Daffodils for the
W. D. KIMBROUGH AND R.
BULLETIN No. 500
LOUISIANA STATE UNIVERSITY
AGRICULTURAL AND MECHANICAL COLLEGE
AGRICULTURAL EXPERIMENT STATION
The aim of many home gardeners in the Deep South is to have
flowers in bloom as nearly the year around as possible. The
least effort it takes to do this, the more likely it is to be
done. Flowers from bulbs that can be grown successfully in an
area are in general easy to grow. One of the most popular of
these is the Narcissus group. Types and varieties that are adapted
are very satisfactory and produce an abundance of flowers with
relatively little effort. They start blooming very early in
the year, and blooms can be had for a period of about eight
weeks with a period of about four weeks when many different
excellent varieties can be had. Colors vary from so-called white
to dark yellow with pink tints in some varieties. They bloom
at the time of the year when other flowers are not plentiful
and for this reason are especially important. They make excellent
long-lasting cut flowers or may be used to add color to the
landscape. They should be in all yards where flowers are considered
of importance. The cost of bulbs will vary with the variety.
The older, more easily increased types are cheaper. Recent introductions
are generally expensive and it is usually the daffodil fancier
that is willing to pay the price for very new ones. Daffodil
bulbs can not be considered especially cheap, though the better
established kinds should not be unreasonably ly high. In general
it is best to buy good bulbs from reliable firms.
The nomenclature regarding the plants of the genus Narcissus
is somewhat confused. All are really narcissus but popular usage
has divided them into at least three groups-narcissus, jonquils,
and daffodils. The variety Paper White is an example of the
narcissus, the jonquils have round leaves similar to some onions,
and the daffodils include a wide variety of types ranging from
the long trumpets to the clustered Poetaz kinds. In this bulletin
the above grouping of narcissus, jonquils, and daffodils will
be used. Hybrids between different types tend to make any grouping
This group consists of Narcissus tazetta which originated
in southern Europe and is not as hardy as daffodils or jonquils.
It is hardy and easily grown in Louisiana~ There should be no
difficulty in growing the Paper White or the Pearl White Lily
(called Creole narcissus in south Louisiana.) Both seem to be
immune to the basal rot organism. The Paper White is earlier,
often blooming in early January in south Louisiana, but doer
not produce as large flowers or bulbs as the Creole. Both have
a very strong fragrance, and some people are allergic to them
The yellow Soleil d'Or belongs to this group, but it is not
as successfully grown as the other two varieties mentioned.
The Chinese Sacred Lily also belongs to this group. The main
difficulty likely to be encountered in growing the Paper White
and Creole varieties is that when they are left in place for
several years they may become so crowded that very poor blooms,
if any, are produced. They should he dug and separated before
this is allowed to happen. If they are grown in insufficient
light they can not be expected to produce good flowers.
Most of the commonly grown jonquils are fairly easy to grow.
They are usually early and produce yellow flowers of various
sizes, and the number of flowers per bloom stalk varies. They
are hardy but not as vigorous as narcissus. They are apparently
resistant to diseases causing rot, and a planting should last
for many years. They are not likely to become crowded as easily
This is the most important group of the Narcissus genus. Classification
in this group is not generally agreed upon. It is this group
that has the most fanciers. Shapes, sizes, colors, and time
of blooming are quite variable. Plants in this group are hardy
and extensively grown. Breeders continue to introduce new varieties.
One of the main reasons why daffodils are not more generally
grown in Louisiana, especially in the southern part of the state,
is that difficulty has been encountered in growing many varieties.
This is especially true with the varieties in the long-trumpet
Because of the interest in daffodils and the lack of reliable
information concerning them in this area, it was be1ieved that
some experimental work should be done with them. This has been
done for six years now. Recommendations in this bulletin are
based on results obtained here, those of other investigators,
and from observations and experience.
There is not complete agreement concerning the classification
of Narcissus. The following system is believed to be one of
Trumpet Narcissus --- One flower to a stem; the trumpet or corona
as long or longer than the perianth segments: solid colors,
bicolors or tinted. King Alfred, Mrs. E. H. Krelage, Queen of
the Bicolors, etc.
Large-cupped Narcissus - One flower to a stem; cup or corona
more than one-third, but less than equal to, the length of the
perianth segments; solid colors. bicolors, or tinted. Fortune,
Havelock, Tunis, etc.
