As captivating as they are, it’s no wonder we’d all want more daffodils in our yards. They’re beautiful, come in a wide array of colors, and are pest-proof! However, is the only way to get more of these fabulous flowers by buying more bulbs to plant? Or do daffodils spread all on their own?
Will Daffodils Spread?
Anyone who has ever planted a spreading plant, like lily-of-the-valley or creeping phlox, will know that these plants require little to no help in multiplying throughout our landscapes. In fact, they’re so good at it, our concern is more often not about how to get more of them, but how to keep them contained. So, while it can be a headache for those flowers you may not want more of, it’s understandably desirable for those blooms you just can’t get enough of - like daffodils.
Unfortunately, the spreading habits of daffodils aren’t exactly the same as those famous multiplying masters expanding to the furthest reaches of our gardens. However, this doesn’t mean they won’t multiply at all. In fact, daffodils can actually multiply in 2 different ways.
The first way that daffodils can multiply is through seed production. If properly pollinated, daffodils will grow seeds in the seed pods behind their petals, which can be replanted to grow into the beautiful flowers we know and love. However, this rarely happens in its own. Daffodil pollen is too heavy to be windblown, and there isn’t nectar to attract pollinating insects. Most pollination would have to happen by hand. And then from seed to first bloom can take 5 - 7 years! So, if you want to hand pollinate, you’ll need to be patient.
The second way that daffodils can multiply is through bulb division. This is when new bulbs form from the original bulb, forming a “daughter” bulb underground. Still attached to the same main bulb they came from, these new bulbs will not conventionally spread throughout the garden as other spreading flowers might. Instead, they will just continue to bloom with more foliage and flowers in the same clump. However, they can be spread around the garden with a little help from us in the form of dividing and transplanting.
Divide and Conquer?
While entirely possible and a great way to disperse more daffodils throughout your yard, dividing your daffodils is not usually necessary. But as daffodils continue to multiply, some gardeners may notice they aren’t blooming with their regular enthusiasm or that they have stopped altogether. This can be a sign of overcrowding and most gardeners feel it’s time to dig and divide. When in actuality, it’s not necessary.
The “crowded” bulbs are competing for food and there’s just not enough to go around! So, by feeding well every Fall, you can save your time and your back! Feeding the bed with a 2” - 3” layer of compost every Fall will do the trick! Why compost? It’s perfect! You can’t overdo it or risk burning or over stimulating the bulbs. Chemical fertilizers are like sugary, caffeine-filled sodas, whereas compost is like eating an orange or a banana.
But, if you’re a purist and feel that digging and dividing would be best, here’s the 4-1-1 on how to do that. According to a University study, the best time to divide your daffodil bulbs is 8 weeks after the blooms have finished, or as the foliage begins to yellow. Start by using a shovel or garden fork and gently dig around the bulb cluster - being careful not to damage it - and lift it out of the soil. Once you’ve got it out of the ground, gently shake off and remove any excess soil to get a clear view of where the individual bulbs lie.
To begin dividing, simply grab one of the new bulbs and gently twist and pull it away from the main bulb. If it continues to cling, even with a little encouragement, don’t try to force it. Stubborn bulbs may not be ready to let go just yet. Leave them for another year or two, and you could end up with stronger, healthier bulbs to work with overall!
Once your bulbs are divided, take a moment to go through them all and toss away any that feel soft or mushy to the touch. With your healthy, happy bulbs in-hand, you can get straight to transplanting!
Storing Daffodil Bulbs
As spring-bloomers, daffodil bulbs are typically best planted in fall. So, if you’d prefer to stick to that and store them until then for replanting, here’s how:
Air circulation is a must! So, start by laying out your bulbs on some screen or in mesh bags in a dry, shady area. Then, dust off any excess soil and trim off the dead stems. Then, store them in a warm, dark, and dry place for the Summer and you’ll be all set to go until planting in Fall.
While daffodils may not spread out to span the furthest reaches of your garden all on their own, we can certainly take advantage of their natural ability to multiply to bring their beautiful blooms to every corner of our beds. With a little dividing and transplanting, we’ll have no trouble spreading their sunshiney aesthetic throughout our landscapes. All it takes is a little work for a whole lot of impact!
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