1 June 2005
Virginia Cooperative Extension, Charlottesville/Albemarle County Office
460 Stagecoach Road, Charlottesville, Virginia 22902
phone: 434.872.4580 fax: 434.872.4578
One of our most popular spring plants, the daffodils, have finished their flowering season for the most part and are now storing energy for the blooms next year. That is why we leave the green leaves on these plants long after the colorful flowers have fallen off. You may ask yourself why you should be concerned with daffodils so soon after the blooms have passed. The answer is two-fold, renovation and propagation.
There comes a time when you will want to dig these daffodils up either because they are growing crowded as they multiply and/or have stopped flowering as much as they once did, or maybe you want to share your favorite varieties with friends, or maybe simply because you want to relocate these plants as you get in touch with your inner landscape designer. Any way you cut it division is a good idea every four to five years to keep daffodils blooming. It is nice to do it early enough in the year that you still have some leaves attached so you can locate the bulbs and dig without damaging them.
Ideally you want to start with their new location by digging holes. Do not forget to have some extra soil on hand to fill in the old holes. Daffodils can be planted in many different places in the landscape. Including them in your perennial borders gives some early color to the area. Setting them against a backdrop to show off the blooms is a nice idea as well. You might want to plant something in front of the daffodils that fills in soon after they bloom to hide the leaves as they go from green to yellow to brown. Straight lines of daffodils are less appealing than random and mass plantings. Try throwing the bulbs into an area and plant them where they land. In general they should be planted four to five inches deep and six to eight inches apart so they can spread out.
To begin the division start by digging around the outside of a clump, loosening and lifting, until the whole thing is free. Separating the bulbs from each other may be simple as they fall apart or they may be intertwined in smaller clumps. It is not important to separate each bulb at the expense of tearing roots so you can leave some joined together. If you have more patience and determination you can hose off the dirt and disentangle the whole lot. Throw away any that appear to be damaged or diseased. Plant the tiny bulblets in a safe place for a year until they are big enough to flower and then move them in with the rest.
The smaller clumps and individual bulbs can be planted in your new holes and watered well to help them get established. Wait to fertilize them until the fall. A standard complete fertilizer (something like 10-10-10) well watered in will do fine. You can also fertilize them again in the spring as they break ground but make sure it is watered in again.
An additional reason for thinking about daffodils at this time of year is you may find a bargain or two out there in catalog/web site land for ordering your fall planted bulbs before the busy season begins in July and August.
There are hundreds of varieties to choose from with more being introduced each year. There are some pricey bulbs that make nice specimens for a choice spot but if you are planning to plant a sea of them the inexpensive varieties work as well. For the connoisseur of daffodils the large number of varieties are divided into divisions and subdivisions separated by things such as the number of flowers per stem, the length of the corona, the size of the cup, etc. If this is interesting to you I suggest you check out the American Daffodil Society (http://daffodilusa.org/) for more information.
For more information about landscape topics contact your local Virginia Cooperative Extension office. Many county Extension offices have a help desk that is staffed by Master Gardener volunteers. These volunteers are trained to answer questions about home and landscape pest problems. The local Virginia Cooperative Extension office numbers are Albemarle 872-4580, Fluvanna 591-1950, Greene 985-5236, Louisa 540-967-3422, and Nelson 263-4035.
On June 11 our Through the Garden Gate series of visits to informal local gardens continues with a visit to the home of Carol & Bernard Tautkus in Charlottesville. Please call 872-4580 for more information and directions.