Small- cupped Narcissus -- One flower to a stem; cup or corona
not more than one-third the length of the perianth segments;
solid colors, bicolors, or tinted. John Evelyn, Brookville,
Dick Wellband, etc. (These varieties are often put in the large-cupped
division and varieties such as Diana Kasner, Nettie O'Melveny,
and Roman Star are put in the small-cupped division.)
Double Narcissus - Twink, Irene Copeland, Texas,
Triandrus Hybrids --- Tha1ia, Silver Chimes, Moonshine,
Cyclamineus Hybrids - February Gold, Beryl. Jenny,
Jonquilla Hybrids --- Golden Sceptre, Trevithian, Golden
Poetaz Narcissus - Laurens Koster, Geranium,
Poeticus Narcissus -- Actaea, Red Rim, Dactyl, etc.
Fortune - This has been the best variety of the large-cupped
type that has been grown. When left in place for three years,
the size has held up very well and loss of bulbs has been slight.
It is believed to be one of the best varieties of daffodils
Helios - Another of the large-cupped type that has done very
well in the experimental plots. When left in place for three
years, the size of flowers deteriorated considerably. There
was very little loss in bulbs. Havelock - Another on of the
better varieties of the large-cupped type. Alasnam - The flowers
of this variety of the long-trumpet type are not as fine as
those of the King Alfred variety but it has been much more dependable
here. It is well worth trying. Brookville - This variety is
a member of a group of varieties that are similar in type to
John Evelyn. The blooms are believed to be better than John
Evelyn and it is a much more reliable variety. This is considered
to be an excellent addition to the varieties that can be highly
recommended for planting. It is well worth a trial. The main
difficulty will be in finding bulbs to plant. Lucienne - This
is another good variety that is somewhat similar to Brookville
but is a little earlier. It is recommended for planting. The
main difficulty with this variety will likely be in locating
bulbs to plant. St. Egwin - Another of the flat type daffodils
that has done well in the experimental plots. Carbineer-One
of the flat type that has grown very well but the blooms are
only medium in size. Thalia - This has been found to be the
outstanding variety in the Triandrus hybrid group. From one
to four delicate white flowers are produced per flower stalk.
It is a very beautiful, reliable variety that will produce blooms
year after year. This variety is highly recommended for planting.
Silver Chimes -- Another of the Triandrus hybrids that has been
outstanding in the test plots. It is a little later blooming
than Thalia and produces a number of smaller flowers per flower
stalk. Golden Sceptre -- Most of the Jonquilla hybrids that
have been tested have grown satisfactorily. This variety is
one of the better ones.
Lanarth and Trevithian - are two other varieties of this type
that are worthy of trial.
Twink - if a double variety is desired this is a very good one.
Laurens Koster -- If one of the Poetaz daffodils is desired
this is a good one to try. A number of flowers are produced
per flower stalk but they are somewhat smaller than several
others in this group.
OTHER VARIETIES THAT MAY BE WORTH TRYING
Tunis - Very large, strikingly beautiful, large-cupped type
blooms are produced. One of the most showy varieties. Stands
have not held up too well, but in spite of that it is believed
to be worthy of trial. Carlton - Another excellent large-cupped
variety, the stands of which have not held too well.
King Alfred - This variety can not be left out entirely. The
results with it have been variable. In some cases it has done
as well as any variety can be expected to do when left in place
for three years. In others at the end of three years very few
bulbs have been left. This seems to be due to damage from basal
rot. One lot of King Alfred bulbs was so badly infested with
basal rot that very few blooms were produced the first year.
In yards in this area it has been observed that where bulbs
have not rotted, plants have been erratic insofar as blooming
is concerned. This variety will often be found to be satisfactory.
It is a large-trumpet variety.
Mrs. E. H. Krelage - This so-called white-trumpet variety is
one that has been frequently found to be satisfactory in yards.
It is generally considered to be one of the better varieties
to plant. Flower stalks of this variety have been found to have
blind buds the first blooming season after the bulbs were obtained,
but bloomed normally in subsequent years. No explanation is
offered for this behavior. In the experimental plots the behavior
of plants of this variety has not been very good.
Mrs. R. 0. Backhouse - There are several pink daffodils at the
present time, but this was the first important one of this type.
It belongs to the trumpet group. Bulbs that were obtained of
this variety have not been too solid, nor did they appear in
too good condition. Not too much was expected from them. However,
in general, results have been fairly good. Plants have not been
very vigorous and the blooms not too large. In spite of being
a fairly late variety it has held up very well.
