such a tonic after a long winter spent indoors.

Even if you're brand new to gardening, daffodil bulbs are reliable performers and unlikely to let you down. So if you'd like to give them a go, it's never too early to start sketching out plans for next year. Hopefully, we've inspired you to pick up some bulbs to enjoy in your garden next spring.


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