Solving Narcissus Problems

Narcissus Problems
SymptomProbable Cause
Bulbs Do Not flowerPlanted Too Shallow
Brown Spots On Leaves and StemsFrost Injury
Buds Dried; Do Not Open"Blast"
Foliage Distorted; Bulbs DecayedBulb Mites
Bulbs Softened; Plants YellowedNarcissus Bulb Fly
Plants Stunted Yellowed; Root LesionsBulb Nematodes
Plants Stunted; Die PrematurelyBasal Rot
Flowers "Break" In Color; Petals StreakedMosaic Virus
Bulbs Gnawed; Unearthed Or EatenRodent Injury

Bulbs Do Not flower, Planted Too Shallow
If narcissus bulbs are not planted deeply enough, they produce short, unattractive leaves and stems. Underground they split up prematurely and produce small, nonflowering bulbs. Plant bulbs as recommended above and mulch them to prevent disturbance by soil temperature fluctuations during the winter.

Brown Spots On Leaves and Stems Comes From Frost Injury
Narcissus leaves and stems touched by late spring frosts may show small brown spots that later merge into blotches. Sometimes these leaves split and look ragged. Prevent this by laying down a 2 inch mulch layer over the bulbs right after the ground freezes.

Buds Dried; Do Not Open Caused By "Blast"
Daffodil buds may dry out and turn brown before opening due to environmental conditions. "Blast" means that the buds have been nipped by either a hard freeze or hot spell at a critical time. Lack of sufficient moisture during the growing season contributes to the problem. If this is a chronic problem, look for bulbs which are advertised as resistant to blast.

Foliage Distorted; Bulbs Decayed Caused By Bulb Mites
Bulb mites, about 1/50 inch long, are barely visible to the naked eye. They have four pairs of legs, piercing-sucking mouth parts, and very compact bodies. Below ground, or in storage, they cause the infested daffodil bulbs to become hard and light chocolate-brown colored. Hundreds of mites feed on their dry and crumbly pulp. This damage also opens the way for other pests and diseases. Control mites by destroying all badly infested bulbs, and soaking other dormant bulbs for 3 hours in hot water (110to 115°F) with some household bleach added. For more information see the file on Controlling Mites

Bulbs Softened; Plants Yellowed Caused By Narcissus Bulb Fly
This large hairy fly resembles a bumblebee. Its larvae live in the bulbs, giving them a spongy texture and causing them to rot. Control them by soaking the affected bulb for 1-1/2 hours in hot water at 110°F. Discard any bulbs that feel soft before planting.

Plants Stunted Yellowed; Root Lesions Caused By Bulb Nematodes
Bulb nematodes and root knot nematodes sometimes attack daffodil bulbs. Nematodes are slender, microscopic unsegmented roundworms. Soil dwellers, they feed on plant cells. Infested daffodils look sickly, wilted or stunted, showing yellowed or bronzed foliage. They decline slowly and die because their root systems are poorly developed, even partially decayed. Bulbs are damaged too. Control nematodes by digging up damaged bulbs. Add lots of compost (especially leaf mold) to the soil to encourage beneficial fungi that attack nematodes. For more information see the file on Controlling Nematodes

Plants Stunted; Die Prematurely Caused by Basal Rot
This fungus disease attacks daffodil bulbs when soil temperatures are around 65 to 75°F. It stunts growth and retards root development. Eventually the bottom of the bulb develops a soft brown rot. Discard diseased bulbs and avoid injuring healthy ones. When dividing daffodils, dig up bulbs in cool, dry weather, and dry them rapidly. Plant daffodils in a different location because disease spores persist in the soil for years. Be sure they have well-drained soil and do not fertilize in the spring if this fungus is a threat. For more information see the file on Controlling Fungal Disease

Flowers "Break" In Color; Petals Streaked – Cause is Mosaic Virus
This virus disease causes streaking on narcissus flower petals and weakens the plants. Several kinds of aphids transmit viruses, so it is essential to control them. Discard any affected plants. Sterilize all tools used for cutting the flowers by rinsing them in household bleach diluted with water.

Bulbs Gnawed; Unearthed Or Eaten – Cause is Rodent Injury
During the winter months, small rodents such as mice and voles eat bulbs. Moles tunnel through beds in search of earthworms and insects, and mice also use their tunnels to get at the bulbs. While narcissus are not usually affected much by rodents, there are precautions to take while planting. Line all planting holes with small baskets of 1/4-inch hardware cloth cut to fit. Or, try planting individual bulbs in tin can "sleeves" cut open at both ends and sunk into the soil so that the top rim is just covered by soil. Set bulbs near the bottom of the can to allow the roots to spread into the soil beneath.

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