DAFFODILS, JONQUILS, PAPERWHITES – ALL IN THE FAMILY

One of the earliest bloomers to open our Spring season are daffodils, jonquils and paperwhites. They all belong to the Narcissus family, their scientific name, and cover more than 13,000 hybrids, giving us plenty of color choices, heights, and bloom times.

Our area nurseries offer potted Narcissus for springtime color and are enjoyed from January into April. Their bright color and fragrance are welcome after a gray and cold winter, but after the flower is spent, what to do with the plant? They can be planted in the ground and, with a little care during the summer, they should re-emerge next spring and beyond.

Narcissus require up to 14 weeks of cold weather to trigger the bulb to flower so they are best planted in the fall. Most types will naturalize in our region in north Texas if their foliage is left to die back after their springtime show. By allowing the leaves to yellow and die, nutrients are returned to the bulb to feed the next season’s blooms. Cut the spent bloom off of its stem but do not remove the foliage until it is completely dead. There will be no resistance when you pick them up and can be added to your compost pile.

For your potted Narcissus, leave them in the pot until after our last freeze of the season. No watering is necessary except to keep them from drying out completely. You can store them in a dry, dark area (like your garage or a closet) during the winter. After our last freeze, plant the bulb directly into the ground. Rule of thumb is to plant the bulb three times deeper than the diameter of the bulb. If your bulb measures two inches in diameter, plant it six inches deep, and about three to six inches apart. They will multiply as they mature so you don’t want to crowd them too much in their new home. Use a rich, well-draining soil, in a spot that will receive 4 to 6 hours of sunlight. Water the soil around the bulb as you do your other garden plants. The bulb will stay in a dormant state until next spring.

Planting Daylillies near the Narcissus is an excellent way to camouflage the wilting leaves of your Narcissus. The Daylillies are making their appearance about the time the Narcissus are dying, and will provide excellent blooms from spring into the summer. Daylillies are widely available in thousands of color variations and sizes. Once the roots are established, they are drought tolerant.

Paperwhites are a popular potted plant often given as gifts for Christmas. They are rated for climate zones 8 – 11, so they tolerate warmer temperatures better than the Daffodils and Jonquils. They also do not have the same chilling requirement to generate new blooms. Once planted in the ground, they can tolerate temperatures to 30 degrees F. Paperwhites are commonly white, yellow or orange.

Jonquil flowers come in variations of white and yellows, are generally a smaller bloom than the daffodil, carry a sweet fragrance and the foliage is more rounded. The Trevithian and the Golden Perfection are two cultivars adapted to our area. Jonquils are rated for climate zones 4 – 9 but tend to grow best in climate zone 8. Grayson County is in zone 7b.

Daffodils are the largest class of Narcissus, coming in a wider variety of colors and shapes than Paperwhites and Jonquils. They generally have only a mild scent at best and their leaf structure is more pointed than the Jonquil. They are rated for climate zones 4 through 9. Texas Agri-Life recommends trying Carlton, a medium-sized yellow with a darker cup; Golden Harvest, a large-sized yellow, or Carbineer, a medium-sized yellow with an orange cup. There is a comprehensive list of suggested cultivars at https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu. In the Custom Search box, search for “narcissus.”

Planting and cultivating any Narcissus family member – Daffodil, Jonquil or Paperwhite – into your yard will add early color to your flower beds, so go ahead and enjoy a potted plant this Spring!

The Master Gardener’s Plant Sale will be May 6 from 8:00 a.m. to noon at the Covenant Presbyterian Church, 322 West Pecan, Sherman. Although it will be too late to offer Narcissus, we’ll have a great selection of seasonal plants and Master Gardeners on hand to answer your gardening questions.

Written by Marigay Black, Master Gardener
Grayson County Master Gardeners Association is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization sponsored by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. Reach us by email at mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us, by phone 903-813-4204, our web page graysoncountymastergardeners.net, or our Facebook group.