Ada Finch -- This white-trumpet variety has produced outstandingly
beautiful blooms. The only trouble is that the stands have not
held up too well. In spite of that it seems worthy of trial.
Gertie Millar -- This white-trumpet variety has done very well
in the trials. There is a tendency for flower stalks to be short.
Lovenest - Another of the pink daffodil group that has done
very well. Plants are not too vigorous and the blooms are not
large. Dick Wellband - In spite of being a late variety this
flat type daffodil has done very well.
Of course there are many varieties that have not been tested
to date and some of these are no doubt good ones. Of the many
varieties tested relatively few can be recommended. Early and
medium early varieties have been found in general most satisfactory.
Some range in blooming time, however, is desirable in order
to have flowers over a longer period of time. Resistance to
basal rot is of extreme importance in many areas. Plant breeders
will continue to introduce new varieties. If local information
concerning adaptability to a given area can be obtained, it
should be given consideration. There are two yellow-trumpet
daffodil varieties that should be mentioned. They produce very
large yellow-trumpet blooms. They are Golden Harvest and Diotima
and should be excellent in areas where basal rot is not a problem.
Both are very susceptible to basal rot.
In general good bulbs should produce flowers the first season
that they are obtained, because the bloom buds have already
been formed when they are bought. This means that the flowers
produced the first year are largely determined by the bulbs
obtained and are not affected too much by cultural conditions,
short of injury. All bulbs,
however, do not flower as they should even the first year Five
hundred bulbs of the Beersheba variety were obtained and planted
one year and not one bloom was obtained the first year and very
few the second year. Excellent blooms were obtained from nearly
all of the bulbs of many other varieties from the same source
when all were handled similarly. Even the vegetative growth
of the Beersheba plants was not vigorous and
most of the bulbs were lost before the next blooming season.
The ones that did live produced flowers but they were not good
ones for the variety. It is a late variety, and that may he
a partial explanation as to why better results were not obtained.
Late varieties may not bloom until the weather is so warm that
they do not do well, but they usually do produce blooms the
One of the main reasons why bulbs of some varieties do not produce
blooms the first year is that they are very susceptible to basal
rot, which is caused by a fusarium which lots the bulbs before
there is time for flower' production. Some apparently healthy
bulbs obtained for experimental use from reliable sources have
been so infested with basal rot that few if any flowers were
obtained the first year because the bulbs rotted. Sometimes
good plant growth will be obtained but flower' stems will be
blind. This means that the bloom stalks will appear, but the
buds will dry up and no flowers will open. This is usually caused
by some environmental factor, but there may be a varietal susceptibility
to this condition.
Even though good flowers may be obtained the first year after
buying bulbs, it is very desirable to have varieties that will
produce blooms year after year. Not many people could afford
or would be willing to buy new bulbs every year. Even when dependable
varieties are grown under our conditions it is usual for the
bulbs to get smaller' and the blooms to decrease in size as
the years pass until there is a tendency for a general leveling
off in size. If the bulbs are left in place they will normally
increase in number and become very crowded. This will tend to
reduce the size of bulbs and flowers.
The bulb is a storage organ, and the amount of material stored
and size of the bulb are dependent on the foliage and seasonal
conditions. The leaves make the food that largely determines
the size of the bulb for the next year. This means that good
foliage growth is necessary. Good foliage alone, however, does
not insure good bulbs. The rate of respiration in the plant
increases with rise in temperature up to an optimum level, and
that means that at high temperatures there may be little if
any excess food made that can be stored. This is the probable
explanation as to why late varieties are in general unsatisfactory
in this area. Some recently reported work indicated that cutting
blooms may have some effect on the size of bulb produced. This
is because the stem is green and can synthesize food. Daffodils
that are grown for cut flowers should be cut even though bulb
size is slightly reduced, but for bulb production flowers should
not be cut. Seed should not be allowed to form unless there
is an interest in growing seedling plants. Sometimes when flowers
are cut, some leaves are also cut to add some green to the bouquet.
This is definitely injurious to the plant. If leaves must be
cut it is recommended that a few plants of some vigorous kinds
be grown especially for that purpose. A certain amount of light
is necessary for leaves to function properly in the manufacture
of food. If light is insufficient, good results should not be
Bulbs should be ordered well in advance of time for planting
to help insure obtaining what is wanted. The bulbs should be
planted in October if possible, but delivery may not be made
until November even when orders have been sent in much earlier.
