February plant of the moment

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Daffodils

This month look out for early daffodils starting to bloom in your garden. Often considered one of the heralds of spring, daffodils are planted in borders and containers in autumn and spend several months developing roots before typically starting to flower from February to May.

Giving your daffodils a good start at planting time will give you the best display throughout the spring. If your soil is compacted break it up with a garden fork and work in plenty of organic matter such as well-rotted manure or compost. Daffodils like a moist but free-draining soil. Choose a sunny or semi-shaded spot that gets at least three hours of sun per day, as daffodils won't flower in heavy shade. If flowering is poor you can top-dress the soil around your daffodils with a slow-release bulb fertiliser each spring. Simply sprinkle the fertiliser around the soil at the base of the leaves.

Plant your daffodil bulbs with the pointed end facing upwards at a depth of about 10cm. Deep planting is important to prevent the bulbs dividing and producing lots of small bulbs which won’t flower. Space them about two bulb-widths apart.

Growing daffodils in containers is great for bringing colour to your patio in the spring. The same rules apply as for planting in the ground, but when you’re growing daffodils in pots, you can place them much closer together to create a fuller display. Space them about one bulb-width apart. For long term displays it’s a good idea to use John Innes No. 2 or 3 compost rather than multi-purpose compost.
 

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Top tips

  • Daffodils are well suited to naturalising in areas of lawn or rough grass. When planting in grass, try not to lay out the bulbs too neatly as this spoils the natural effect. Cast the bulbs over the surface of the lawn and plant them where they land, using a bulb planter to remove a core of turf before placing the bulb inside and covering back over. Avoid mowing these areas of grass until June or July, to allow the foliage to die down and build the bulb up for next year.
  • Arranging daffodils in a vase indoors is a great way to brighten up a room. However, bear in mind that daffodils secrete a damaging substance to other flowers when they share the same water.
  • If you don’t use your daffodils for cut flowers it's a good idea to deadhead them once their flowers fade. This prevents the plants wasting energy forming seeds – this energy is better used building up the bulb for the following year.
  • Other gardeners may advise you to tie up daffodil foliage once flowering is finished, to neaten up their appearance. Don’t be tempted to do this as it interrupts the plant’s process of storing energy for next year’s flowers and may result in daffodil blindness, where the daffodils come up the following year with foliage but no flowers.

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