Smaller Narcissus

Kirby W. Fong
Fri, 13 Feb 2004 20:04:56 PST
     One of the rarer small Narcissus that I've had a modicum
of success with is N. atlanticus.  One of the world's leading
experts on Narcissus species, John Blanchard, gave a talk at
the World Daffodil Convention in 2000 about how he searched
for and found this species in the wild.  I was able to
purchase a bulb in 1995 from Michael Salmon in England.
Steve Vinisky told me that John Blanchard told him he has to
pollenate it to get seed to keep the species in cultivation
as the bulb is not long lived.  I guess I'm fortunate in
that my original bulb has slowly increased, but just to be
safe, I have on occasion selfed it to get seed.  My seed
did germinate, and I now have several small bulblets.  My
impression is that it grows very slowly from seed and will
take years to reach flowering size.  Offsets reach flowering
size sooner.  My original bulb did not bloom until 1998.
I don't recall when the first offset bloomed, but it was
probably 2000 or 2001.  Why the fascination with this
species?  Most of the small species are yellow.  N. atlanticus
(along with N. dubius, N. watieri) is white.  I have been
told by two different people who are interested in
miniature daffodil cultivars that the cross worth trying
is N. atlanticus by N. watieri to achieve a more beautiful
white miniature.  Neither of these species is widely
available, however, N. watieri is defintely easier to
come by.  I don't know whether the two will bloom at the
same time, but I think I have enough of each that I may
be able to do the cross this season.

     As for culture, I've grown N. atlanticus in eight
inch diameter pots using about three quarters Super Soil
and one quarter perlite.  Super Soil is the brand name of
a sterilized, soilless potting mix.  Most miniatures and
species I repot every two or three years, but I repot
N. atlanticus every year because I want to see how the
bulbs are increasing.  The pot gets morning and midday
sun with late afternoon shade.  The pot is stored in a
covered patio during the summer and therefore stays dry.
Because I live in a mild winter climate (Livermore,
California), I put the pot outside in the winter without
much danger of a bulb killing freeze.  (The last killer
freeze was in 1990.)  I've been asked what the secret is
to get N. atlanticus to bloom regularly.  I didn't know
there was supposed to be a secret.  Maybe it's just
happiest in a Mediterranean climate.  I am inland from
San Francisco Bay.  Most winter nights do not freeze.
When it does freeze, there may be a few nights during
the winter when it goes down to 25 degrees Fahrenheit.
Summer days often reach 90 degrees Fahrenheit and
occasionally go above 100 though evenings usually go
down to 60.

     Kirby Fong

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