When To Plant Daffodil Bulbs In The UK


The sunny yellow trumpets of daffodils are a welcoming sign that spring has arrived, brightening our gardens and grass verges up and down the UK.

Daffodils are one of the most popular and easiest bulbs to grow here in the UK, that come in a range of heights and although the most common colour is bright yellow, pink and white varieties are available.

If you wish to plant daffodils to give your garden some colour next spring, plant them from September to December, before the first frost. Preferably plant your daffodil bulbs by the end of September as this will give your bulbs a head start as your soil in the garden is still warm, and if planting in pots, the new compost will be warmed by the autumn sunshine.

How To Buy Daffodil Bulbs?

Daffodil bulbs

Daffodil bulbs have a long dormant period, requiring little attention for much of the year. When buying daffodil bulbs check they’re healthy and as fresh as possible, or your efforts of planting may be in vain.

Avoid bulbs that are damaged, feel soft or that are shrivelled. Go for plumb and firm bulbs, and aim to plant them within a week of purchasing or they will start to sprout.

Where possible, check that the bulbs have been obtained from a reputable grower, rather than from stock that has been retrieved from the wild.

Where To Plant Daffodil Bulbs?

Spring bulbs in border

Chose daffodil bulbs according to the location and soil type of your garden.

Most hardy spring bulbs originate from the Mediterranean, that thrive in a warm, sunny climate in a freely draining soil.

Good drainage and plenty of sunshine is key, as most spring bulbs are prone to rot while dormant.

Avoid planting bulbs in total shade and in close proximity to a south-facing wall where the soil temperature is likely to become uncomfortably hot for the bulbs.

Herbaceous Border

Planting daffodil bulbs in a herbaceous border will help fill gaps and provide early colour in your garden before your perennials and shrubs start to spring into action again. Drifts of single colour daffodils can be planted to blend in with the general scheme of your garden or try mixing different varieties of daffodils to create a striking effect of bright colours.

Formal Planting

When planted en masse, daffodil bulbs make a valuable contribution to formal bedding displays. Try growing groups of early-flowering daffodils in a bed which will be occupied by annuals later in the summer. As a general rule, the larger, showy varieties are better suited to a formal position in the garden.

Naturalising Daffodils

Dwarf daffodils can transform a dull-looking lawn into a wonderful display of colour. To achieve a natural look, throw bulbs up in the air and plant them exactly where they land in the grass. The aim is to make it look as though they have decided to grow there by themselves. Allow plants to die down after flowering before mowing over the lawn. Alternatively, plant daffodils in defined areas so that it’s possible to mow the lawn around them.

How To Plant Daffodil Bulbs?


Planting In The Ground

Plant daffodil bulbs 3 times the size of the bulb below the surface of the soil (the root system should also pull the bulb down further down into the soil). Space the bulbs 4-8in (10-20cm) apart.

For miniature daffodils, plant at twice the size of the bulb and 3-5in (8-12cm) apart.

Planting In Pots

If you wish to plant daffodil bulbs in a pot make sure it has adequate drainage. Place pieces of broken pots or stones at the bottom of the pot to assist with free drainage and air circulation.

Plant the bulbs in multi-purpose compost, water thoroughly and leave in a cool place until leaves appear.

When planting daffodil bulbs in a pot, they can be planted much closer together, but make sure they don’t touch each other and the sides of the container.

Bulbs can be planted with the latest flowering bloom at the bottom. During the winter protect from severe frost by taking them inside or covering with bubble-wrap.

Do Daffodils Have A Fragrance?

Not only do daffodils brighten up your garden in the spring but they can also be very fragrant. 

There are over 30 varieties of daffodils that have been awarded the Award of Garden Merit (AGM) by Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) and that are noted for their fragrance. Such varieties include ‘Cheerfulness’, ‘Minnow’ and ‘Bridal Crown’.

Do Daffodils Bulbs Multiply?

Daffodils multiply both by bulb and seed. Bulbs will produce flowers in two years, and seeds in three to five years. New Bulbs naturally sprout from the bottom and sides of the main bulb.

Dividing Bulbs

Divide daffodil bulbs in late spring or early autumn, if they seem crowded, or if they have stopped blooming.

Lift the bulbs and gently separate the new bulbs from the main bulb at the bottom end, use a sharp knife if needed. Store the bulbs in a cool, dry place until you are ready to plant them in the autumn.

Are Daffodils Poisonous?

