One year my sister Mary wrote off for mixed daffodils advertised in the Sunday Paper by a reputable Atlanta nursery. She married and moved away to Florida soon after and Mama planted the bulbs to keep them from going to waste. They bloomed beautifully in the spring. The next fall she came back and dug as many as she could find. Mama didn't say a word about knowing daffodils suited to northwest Georgia not blooming well in Florida.
The next spring, almost as many daffodils as before came up and bloomed. Mama always said they'd gone to China and returned. Mary never mentioned whether her Daffodils bloomed or even if she ever planted the bulbs.
I've planted hundreds. Some are still here, still blooming. Some faded away after the first year.
There are any number of reasons daffodils decline.
(1) Cultivar. Some do better in the south than others. See #8.
Daffodil collage from a previous year.
There's an old trumpet Daffodil that blooms here, planted by my late SIL more than 40 years ago. I moved some of them when the clumps got crowded -- the ones I moved didn't like the sandy hill I planted them on.
Ice Follies is one of the best large cups that I plant when it comes to longevity.
Ice Follies, 2011
Some vendors sell a mixed bag labeled as 'for the South.' I've never ordered them. In the next post I'll address buying mixed bulbs and some other cultivars that I've found worth cultivating.
(2) Planting depth. Daffodils have roots that contract to pull them down in the soil. In sandy soil sometimes they pull themselves too deep and over time, stop blooming. Suggested planting depths on packages mean measured from the bottom of the bulb, not the tops.
(3) Drought. Sometimes they'll skip a year. I have some that I think are doing that, either from last year's drought in the fall or from lack of cold days when they were getting ready to come up and bloom last month during a warm spell.
(4) Some do better in shade, some in sun. Maybe they're just not happy. 'Hawera' is one that likes shade. It's an old jonquilla often found on plantations in North Florida.
(5) In poor soil, they might indeed need fertilizer. Timing is important. Fertilizing with high nitrogen fertilizer as they come up to bloom may cause blooms to blast. Fall fertilizing means that the bulbs have fertilizer available when roots beging to form for spring bloom. Fertilizing while they are in bloom may rot the bulbs.
Daylilies help hide fading Daffodil foliage, 2009
(6) The tops were cut off before they died back. Green tops after bloom form the next year's bloom. Wait until they turn yellow and fall over, which is not attractive at all but necessary to next year's bloom. I disguise those in flower beds with overseeded poppies and larkspur. If they're in a long bed near a walk, I put them behind daylilies whose emerging foliage hide the dying daffodil foliage, in the manner of the New York Botanical Garden's Daffodil and Daylily Walk? Where there is a large area of grass with daffodils for a daffodil hill on a slope, I just put construction tape and stakes around the area so He-Who-Mows recognizes that this area has to be left unmowed until the tops die. I plant with wide paths around and through the beds so it looks kempt.
Daffodil Hill, 2011
(7) Disease and/or insects are not frequent but possible.
Sometimes you just have daffodils that are cranky. I moved 'Minnow' twice and they bloomed once in several years. 'Rip Van Winkle' just plain never bloomed, great foliage every year though.
(8) Lack of cold hours during the winter. Many daffodils in their native climate live through cold winters and dry summers. In the deep south zone 8b, I can't guarantee either. We plant in a windswept area and give the best drainage we can.
(9) Overcrowding. Daffodils also sometimes decline when new bulbs form and they get overcrowded. Digging and replanting is obvious for that event.
The best thing about Daffodils is the fragrance, often not mentioned by writers. Some are more fragrant than others. Jonquillas are sweet; doubles like Tahiti are spicy. Individual preference here determines which a gardener prefers.
Are you a fan of Daffodils?