February 9, 2023

When to plant daffodil bulbs: Plan for spring flowers in the fall

 When to plant daffodil bulbs: Plan for spring flowers in the fall

Daffodils are among my favorite spring flowers. Those cheerful faces in various shades of yellow grin and bear it, even on the coldest of spring days. The flowers are easy to snip for a vase to bring that cheerfulness indoors. And, if you plant a variety with different bloom times, you can stretch out your daffodil season. Knowing when to plant daffodil bulbs (and when to order or buy them) is a good way to ensure you’ll have some flowers opening at a time of year when we’re all eager for signs of life in the garden. In this article, I’m going to share tips on when to plant daffodil bulbs, where to dig them into the garden, how far apart to space them, and a few other helpful tips.

One of the reasons I love daffodils is the squirrels don’t go near them. I live on a ravine and there is a regular squirrel party in my front and back gardens. Tulip bulbs are tasty snacks to discover, and the flowers are appealing to the neighborhood bunnies and deer. But plants in the Narcissus family are toxic to all animals, so are left unbothered.

Autumn is when to plant daffodil bulbs. Bins or bags of bulbs usually start to appear at the garden center in early September. If you think about it in the summer, you can order bulbs from a number of sources online that probably offer a great breadth of selection.

If you are in a store, make sure the bulbs are firm to the touch (don’t be afraid to give them a little squeeze), and not totally desiccated or moldy looking.

If you can’t plant your bulbs right away, store them in a cool, dry place until you’re ready to dig them in.

When to plant daffodil bulbs

Spring-flowering bulbs are planted in fall, as they need the cold of winter to come out of dormancy. Daffodil bulbs are hardy down to USDA zones 3 or 4 (average temperatures of -30 to -40°F or -34 to -40°C).

Planting daffodils can be done in September or October as the roots need some time to develop before the ground freezes. Planting too early during a warm fall can cause the bulbs to sprout—the soil temperature should be in and around 55 to 60°F (13 to 15.5°C). This usually isn’t a cause for too much concern, especially if it’s just leaves poking through. They may look a little rough after it gets cold again, but it’s just cosmetic. If flower buds appear above the soil line, add some mulch for protection.

With our milder autumns, depending on where you live, you could get away with planting daffodil bulbs closer to November. And if the snow does start to fly, and you have some bulbs kicking around, you can still try digging them into the ground if it hasn’t frozen yet. They’re pretty hardy.

Choose a spot that gets full sun and with well-draining soil. It’s sometimes recommended that you plant bulbs on a slope, but I’ve had success growing daffodils in my flat front garden. The soil is loose and the garden has good drainage. If a garden has poor drainage, the bulbs can rot if they’re sitting in too much water.

Planting daffodil bulbs

Generally a package will provide all the growing information you need, including depth, spacing, and timing. I find there are a couple of tools that make my job easier. One is a bulb planter, which works well when the soil is fairly friable. It usually has a ruler on the side, so you can place it in the ground to the correct depth and it pulls the soil out. Pop the bulb in the hole you created and then release that soil back in place from the tool. Easy peasy!

The bulb should be planted with the roots pointing downward and the neck of the bulb pointing upwards.

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