Yard and Garden: Proper Timing, Planting and Care for Daffodil Cultivars



AMES, Iowa –Fall can be a great time to plant multiple types of spring-flowering bulbs, and daffodils are an excellent choice. However, several steps must be followed to ensure their success in spring. What needs to be done?

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach horticulturists can help answer questions about the right time and methods to plant daffodils. To have additional questions answered, contact the ISU Hortline at 515-294-3108 or hortline@iastate.edu.

What would be a good planting site for daffodils?

Daffodils perform best in areas that receive at least six hours of direct sun per day. They also need well-drained, fertile soils. Daffodils may stop blooming within a few years in shady locations. The bulbs may rot in wet, poorly drained sites.

When is the best time to plant daffodils?

October is the ideal time to plant daffodils, tulips and other spring-flowering bulbs in Iowa.  When planted in October, spring-flowering bulbs have time to develop a good root system before the ground freezes in winter. If weather permits, daffodils and other spring-flowering bulbs can be planted as late as late November.

How deep should daffodils be planted?

The planting depth for daffodils is approximately three times the height of the bulb. Most daffodils should be planted 6 to 8 inches deep and 6 inches apart. Small cultivars, such as ‘Tête-à-Tête,’ should be planted 4 to 6 inches deep and 4 inches apart. Plant five or more bulbs of the same cultivar in an area to achieve the greatest visual impact in the garden.

What are some good daffodil cultivars for Iowa? 

There are several thousand daffodil cultivars. Suggested cultivars for Iowa include the following:
‘Barrett Browning’ (small cup daffodil, white petals, orange-red cup), ‘Bravoure’ (trumpet daffodil, white petals, long yellow “stove pipe “cup), ‘Carlton’ (large cup daffodil, yellow petals, golden yellow cup, excellent long term perennial), ‘Ceylon’ (large cup daffodil, golden yellow petals, orange cup, excellent perennial), ‘Cheerfulness’ (double daffodil, creamy white flowers with yellow flecked centers, two to three flowers per stem), ‘Delibes’ (large cup daffodil, yellow petals, yellow-orange cup with a bright orange rim, excellent perennial), ‘Dutch Master’ (trumpet daffodil, medium yellow petals and cup, excellent perennial, forces well).

‘Geranium’ (tazetta daffodil, creamy white petals, orange cup, up to six flowers per stem, sweetly fragrant), ‘Ice Follies’ (large cup daffodil, white petals, yellow cup fades to creamy white, excellent perennial, multiples rapidly, forces well), ‘Jetfire’ (cyclamineus daffodil, yellow reflexed petals, orange cup, forces well), ‘Last Vegas’ (trumpet daffodil, creamy white petals, yellow cup, excellent perennial), ‘Mount Hood’ (trumpet daffodil, white petals, creamy yellow cup fades to white), ‘Tête-à-Tête’ (miniature daffodil, yellow petals, yellow-orange cup, two to three flowers per stem, 6 to 8 inches fall, forces well), and ‘Thalia’ (triandrus daffodil, pure white flowers, two to three flowers per stem). 

Is it necessary to water newly planted daffodil bulbs?

If the weather in fall is dry, water newly planted daffodil bulbs every seven to 10 days to promote rooting. Continue watering until the ground freezes in winter.