The sunny yellow daffodils are one of the first signs of spring and a sight to behold in flower beds or in natural areas.
A perennial plant that grows from a bulb, daffodils are a favorite among gardeners because they are easy to grow and give flower beds an early splash of color long before most other plants are ready to flower. Their long stems make them perfect for cutting and placing them in a vase to brighten your dining room table or your desk at work.
Daffodils are an underappreciated flower. We count on them coming up year after year to welcome spring, but there is much to learn about this cheery bloom.
Here are 12 fun facts about daffodils.
1. They Aren’t A One-Color Flower
Daffodils are synonymous with the color yellow, and for good reason. The majority of the daffodils we see are bright yellow. The flowers are unique, with a cup-shaped corona encircled by six petals.
Some varieties of daffodils switch up the traditional color. They can be white, pink, or orange. Some even have a central cup of one color and the corona petals of another color.
2. Daffodils Are Not Native To North America
We often see daffodils growing in fields or wooded areas, so it is understandable that most people assume they are native plants. Daffodils, however, are not native to North America. They grow naturally in Europe and parts of North Africa.
Daffodil bulbs have been transported around the globe by humans who want to plant these saffron sweethearts in far-off places. They are now widely grown as an ornamental flower around the world. Although daffodils are a non-native species, they are not considered to be invasive.
3. A Daffodil By Any Other Name…
Daffodils go by a few other names, including jonquils or narcissus.
That’s because the name ‘daffodil’ was taken from an Old English word, ‘affodyle,’ which means ‘narcissus’ which was used as the genus name for the more than 50 species of daffodils.
4. Don’t Count On Daffodils To Attract Pollinators
Even though daffodils are one of the earliest flowers to bloom in the spring, that doesn’t mean that bees and butterflies will flock to them. Pollinators tend to give daffodils a hard pass. The reason for this is simple.
Most of the daffodil bulbs on the market today are hybrids. They produce almost no pollen, so they don’t have anything to attract bees and other pollinators.
5. Daffodils Are Symbolic
Because daffodils bloom in early spring, many cultures view them as a symbol of rebirth, renewal, and new beginnings. They also represent friendship. For the people of China, daffodils are a sign of good fortune and are the official symbol of the Chinese New Year.
Daffodils are the national flower of Wales and are traditionally worn on St. David’s Day, celebrated on March 1. In France, daffodils symbolize hope and in Japan, the flowers stand for joy. Daffodils are also the birth flower for March.
6. Daffodils Don’t Play Well With Other Flowers
Daffodils don’t play well with other flowers … at least, not in a vase of cut flowers.
When cut, daffodil stems release a poisonous sap that is similar to latex into the vase water which will cause the other cut flowers in that vase to droop, wilt, and fade much faster than they should. For this reason, many florists won’t use daffodils in fresh-cut arrangements.
There is a workaround you can try if you really have your heart set on a mixed floral arrangement.
Isolate the cut daffodils in their own vase of water for at least 24 hours to let the sap leech out. Then you should be able to transfer them to another vase with fresh water they can safely share with other cut flowers.
7. To Get Daffodils To Bloom Out Of Season, You Can Fool Mother Nature
Daffodils grow from a bulb that should be planted in the fall.
The bulb must experience 12 to 16 weeks of chilly temperatures of no higher than 40 degrees Fahrenheit and total darkness in order for the bulbs to bloom. After this time, warmer temperatures and sunlight trigger the bulbs to bloom.
But say you really want a bunch of daffodils to bloom out of season, perhaps as centerpieces for a wedding.
You can trick the bulbs into thinking they went through the winter months by storing them in a cool, dark place, like your refrigerator, for the necessary length of time. Then plant the bulbs and let them think they are blooming in March when it is really October.
8. Daffodils Feature Prominently In Greek Myth
In Greek mythology, a young man named Narcissus was so handsome that everyone loved him. However, Narcissus couldn’t find anyone he thought was worthy of his love. That is, until the day he stopped to drink water from a pond.
As he bent to drink from the pond, he saw his own reflection in the water and fell instantly in love. Finally, he thought he had found a person whose beauty was equal to his. Narcissus tried to embrace his paramour, but he couldn’t lift the reflection out of the water.
Narcissus loved his own reflection so much that he refused to leave the pond. He refused to eat or drink and wasted away until he died. Where his body laid, a patch of daffodils sprang up.
9. The Dutch Developed Daffodils Just Like Tulips
Daffodils have been cultivated for thousands of years and were popular with the ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians. The flowers were spread around Europe, but it wasn’t until the Dutch took an interest in daffodil bulbs that their popularity exploded.
Dutch cultivators are experts in growing and hybridizing all kinds of flower bulbs. Of course, the most well-known of these are tulips, but daffodils and amaryllises were also included.
Today, there are a whopping 13,000-plus cultivars of daffodils.
10. Don’t Cut Down Daffodil Foliage… It’s Got A Job To Do
Daffodils bloom early and the flowers are done by mid-spring. Although the flowers are gone, the foliage remains green throughout the growing season.
Some gardeners are tempted to cut down the green daffodil leaves after the flowers fade but resist the urge.
That’s because the leaves still have work to do. The foliage still needs to use the process of photosynthesis to collect and store energy in the bulbs to help them survive the winter.
Leave the foliage alone until they turn yellow and die down on their own.
11. Daffodils Are Toxic
Even though all parts of the daffodil plants are toxic to people and animals, it is the bulb that is the most poisonous part.
The lycorine toxin in daffodils can cause abdominal discomfort, vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea. In animals, daffodils can even cause liver damage and high blood pressure.
The sap in daffodils also burns and irritates the skin and, if eaten, causes excessive drooling. Does that mean you need to keep your pets away from the daffodils in your flower beds? Not necessarily. Most animals steer clear of the toxic daffodils on their own.
12. Daffodils Have Impressive Longevity
Once they are planted, daffodil bulbs will continue to emerge each spring and flower for five or six years. The bulbs will self-propagate during that time to create new bulbs.
This means a patch of daffodils has the potential to bloom for years, even decades.
A welcome sight in the early spring after the gloom of winter, the bright, sunny daffodils are perennial bulbs with a big story to tell. From symbolism and myths to toxicology and longevity, there is much to admire about the charming daffodil.