October plant of the month

October plant of the month

Daffodils

Nothing heralds the spring quite like daffodils. Their cheerful flower trumpets light up the gloom between February and May - after the snowdrops and before the tulips. If you plant them in the right spot they’ll come up year after year and now is the time to plant your daffodil bulbs for a glorious display next spring. Planting them by the end of October allows time for the roots to develop before any heavy frosts arrive.

Daffodils are very versatile and no matter how much space you have, you can enjoy these cheerful flowers. You can grow them in flowerbeds or in containers on a terrace or balcony. You can also plant them into an area of grass and leave them to naturalise to create large drifts of colour.

There are many different types of daffodils, characterised by their flower shape – made up of the trumpet, or corona, and the petals. Some have multiple flowerheads on one stem, eg. Narcissus ‘Tete-a-tete’, and some are scented, for example Narcissus ‘Paperwhite’. Daffodils come in shades of white and cream through to bright yellows and orange, so whether you want to make a bold and bright statement or prefer a more delicate and subtle display, there’s a daffodil for you. They like a position in sun or light shade in almost any fertile garden soil, except waterlogged or overly dry.

Unless you buy the daffodils already planted in a pot, they will come as bulbs. Check your bulbs all look healthy without any sign of disease or mould.

Plant your bulbs at least twice their depth in the soil, usually about 12-15cm deep and at least 5cm apart, using a hand trowel or bulb planter. Water the bulbs in well to help root development until the winter months, then leave them alone until the first shoots appear in spring. Water them during flowering months and deadhead spent flowers. Once flowering is over, let the leaves die back naturally in order to feed the bulb for the following year’s flowers.

Top tips:

  • You can grow some daffodils, like Paperwhites, in a pot indoors. This forces them to flower earlier and bring a lovely early spring scent into your home.
  • Don’t be tempted to cut back the leaves or tie them into a knot, which restricts food production for the bulb. It’s better to grow the daffodils among plants which will disguise the old, dying leaves – try Geranium Rozanne.
  • For a daffodil that naturalises well in short grass, try Narcissus 'Tete-a-tete’ or Narcissus ‘Minnow’. Let the leaves die back until they are straw coloured before cutting the grass.

Companion plants:

Goes well with:

  • Daffodils look beautiful planted underneath a spring flowering tree, for example Magnolia, Amelanchier or Apple.
  • Grasses, eg. Briza media
  • Chionodoxa
  • Helleborus
  • Primula vulgaris
  • Erythronium
  • Muscari
  • Hyacinth
  • Early and mid-season tulips

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