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How I Propagate & Plant Daffodil Bulbs

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I have made no secret of my affinity for daffodils on my blog.

In order to feature them even more prominently in my spring landscape, a few years ago I started planting daffodil bulbs in planters around my porch and driveway.

How I Began Experimenting with this Daffodil Planting Method: 

It started as an experiment: I wondered how I could get bold spring flowers in my driveway and sidewalk planters without having to plant, dig, and replant my planters throughout the season. So one year, as I was clearing out the summer Petunias before the first hard freeze of the fall, I decided to test a theory.  As I mulched the planters in preparation for adding winter greenery to planter boxes decorate the horse farm, I tucked daffodil bulbs into each planter- hoping for an effortless early spring surprise.

King Alfred Daffodils in a bouquet of cut flowers.

When spring came, it was clear this method was a success! Now, it’s an annual dramatic show when the dafodil bulbs burst into life and bloom in the planters.  I enjoy a beautiful flush of bright blooms in my planters before most gardeners even have a pansy out!

The challenge I faced the first year I tried this, though, was what to do with the daffodil bulbs when the blooms were done and I was ready to do spring planting. For maximum growth and health, daffodils should be allowed to grow, without being cut back, until they die back naturally in mid-summer. While many who plant daffodil bulbs in planters for spring blooms simply treat their bulbs like annuals and discard them after blooming, I’m too frugal for this approach.

Perhaps if I was using inexpensive generic daffodil bulbs I’d be keener on treating them as disposable, but since I’m a fan of cultivated varieties of daffodils, especially double daffodils and french flower daffodils,  I want to be able to enjoy the bulbs as an investment to enjoy year after year. So, a few years ago I decided to experiment with “over summering” my bulbs in an out of the way corner of the garden.

By burying the daffodil bulbs in mesh onion bags and letting their growing cycle continue, the bulbs mature, grow, and split over the summer. When spring comes, they are easy to pull up when it’s time to place them in planters in the fall. 

How to Propagate & Plant Potted Daffodil Bulbs

Acquire Healthy Bulbs

Start with quality, healthy daffodil bulbs, planted in your planters anytime before mid-February. Gardening gurus say to plant in the fall, but I’ve had great luck finding elegant cultivars of daffodils on eBay on clearance after Christmas when many garden centers clear out inventory cheap.

I like to plant my daffodils in early fall when I change out the summer flowers for Mums. Here’s a photo of mums companion planted with daffodil bulbs:

companion planting daffodils and mums

After blooming, lift with foliage intact.

Your container daffodils will come up and bloom in early spring. When they stop blooming, lift them by the root from your container one at a time. First, place one hand on the base of the foliage and with the other hand use a trowel to loosen the dirt underneath the bulb. Lift the bulb (foliage, roots, and all) gently and set it aside.

Group Bulbs and Place in Onion Bags

I cluster 6-12 plants together, depending on how big each bulb/plant it, and press the cluster gently together. Then, I  stretch a mesh produce bag over the roots and bulbs, making sure the plant settles in the bottom of the bag. (It is important that the upper portion of the bag remain above the soil line when planted)

[I don’t have photos of this part, but they should look like green onions in the sleeve of the onion bag, with bulbs at the bottom of the sock-shaped mesh bag]

Place Mesh Bags in a Trench

Once all my bulbs are in bags, I dig a trench in a sunny, out of the way spot of the garden and place the bags of bulbs in the trench at the same depth they were planted at before being dug. I then cover them with soil and water them deeply and often until they are re-established.

Thankfully, the cool temperatures and frequent rain of late spring make transplanting daffodils mid-season fairly painless for the plant.

Fertilize

Daffodils like to be fertilized, and transplanted daffodils particularly appreciate gentle feedings once they’ve perked up a bit in their new home in the garden.

Digging Daffodil Bulbs up in the Fall

Here’s a photo sequence of digging the bulbs back up in the fall.

In an out of the way corner of the garden, they’ve almost been overgrown by late summer. With greens naturally long-dormant by fall, the above ground portion of the brightly colored mesh onion bag is not only helpful o pulling the bulbs up- it’s necessary to find them! 

Daffodil bulbs in a mesh planting bag.

The nylon mesh onion bags are cheap and work great to make recovering the bulbs easy.

Daffodil bulbs in a mesh planting bag.

You can see from this photo that the bulbs have thrived. Each daffodil bulb set lots of new roots after being re-planted (evidenced by roots that reach through the mesh).

Most bulbs dug and replanted through this method propagate- allowing you to plant two daffodils in the place of one the following year. Even if you don’t want to move the daffodils from one spot to another, the mesh bags make it super easy to pull bulbs up, split, and replant.

Daffodil bulbs in a mesh planting bag.

Supplies Needed

Nylon or Polypropylene Mesh Produce Storage Bags

A review of the instructions above:

When the daffodils have finished their bloom in late spring and you are ready to plant your planters with late spring/summer flowers, remove the bulbs from their temporary home and place into large onion storage bags. Ideally, you should disturb the roots as little as possible (but realistically, it would waste a lot of bags to bag entire root balls, so I shake off most of the dirt and place bulbs about 8-12 per bag).

Dig a trench in your yard or garden (pick an easy place to water) about as deep as the hole you removed your bulbs from. Place bags in the trench, foliage all leaning to one side of the trench, and cover with dirt. Be sure the tops of the bags are several inches above the soil line so they remain visible after the foliage has died back in late summer.  Water well, and continue to water regularly. Plants disturbed like this in the middle of their growing season will need plenty of water to reestablish roots and grow. I go ahead and feed mine a few times during the summer, until they die back completely.

Daffodils blooming in mulch.
Daffodil bulbs in planting bags.

Pin it Now to Find it Later!

A Springtime Reflection on Daffodil Season in the Ozarks:

Following an especially hard winter, Hawk Hill is now awash in daffodils, as the daffodil season hits full force in the Ozarks. There are so many varieties of daffodils in season at Hawk Hill that on a good year, like this one, when conditions have been ideal, we get to enjoy them for the better part of a month!

This year I’m enjoying some varieties I planted several years ago but had not yet seen bloom as well as some varieties I didn’t even know I had! Daffodils are coming up in places I didn’t even know daffodils were planted! 

In the back of the property, around the ruins of a crumbled old homestead, an ocean of generations-old king-alfred style daffodils faithfully come up every spring and provide hundreds of blooms for me to cut and carry inside.

I’ve taken so many photos during the daffodil season this year I wanted to take a few minutes and share the season:

A bouquet of naturalized daffodils cut from around an old homestead

A bouquet of naturalized daffodils cut from around an old homestead in the Ozark Mountains.

Double Daffodils; Rose of May (white) and Dick Wilden (yellow) varieties.
Double Daffodils; Rose of May (white) and Dick Wilden (yellow) varieties.

More photos from daffodil season in Missouri

A Cheerful vase of King Alfred type daffodils in my studio while I watercolor
Tahiti Daffodil on a white wicker backdrop.
Tahiti Daffodil

This Palmares Daffodil isn’t nearly as pink in hue as advertised by the company selling this cultivar, but still, an appreciated addition to my daffodil collection:

Palmares Daffodils in a bouquet of cut flowers.

I had enough white and pink double daffodils to make several market style flower bouquets like this  handful of flowers in my kitchen:

Bouquet of White Double Daffodils.

I think the white double daffodils are my favorite, they look like roses or peonies but arrive so much sooner!

White double daffodils in a bouquet of cut flowers.