"It would ill become me to write of the Daffodil from the standpoint of a fancier or expert. I can only treat it as a lover, blind to its imperfections, seeing the race as wholly lovely and lovable."
Narcissus is a genus in the Amaryllidaceae family native to Europe, North Africa and Asia surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. As a popular garden plant it has been hybridized heavily and there are new ones being introduced every year. There is an elaborate system of classification used by Narcissus/Daffodil enthusiasts. For more information on that and much other useful information consult the web site of the American Daffodil Society. Also daffnet.org details the latest happenings in the Narcissus world and daffseek.org is a registry of named cultivars.
Narcissus are generally easy to grow. They grow in the winter or spring and are dormant in summer. Many will tolerate large amounts of water during summer if they have good drainage, and some retain their roots while dormant. You may need to experiment to find which Narcissus do best in your climate. Wilder, who gardened in New York, reported success with a wide variety of Narcissus, and recommended planting in light soil and light shade. Some Narcissus will not bloom reliably unless they get a fair amount of winter chilling, while others are fairly frost-tender and will be damaged by a heavy freeze. Thad Howard, in the book Bulbs for Warm Climates, reported that traditional "trumpet" daffodils tend to rot while dormant when grown in the ground in the relatively warm-winter climates of the US South, and there have been similar reports in the northern parts of Australia. Hybrids based on N. jonquilla and N. tazetta do better in these warm-winter areas. Howard suggests selecting early-blooming varieties, to avoid spring heatwaves that can wilt the flowers. When grown in the ground, Narcissus bulbs will multiply. They will bloom best if divided every few years.
After hundreds of years of cultivation, Narcissus viruses are prevalent where this genus (or hybrids) is grown. Bulbs are also susceptible to the Narcissus bulb fly. Growing from seeds is one way to get plants free of viruses.
Most Narcissus seeds are low-temperature germinators and will germinate after having spent a short period of time in a warm/moist environment. These plants grow where the rainy season is primarily autumn/winter/early spring, so this mechanism stops them from germination at the wrong time of year. It is reported that fresh seeds are easy to germinate. Harvest the seeds when they are black and becoming hard. Either sow the seeds as soon as they are ripe, or store them cool and dry over summer (e.g. in a fridge) and sow them in late summer. Don't sow them too late because if they don't get the warm end of the season followed by cool fall temperatures they will not germinate until the right time the following year. Don't throw them out - the seeds are reasonably long-lived. Thinly cover the seed to about its own width, then cover the top of the pot with some more grit (or wood chipping, sawdust, crushed quartz, etc). A well drained mix works well for sowing. Once they start to germinate (which can take about 6 weeks to one year), move them to somewhere bright and cool, but out of direct sun (Will Ashburner, Ian Black, Lauw de Jager). Some including Ian Young's Bulbs from seed say that seed should be planted deep (3 cm). Narcissus triandrus can take as little as two years to flower from seed.
Narcissus have two distinct forms that attract two different groups of pollinators: bees (and flies), and moths. Bee pollinated species tend to have pendant flowers with short floral tubes, while moth pollinated species tend to have flowers that face upwards, long floral tubes, and a musky scent. Examples of primarily bee pollinated species include Narcissus bujei, N. calcicola, N. hispanicus, N. longispathus and N. pseudonarcissus. Examples of moth pollinated species include Narcissus assoanus, N. dubius, N. jonquilla, N. papyraceus, N. poeticus, and N. rupicola. Read more about the pollination ecology of Narcissus in Travis Owen's article, Natural Pollination of the Genus Narcissus.
Typical seed pod and seed photos by David Pilling; the seed pod is about an inch long and has three sections. Fourth picture by Travis Owen shows seedlings that were sown at various depths in the Autumn of 2014 and left in a gravel plunge through the Winter. The seedlings slowly germinated in late Winter, but had to be protected from rain as the rain drops caused the earliest seeds to germinate to die. Last photo shows first year seedling bulbs of the same pot, repotted in late June of 2015.
Photos of some of the species are pictured below.
Narcissus species can be difficult for a non-expert to understand. The genus has been studied heavily by botanists, and there is no single accepted taxonomy for it. We've followed an overview created by bulb expert Brian Mathew, who organized the species into eight groupings. For more information on Mathew's taxonomy, check the overview of Narcissus species here. For more photos and information about the species select the appropriate wiki page or click on the name in the table below:
Narcissus Species A-B - Narcissus Species C - Narcissus Species D-J - Narcissus Species K-O - Narcissus Species P - Narcissus Species Q-Z
For more photos and information about hybrids and cultivars, we have divided our Narcissus as follows. You can select the appropriate wiki page or click on the name in the table at the bottom of the page:
Show example photos of plants from each division...
Hybrid - Division 1 (trumpet) - Division 2 (large-cupped) A-D - Division 2 (large-cupped) E-Q - Division 2 (large-cupped) R-Z - Division 3 (small-cupped) - Division 4 (double) - Division 5 (triandrus) - Division 6 (cyclamineus) -Division 7 (jonquilla) - Division 8 (tazetta) - Division 9 (poeticus) - Division 10 (bulbocodium) - Division 11 (split corona) - Division 12 (other) - Miniature
Overview of the Narcissus species - Narcissus Species A-B - Narcissus Species C - Narcissus Species D-J - Narcissus Species K-O - Narcissus Species P - Narcissus Species Q-Z - Narcissus hybrids - Division 1 - Division 2 A-D - Division 2 E-Q - Division 2 R-Z - Division 3 - Division 4 - Division 5 - Division 6 - Division 7 - Division 8 - Division 9 - Division 10 - Division 11 - Division 12 - Miniatures