It happens every year in the mountains. A warm spell in mid-winter causes daffodils to poke their heads out of the ground, causing people to believe that the plants could die when cold weather returns.
The only problem with these plants is that the floral display is often limited to just a week or two. There are several ways to extend a daffodil season to six or eight weeks or more.
Purchasing a ready-made blend can assist in keeping the Daffodils alive. One bulb company offers a package of traditional trumpet types that yields “eight weeks of daffodils.”
Daffodils will grow well in areas that have only morning or afternoon sunshine, or in full sun. The west side bed gets a half day or more of sun in winter and blooms first.
Just as Daffodils start to fade, an east side bed that gets a bit of mid-day winter sun starts to pop. Last to bloom is the group of bulbs on the north side close to the house that gets virtually no sun all winter.
Daffodils require well-drained, slightly acidic soil. Plant 4 to 6 inches deep (measured from the bottom of the bulb) any time from September through Thanksgiving.
Work a light application of a complete fertilizer, low in nitrogen (like 5-10-5), into the top inch or two of the soil after planting, making sure the fertilizer doesn’t touch the bulbs.
The American Daffodil Society says to “forget the bone meal; it takes too long to break down to ever be beneficial.”
Fertilize lightly again when the leaves are a couple of inches high in early spring. In subsequent years, fertilize just once in either spring or fall.
Cut spent flower stalks to the ground to force the plant to concentrate on storing food in the bulb for the following year. Allow the leaves to grow until they turn yellow and dry up, then cut off at the base of the plant (The bulbs in my three beds grow up through evergreen ground covers that somewhat hide the yellowing foliage).
If after several years the flowers become fewer and smaller, dig up the bulbs after the foliage has died and divide them. Store in a cool, dry place, then replant in fall.
Jim Janke is an Extension Master Gardener Volunteer in Haywood County. For more information call the Haywood County Extension Center at 456-3575.