A familiar sign of spring, Narcissus flowers, commonly known as daffodils, are among the most beloved of our garden bulbs. They are easy to grow, require little care, have few pests, and tolerate a wide range of soils and environmental conditions.
A diverse group, the many members of this clan are categorized by the size of their corona, the tubular center part of the flower, and by other physical characteristics. Those narcissus that have coronas that are nearly as long or longer than their petals are discussed in the tipsheet on caring for daffodils. Those which have small or atypical coronas, produce multiple flowers on a single stem or are dwarf sized are discussed here. Among these specialty narcissus are Jonquils (Narcissus jonquilla), Poet's Narcissus (Narcissus poeticus), Polyanthus Narcissus or Paper-Whites (Narcissus tazetta) and others. They all have similar care requirements and offer a wide variety of colors, shapes and sizes for use in residential landscapes.
Foliage of Narcissus
Narcissus leaves are stiff, flattened and straplike with rounded tips. Those of standard sized types are 12 to 18 inches long, and about 3/4 inch wide. Jonquils have narrower leaves. Dwarf types grow to only 4 to 8 inches and about 1/2 inch or less wide. They're bluish-green to green, and smooth.
Narcissus Height and Spread
The more standard-sized species of narcissus range in height from 12 to 18 inches, the flowers and foliage from a single bulb are about 6 inches wide. Over the years bulbs multiply, forming large clumps of many flower stems and leaves that may be as wide as several feet. The more diminutive species grow only 4 to 8 inches tall.
There's no mistaking narcissus flowers--they have a central "cup" or corona, that protrudes at right angles from a ring of 6 petals with pointed tips. Coronas of the various types of narcissus may be more or less prominent, have frilly edges, a different color from the petals and even colored borders. Some types of narcissus have double rings of petals, others feature coronas that are split into several ruffled segments.
Flowers typically appear at the ends of slender stems, sometimes in groups of three or as many as 6, depending on the type. Jonquil flowers nod modestly, while those of poet's narcissus and others face forward. All of these specialty narcissus tend to bloom somewhat later than the classic trumpet types. Their season runs from mid to late April into early May.
While shades of yellow are the most common color of narcissus flowers, they also come in white and many have coronas of yellow to orange to pink. Flowers of the dwarf or multi-flowered types of narcissus may be only 1 inch across, but most of those narcissus which are double or have split coronas are closer to 3 inches wide.
The petals of certain types of narcissus sweep backward from the corona, making them appear as if each flower were facing into the wind. Many narcissus are wonderfully fragrant, jonquils especially so.