Narcissus

With smart planting you can enjoy this flower's blooms for a month.


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If you plant only one bulb in your garden, it should be the cheery narcissus, shown blooming alongside the emerging foliage of hostas. Stunningly simple and fresh, and nearly always successful, the narcissus has both early and late-blooming varieties.

By planting both early and late-blooming types, each sustaining blooms for 2 weeks, you'll enjoy a full month of bloom in the yard and in spring bouquets. Because of the wide variety of sizes, the narcissus is ideal in rock gardens, borders and beds, and woodlands.

As many as 26 narcissus species exist, and these lovely beauties go by several names, such as daffodil and jonquil. The narcissus bloom has a trumpet-shaped corona, or cup, surrounded by six petals. The trumpet color often differs from the petal color, which gives the narcissus its perky appearance. Colors range from ivory through shades of yellow to orange. Varieties sold as "pink" are usually apricot in color.

Learn more about other beautiful bulbs, including:

The narcissus family is divided into 11 classifications based on the flower characteristics and color. Because many catalog and garden centers also follow these categories, they'll be helpful in selecting the varieties for your garden. Narcissus grows in Zones 3-9.

Trumpet narcissus: Aptly named, trumpet narcissus has a trumpetlike corona (or cup) that extends to a length equal to or longer than the petals that surround it. Growing 16 to 20 inches tall, each stem bears one flower. A striking bicolor variey is the white-petaled, yellow-trumpeted 'Foresight.' All-yellow varieties include 'Unsurpassable' and 'King Alfred,' a favorite in Victorian gardens. For an all-white trumpet daffodil, try 'Mt. Hood' or 'Beersheba.'

Large-cupped narcissus: Named for its large cup, which is more than one-third the length of the petals surrounding it, this narcissus has flowers with a corona just a bit shorter than that of a trumpet narcissus. The large-cupped group generally grows about 14 to 20 inches tall and bears one flower per stem. There are wonderful mix-and-match color combinations in this group: 'Amor' is a tricolor beauty with white petals and a showy yellow trumpet rimmed with vivid orange. An unusual and subtle narcissus is the pale pink 'Salome.' An excellent naturalizer, the all-yellow 'Carlton' epitomizes spring when it blooms along a stream or in a woodland.

Small-cupped narcissus: The small-cupped narcissus has a corona that is less than one-third the length of the petals surrounding it. These smaller-cupped versions come in all the same colors as their larger-cupped cousins and grow to heights of about 14 inches. Try the white-petaled, orange-red-cupped 'Barrett Browning' or the yellow-petaled, orange-cupped 'Birma.'

Double narcissus: Unlike the trumpeted narcissus, the double varieties have profusely ruffled centers with several layers of petals. Growing 14 to 18 inches tall, the double narcissus is extraordinary as a cut flower. 'Texas' is a striking yellow-and-orange bicolor.

Split-corona narcissus: Sometimes called butterfly narcissus, this plant has lovely and unusual blooms. The cup is split and spread open to resemble a butterfly. Flower colors include yellow, white, and orange; the bulbs are often sold in assortments of mixed colors. This exotic narcissus brightens any spring garden and is good for cutting. Popular varieties include the bright yellow 'Cassata' and the orange-and-white 'Orangerie.'

Triandrus narcissus: Blooming late in the spring, triandrus narcissus is smaller, growing 9 to 14 inches. Gently nodding blossoms make attractive clumps of bloom. Try the white, orchidlike 'Thalia' or the lemony 'Hawera.' This narcissus is superb as a forced bulb because of its small size and clustered form.

Cyclamineus narcissus: Small, yet sturdy, these daffodils are among the first to bloom. They stand up remarkably well to bad weather. Their petite size -- 6 to 10 inches tall -- makes them ideal for rock gardens and front-of-the-border showcasing. The flowers differ slightly from other narcissus because the petals are curved backward, making them look perpetually windswept. Popular varieties include the white-and-yellow 'Beryl' and two vibrant yellows, 'Peeping Tom' and 'February Gold.' The golden-yellow 'Tete-a-Tete' is spectacular paired with neon-blue muscari.

Jonquilla narcissus: The fragrant, small-cupped flowers of Narcissus jonquilla are borne on small stems surrounded by reedlike foliage. Stems reach no taller than 12 inches and are covered with clusters of two to six small blooms. Try the yellow varieties 'Sweetness' and 'Baby Moon. 'Trevithian' is slightly taller and excels as a cut flower.

Tazetta narcissus: The oldest narcissus in cultivation, tazetta narcissus is also a prolific bloomer. Each stem produces a cluster of four to eight perfectly shaped flowers. Long and slender stems grow to 18 inches tall. Sweetly fragrant, tazetta narcissus is a good naturalizer and the most common choice for forcing. Plant the white-petaled, bright orange trumpet blooms of 'Geranium' in your garden along a walkway or clustered beneath a tree. Bring the extraordinary bloom and fragrance of narcissus indoors to brighten the grayness of winter by forcing paperwhite narcissus or 'Soleil d'Or.'

Poeticus narcissus: If you like a narcissus with broad petals and small, delicate trumpets, this is the type for you. Poeticus narcissus has white petals with a small eye of varying colors. 'Actaea' is a popular variety with a striking yellow eye rimmed with a ruffle of red. All blooms of this type of narcissus are very fragrant and are borne on long, elegant stems that reach 18 inches tall, which makes them a premium flower for spring bouquets.

Species and wild narcissus

Canaliculatus: The smallest of the dwarf species narcissus, this has white petals with a bright, sunny-yellow trumpet.

Obvallaris: A golden dwarf narcissus, it loves to naturalize.

Location: Full sun to part shade When to plant: Fall General Instuctions: Narcissus does best in well-drained soil. Before planting your bulbs in the fall, improve the soil fertility and drainage with organic matter such as composted manure and sphagnum peat moss. Plant narcissus bulbs 4 to 6 inches deep, leaving 3 to 6 inches between bulbs. In warm-winter climates, you must precool bulbs before planting to ensure optimum bloom. As with most spring-blooming bulbs, allow the leaves to die back before clipping. Daffodils are poisonous and, therefore, are impervious to rodent damage.

Naturalizing daffodils: Instead of limiting bulbs to beds and borders, scatter clumps of daffodils under shrubs, around trees, and in the lawn. This process, called naturalizing, uses natural surroundings as a backdrop for bulb bloom. Eager to spread, daffodils will multiply in your landscape, re-creating their original growth in the wild.

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