Bulbs should be planted as soon as possible after they are received.
Do not plant when the soil is muddy. Good soil drainage is essential
if daffodils are to be grown successfully. The soil should be
thoroughly prepared to a depth of about twelve inches. Loamy
soils are best, but daffodils can be grown in a wide range of
soil types. It would be well to mix some sand into heavy clay
soil. Well decomposed manure or other organic matter worked
into the soil should be beneficial in improving soil texture.
Large bulbs should not be planted closer than six inches apart
if they are to be left in place for more than one year. If bulbs
are set out in rows, double rows may be planted and the space
better utilized, if they are spaced so as not to be opposite
each other in the row. If bulbs are to be dug and replanted
every year they may be planted closer together than when they
are to be left in place.
Bulbs should be covered with two to five inches of soil above
the top of the bulb depending on the size of bulb and the soil
texture. The larger bulbs should be planted deeper, and on sandy
soils deeper planting may be practiced than on heavier soils.
If bulbs are planted on ridged rows, the ridges are likely to
wash down and the depth of covering become less. Bulbs planted
too near the soil surface may be affected by temperature changes
more than when they are planted at a greater depth. This may
be important in the South during the summer months.
The size of bulbs will vary considerably between varieties.
Bulbs of come varieties will he small in size, others medium,
large, and very large. There is also considerable variation
in size of bulbs of the same variety. The type of bulbs that
are generally sold as of blooming size is either "round"
or "double nosed." The round bulbs have one growing
point and the double nosed have two. The double nosed bulbs
should produce more flowers. It is recommended that only the
best quality bulbs be bought.
The application of fertilizer is beneficial to most plants when
it is needed and applied properly. A little more caution is
needed in the use of fertilizer for daffodils than for many
other flowering plants. This is because it has been found that
available nitrogen intensifies the damage from basal rot, which
is a very serious disease. Most gardeners use fertilizer rather
freely because they want to encourage good plant growth. It
is very likely that many daffodil bulbs have been lost from
basal rot because of the excessive use of fertilizer. As yet
no fertilizer experimental work has been done with daffodils
at this Station. It is believed, however, that if there is a
place for the use of bone meal in a garden, it should be used
when fertilizing daffodils. It contains little nitrogen and
what is present is in the organic form and slowly available
to the plants. Bone meal contains no potash and the addition
of potash may often be helpful. Well decomposed manure should
also be beneficial. Commercial fertilizers that are low in nitrogen
should be used if they can be obtained. If a fertilizer such
as 8-8-8, which is not low in nitrogen, is used it should be
applied at the rate of about 1 pound per 100 feet of row. Caution
should be used in the application of fertilizer. It should be
mixed well with the soil. When bulbs are left in place for two
or more years it may be applied to the surface of the soil.
If bulbs do not rot, they should multiply, though the amount
of increase will vary to some extent with the variety. This
means that if a planting of daffodils is taken care of but not
disturbed, there should be an increase in number of flowers
from year to year. It also means that if left too long without
separation there will be crowding. When bulbs are first set,
the space is not fully utilized. In general where daffodils
are well adapted it is believed that the best flower production
will be obtained the second year after planting. With most varieties
this was not true at the Experiment Station though with some
varieties it was true. There were usually more blooms the second
year but they were not as large. The third year there were still
more blooms but generally smaller ones. Under conditions at
the Experiment Station, bulbs of most varieties got smaller
from year to year even if not crowded. Exceptionally large King
Alfred bulbs were planted one fall and when dug the next summer
only medium sized bulbs were produced. After staying in place
for three years only small bulbs were obtained. The size of
blooms produced for a given variety is dependent to a large
extent on the bulb size. In general the larger the bulbs produced,
the larger the flowers. It is believed that the bulbs should
be dug and replanted at intervals of three years. The best time
to dig the bulbs is after the foliage has died down. Foliage
should not be removed while it is still green. It is after the
plant has flowered that the bulb size and bud initiation for
the next year's flower is determined. If bulbs are not to be
dug, the holes that are often left by dead foliage should be
filled, for they may serve as an entry for insects to get to
the bulbs. The bulbs should be replanted as soon as possible
after they are dug. Bulbs should not be left exposed to the
sun very long. If bulbs are to be kept for awhile before they
are planted it should be in a cool, well ventilated place. Bulbs
should not be stored in cold storage, especially at 40 degrees
F. Bulbs stored at 40 degrees F. produced very early, very poor
blooms and the plant growth was weak. Storage at about 40 degrees
F. hastens the time of flowering of several kinds of bulbs,
but usually the size of plant and number and size of flowers
DISEASES AND INSECTS
There are disease and insect problems with nearly any plant
that is grown and the daffodil is no exception. The home gardener
in general does very little about their control, for usually
the bulbs are planted and weeds probably controlled and that
is about all that is done. A little effort expended on the control
of insects and diseases would often be well worthwhile. The
commercial grower must try to control insects and diseases if
he is to be successful. If bulbs could be obtained that had
been treated it would be a big help to home gardeners, as they
usually will not do it themselves. The most serious disease
of daffodils in this area is basal rot, which is caused by a
fusarium. This disease probably accounts for most of the bulbs
lost due to rot. There are other organisms, such as southern
blight (Sclerotium rolfsii), that will cause bulbs to decay.
