How Much Space Do You Need Between Daffodils, From House Digest’s Professional Gardener

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How Much Space Do You Need Between Daffodils, From House Digest's Professional Gardener

Daffodils are a popular choice for spring-blooming bulbs due to their reliability and variety. These bulbs can be found in different colors, sizes, and even fragrances. Once planted, they have a tendency to multiply and form large clumps over time. However, it’s important to decide whether to plant them in small groups or large clumps initially and how much space to leave between them. A general rule of thumb is to plant single daffodil bulbs 6 inches apart so that they can form clumps without overcrowding too quickly.

It may take several years for daffodils to grow and start producing more blooms. Initially, you may see only a small grouping of blooms. However, as they grow and multiply, the clumps will become substantially bigger each year. If you start with a small number of bulbs, they will multiply over time, and you can divide them once the clumps get big enough.

Although daffodils are more expensive than other spring bulbs, they are a great investment because of their reliability and tendency to increase in number. By planting them with proper spacing, you can ensure that they form healthy clumps that will bloom beautifully every year.

Know your daffodils’ growing habits

mixed daffodils

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The space needed to plant your daffodil bulbs may also depend on how large the bulbs are. Miniature varieties (such as Thalia, Jetfire, or Minnow) usually have somewhat smaller bulbs. They can be planted a bit more closely together (five inches apart) and tend to be better for growing in pots. Jonquils are a variety of daffodils that are fragrant and have multiple flowers per stem. Plant them in groupings of five to 10 bulbs, spaced six inches apart.

Some gardeners find that older heirloom varieties of daffodil (such as Ice Follies or Mount Hood) increase faster, as they tend to be more hardy than some of the newer hybrids. You can find out if a variety is an heirloom by checking to see when it was introduced; some garden catalogs provide information on a bulb’s history. If you find your heirloom daffodils form large clumps quickly, divide them a bit more often and plant the divided bulbs at least six inches apart.

When planting different varieties of daffodils within the same area, find out what their mature height is so you can plant the taller ones in the back. Knowing the timing of blooms (early, mid, or late spring) will also help you decide where to place them. Plant fragrant varieties near walkways for maximum enjoyment; plant these daffodils closer together their first year (four to five inches apart) to create a zone of sweet perfume in spring.

Considerations for planting daffodils

large patch of daffodils

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Plant your daffodils where they’ll have maximum visibility in spring. Large drifts of daffodils look wonderful in woodland gardens, where they naturalize over time. They can be planted beneath trees that don’t start to leaf out until late spring, as they’ll receive plenty of sun at this time. Plant bulbs in small groupings of five to 10 bulbs, with each single bulb in the grouping spaced 5 to 6 inches apart, for a natural-looking spring landscape. Be mindful of tree roots, and don’t plant too close to them.

Many gardeners like to plant daffodils strategically so that when the foliage begins to fade, later spring perennials will appear as camouflage. Day lilies and hostas are good companions for daffodils. As your daffodil clumps and neighboring perennials grow larger, divide them regularly to avoid overcrowding (day lilies and hostas need dividing every two or three years).

Daffodil leaves should be left intact until four to six weeks after blooming to help feed the bulbs for next year. Then, you can trim the leaves back. Daffodils need no other care for the season. Dividing is best done in late summer through autumn; save time by dividing in autumn when you’re planting your other spring bulbs. It’s important to divide daffodils regularly to prevent the clumps from becoming overcrowded, which might cause them to stop blooming. When dividing, replant the bulbs in small groupings of five to 10 bulbs, each planted about 6 inches apart.

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Dr Heidi Parkes

By Dr Heidi Parkes

Senior Information Extension Officer QLD Dept of Agriculture & Fisheries.