Daffodils contain a toxic chemical called lycorine. The part of the plant that contains the highest concentration of the chemical is the bulb. If ingested it is rarely fatal, it can cause dizziness, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhoea that usually lasts around 3 hours.

Ingestion of the chemical appears to be one of the most common causes of accidental poisoning here in the UK, with daffodil bulbs getting confused with onions.

So it’s a good idea to keep any bulbs away from children and pets, but daffodils are deterrent for keeping squirrels from eating other bulbs as daffodils are poisonous to them as well.

Do Daffodils Come Back Every Year?

Daffodils are dependable perennials that will return year after year if given the proper care.

Feed your daffodils when they are in flower and water them if no rain is forecast. Blood, bone and fishmeal generously scatted around each clump will be greatly appreciated too.

Why Are My Daffodils Not Flowering?

Daffodil in bud

The main reason for daffodils not blooming next spring is “daffodil blindness” and the main culprit for causing this is an impatient gardener removing the leaves too prematurely the previous year or if they were hit by a late frost. Daffodils cannot replenish their energy reserves if they are cut back too early. The leaves need to be allowed to die back naturally for as long as possible before cutting the foliage back.

Don’t tie up the foliage once flowering has finished either, many gardeners do this to tidy up their appearance but this also interrupts the plant’s process of storing energy for next year’s blooms. If untidy daffodils bother that much, lift the bulbs and plant them in unused pots or another part of the garden until they have died back completely.

Other reasons for “daffodil blindness”:

  • Overcrowding
  • Shallow planting
  • Allowing seed heads to form
  • Lack of nutrients in the soil

If you have a large clump of blind daffodils then it is more than likely that they are overcrowded. Lift the bulbs and re-plant them 4 to 8 inches apart.

Can You Deadhead Daffodils?

It is a good idea to deadhead daffodils once their blooms are spent as this prevents them from wasting energy forming seeds, energy that can be used to build up the bulb for next year’s show of flowers.

Why Are My Daffodils Drooping?

If your daffodils look healthy and have no signs of disease on them, then there are a few reasons why your daffodils are drooping. They can be blown over by strong winds or if we have heavy rain, the rain can make the leaves and flowers droop.

The main culprit though for your plants falling over is because of shallow planting. Usually, when you buy bulbs, the packet tells you how deep to plant or use our rule of thumb, 4 to 8-inch depth for standard size daffodils and 3 to 5 inches for miniature varieties.

Do Daffodils Attract Bees?

It is assumed that sometime in the distant past daffodils were pollinated by insects, most probably bees. But like most flowers that have been highly manipulated by plant breeders, daffodils are no longer particularly attractive to insects.

Daffodil Facts

Daffodils planted in a Volkswagen Beetle
  • The daffodil is the national flower of Wales, and is worn on St David’s Day (March 1st), and is known as “Peter’s leek”.
  • If you spot the first daffodil of the season in Wales, your next year will supposedly be filled with wealth.
  • The daffodil is the flower of March and symbol of 10th wedding anniversary.
  • A bunch of daffodils offered as a gift ensures happiness and represents good fortune, while a single daffodil predicts misfortune.
  • Daffodils were a symbol of chivalry during Victorian times. They are a symbol of hope today.
  • Keepers of poultry believe that daffodils prevent hens from laying eggs, and they avoid planting of daffodils on their farms.
  • Florists can develop an allergic reaction on the skin called “daffodil itch” after preparing floral arrangements made of daffodils.
  • Due to toxic sap in the stem, daffodil should not be kept in the vase with other plants (it is harmful to them). If you wish to mix daffodils with other cut flowers, soak them for 24 hours before arranging with other flowers.
  • The Latin name for daffodils is narcissus. They got this name from a Greek myth about a handsome young man named Narcissus. He was given his great beauty by the gods, with the condition that he never looked at a reflection of himself. Eventually, he couldn’t resist and gazed at himself in a shimmering lake. The gods turned him into a daffodil for his vanity.
  • The first record of cultivated daffodils was around 200 or 300 B.C. They were widely grown for their ornamental value by the ancient Greeks and Romans but fell out of favour over time. It’s said that around 1629, a group of Englishmen reintroduced daffodils to the gardening world.
  • Ancient Romans believed that sap extracted from the flowers possesses healing properties.
  • The UK is the largest producer of cut daffodils, most daffodils are produced for the home market, but an ever-increasing amount are exported to Holland for distribution around Europe and by air to America and Canada.