Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing, but can that really apply to something as delightful as a daffodil? Well, it depends on who you ask and what you want in your lawn. There’s no denying that these little bursts have a way of getting around.
That doesn’t mean that they are some of the fastest-spreading flowers out there. On the contrary, there are many species that can spread seeds or pollen and can populate your whole garden with their offspring – whether you want them to or not.
But that’s part of what makes daffodils so fantastic.
They are both adept enough at spreading to give you a garden full of golden daffodil petals if that’s what you want.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at daffodils – what makes them stand out among other flowers, how to grow them, and how you can stymie or boost the spread according to your tastes.
The scientific name for a daffodil is pretty commonly used – Narcissus. It is a bulbous perennial, meaning that its bulbs grow year after year, so whether or not you want them to spread, once you get daffodils established in your lawn and garden, their chances for doing so year in and year out go up greatly.
Daffodils come from Western Europe and especially flourish in countries such as Portugal and Spain.
We’ll talk about the particularities of soil and sun exposure a bit more later, but for now suffice it to say that you need a fair amount of sunlight to grow your daffodils, and that they likewise do best in rich, moist dirt. In addition, that soil needs to be slightly acidic.
There are hundreds of different types of daffodils, from trumpets and large and small-cupped varieties to triandruscyclamineus, poeticus, tazetta, and many more.
To answer the big question here, yes, daffodils do spread and can do so both sexually and asexually.
Sexual spread gives us a fancy way of saying that daffodils produce seeds and pollen, and that these in turn are blown away or planted elsewhere, giving rise to new flowers.
Asexual spread refers to the same bulb dividing and “cloning” itself into different forms. This division usually takes place after about three to five years, after which time the soil starts to become sapped of its nutrients and the plant must spread elsewhere.
How to Grow Daffodils
With all of that in mind, let’s take a deeper look into what makes daffodils grow and spread.
For starters, you want to plant your daffodils at least twice as deep as they are wide so as to give them enough room to grow out their roots as they grow upward.
First, you’ll want to consider the delicate lighting balance. Daffodils thrive in sunlight, but as with many flowers like them, too much too often and they’ll dry out, so make sure they have at least partial shade as well.
In terms of soil, as stated, it needs to be mildly acidic, ideally between 6.0 and 7.0 on the pH scale. As with many similar flowers, daffodils are quite adept at pulling up water from the soil, which means that you don’t want to overwater them. You thus need to make sure that your daffodils have good drainage, or they can become waterlogged and the roots can rot.
Speaking of water, daffodils are thirstiest in spring, which is incidentally the best time for them to spread.
In terms of climate and temperature, while most daffodils can benefit from a bit of a cool spell, most of the time they should enjoy a warm and relatively humid climate.
Finally, daffodils are pretty easy to fertilize, so you shouldn’t have to worry about purchasing any special kind of fertilizer, regular soil should do. That said, if your soil is poor or you want to kick start its spread, you may want to invest in a very light fertilizer, placing that in the soil first when you plant the seeds and again when they start to flower.
How to Encourage Their Spread
The best way to encourage the spread of daffodils is, unsurprisingly, to enhance either mode of reproduction. If you want to boost the way in which they multiply by asexual reproduction, for example, you should get ready to take cuttings as the bulbs start to divide and planting them as needed.
Of course, this is pretty time-consuming, which is why you are more likely to be interested in allowing your daffodils to spread naturally. Doing this means doing everything possible to enhance the opportunities for your daffodils’ seeds and pollen to blow and for them to settle in areas that are fertile and thus ready to grow new flowers.
That being said, daffodils have some limitations that are not present in other flowers. For example, daffodils’ pollen is much heavier than that of flowers that rely on this as the main method of spreading and reproducing themselves. As such, you cannot count on the pollen to travel far, so if you’re thinking that a simple burst of wind come springtime will blow your daffodils’ pollen to fertile ground all around your yard, think again.
Maybe you think that bees buzzing around your backyard can help the way they do with other flowers. Unfortunately (or fortunately, if you wish to control the spread), daffodils do not have nectar to attract them, so that’s off the table.
Then there’s the fact that daffodils can take much longer – months or even years – from the time they are first planted to when they come into their own.
Spreading daffodils across your yard this way, therefore, means waiting far longer than most of us are willing to, which in turn means this probably isn’t the first method you want to choose if quick spread is your objective.
Instead, as mentioned, you’ll need to help the bulbs along yourself with a little bulb division. We have already discussed how this works, but you can help the process along.
Once you have divided the bulbs or allowed this process to carry out naturally, you’ll want to dig a hole in which to plant it and let it grow. As with the holes for your initial daffodils, you’ll want to make sure that they are big enough to accommodate them, which means digging them at least two to three times bigger than the size of the bulb itself.
Once you have done that, you’ll be ready to transplant the daffodil bulb into the hole. Make sure that the bulb itself remains below the soil line when you start to fill it back in.
How to Slow Their Spread
On the other hand, maybe you’ve decided that you have enough daffodils already and don’t want them to spread any further. If so, you’ll basically want to do the reverse of a lot of what has been advocated for in the previous sections.
For example, you’ll want to refrain from transplanting bulbs and planting them yourself. This is pretty easy to do, but hey, it is something you choose to do, after all, and thus you could just as easily decide you don’t wish to help your daffodil’s growth.
Instead, you’ll want to place the emphasis on your daffodil’s pollen to pollinate your yard naturally. However, as mentioned above, because its pollen is much heavier than other flowers, daffodils’ range is quite limited, thus effectively limiting the spread of these flowers themselves.
Then there’s the tried and true method of simply not allowing your daffodil’s roots to expand too much. Many plants need their roots system to grow out to grow larger, and daffodils are no exception. Simply plant your daffodils in a place where they cannot spread out, and you will stymie first the growth of the daffodils and then how much they reproduce.
From there, you actually don’t have too much to worry about in terms of your daffodils spreading. Both of its primary means of doing so have already been covered, and alternative means, such as insects or animals carrying its pollen, have likewise been shown to not be a huge factor in how daffodils spread.
Simply put, daffodils are, by their very nature, more of a localized flower, and not one that you tend to have to worry about growing out of control.
That being said, you still want to keep an eye on your daffodil’s health. Even if you do successfully limit their spread, you don’t want to do so at the cost of your daffodil’s healthy bloom. Make sure that your daffodils remain a healthy bright color, and if discoloration appears, treat it immediately.
Daffodils are not great spreaders, so you don’t have to worry about them taking over your backyard. Conversely, if you do want to spread them around, you have work to do. Either way, they remain one of the great manageable, dependable, and perennially-beautiful flowers in gardens across the world.