Fusarium is a soil-borne organism. It is especially injurious
at high temperatures, and that is one reason that it causes
so much damage in south Louisiana. The more the available nitrogen
present a the soil, the more likely the bulbs are to be damaged
by basal rot. As has been mentioned before, there is some varietal
difference in susceptibility to the organism. Only sound bulbs
should be planted. There are a number of treatments that have
been used to help control the disease, but only two will be
mentioned here. One is to dip the bulbs for five minutes in
a mixture of one-fourth pound of "2 percent Ceresan"
in 2 gallons of water, then let dry and plant as quickly as
possible. The other is to treat for five to ten minutes in a
solution of one-eight ounce of P.M.A. (phenyl mercuric acetate)
in 2 gallons of water. The material should be made into a paste
with hot water and dissolved in water.
Another disease that is found on all the Narcissus group is
mosaic. This is caused by a virus. Plants infected with this
virus have leaves that are not clear green in color but are
mottled or spotted. The whole plant contains the virus, and
there is no control of the disease in the infected plants except
to destroy them. It is probably spread by insects such as aphids.
If they are controlled it will help prevent the spread of the
disease. This disease is likely to be found rather generally.
Plants with a mild form of the disease have been observed to
live and flower very well in yards for years.
There are numerous other diseases that are important in commercial
bulb producing areas but they will not be considered here.
There are not many serious insect pests of the daffodil that
the home gardener is likely to have to contend with. There are
two that will be mentioned. They are both chewing insects and
may cause serious damage to the foliage usually rather late
in the season. Such loss of foliage is injurious to the next
year's plant. One of these insects is the zebra caterpillar,
which is also very injurious to amaryllis. When small they can
be found in compact groups. They are voracious feeders and grow
to be rather large "worms. If not controlled they can eat
a lot of foliage in a relatively short time. In late spring,
plants should be inspected frequently and the larvae destroyed
as soon as possible after they are hatched. The longer the delay
the more they will eat. The recommended control is to use a
5 per cent or 10 per cent D.D.T. dust, or spray with 1 ounce
of 50 per cent D.D.T. wettable powder per gallon of water, if
they are found when they are small and in rather compact groups,
an easy method of control is to mash them by tramping on them.
(An update: A very safe-to-use Bacillus thuriengensis containing
product such as Dipel, Thuricide or Biological Worm Killer will
control these hornworms or any foliage eating caterpillar.)
Another insect that cats the foliage is the lubber which, when
grown, develops into a very large black grasshopper. They also
occur in o1oups and are heavy feeders. The smaller they are
when they are destroyed, the less the damage to the plants.
Chlordane used at the rate of 1 tablespoon of 50 per cent wettable
or emulsifiable material per gallon of water should control
these insects. Sometimes it is easier to mash them than to poison
them. (An update: A very safe-to-use product named Spinosad
will control these grasshoppers and foliage-eating beetles very
well. Read and Follow label instructions.)
For more information about bulbs, see:
ACKNOWLEGEMENT - Appreciation is expressed to Mr. Jam DeGraaff
Oregon Bulb Farms and to Dr. J. M. Jenkins, Jr., Horticulturist
Charge, Vegetable Research Laboratory, Wilmington, North Carolina
contributing some of the bulbs used in the variety trials.