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Narcissus is the Latin name for daffodils, although some bulb growers seem to reserve it for the more dainty types. There are an incredible large number of cultivars, organised into 13 separate divisions by the RHS, based on size of cup, or whether they are a trumpet, double, triandrus or tazetta type etc; if you’d like to understand more about the classification system, please visit www.thedaffodilsociety.com.

here are a great many cultivars especially suited for cut flowers, with some notable ones being introduced in recent years by Dutch and American growers (Sorbet, or Moonlight and Starlight sensation respectively, to name but a few). The split-corolla type in particular has received a lot of attention lately, with many cultivars released, some of which barely resemble the traditional daffodil. There are also some very old cultivars which have stood the test of time, such as Sir Winston Churchill or Geranium.

So how do you choose which types to grow? This is very much a personal preference, but for a farmer florist like myself, I look for cultivars that flower early, have fragrance where possible, and are not something easily found in shops. In a mild year my first Narcissi have made an appearance in mid February (and I am not talking about the forced ones grown in pots indoors); they were a joy to find blooming on a bleak February morning, and of course I cut them and brought them indoors where they lasted 6 days, and really brightened my kitchen.

Cultivation is simple: get good quality bulbs (bigger is better here), find a spot which gets at least 4 hrs of sunshine per day and plant them at a depth about 1.5 times the size of the bulb. They can cope with many types of soil but will not do well on very thin soils or waterlogged ones. Ideal time to plant is September, but pn my flower farm I’ve planted them in November and even December with no adverse effect, they just flowered later. When planting, make sure you leave some space between the bulbs, otherwise you will have the dig them up and split congested clumps after 2-3 years. I usually feed them with a slow release fertiliser before flowering as I want them to keep strong and continue to give me flowers for many years; this is why it is also important to leave the foliage to die naturally, which takes at least 2 months after flowering. Unlike tulips, rodents and squirrels do not eat them, which is a great bonus.

Narcissi for scented spring vases

Narcissi are so easy, so cheap and so glorious in spring. Some narcissi have an overpowering scent (such as paper whites) but the later ones can have a delicate, beautiful scent. Quail is a beautiful deep yellow, or Chinita is a tall lemon, pheasants eye type, Pueblo for a small, dainty creamy white. Spread the season with different varieties – from early Feb to May, when the beautiful, refined true pheasant eye, Narcissus poeticus, is the last to flower.

For the best vase life, cut the flowers when almost open, condition for at least a few hours separate from other flowers, then they can be used in mixed bouquets or on their own. Do not cut the stems again when used in a mixed bouquet, as their sticky sap will negatively affect the vase life of the other flowers you mix them with.

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More about narcissi

FAQs about growing narcissi and their availability as cut flowers in the UK.

  • Where are the large scale narcissi producers in the UK?

    Perhaps the most famous region for producing narcissi is The Isles of Scilly, off the coast of Cornwall.
  • What colours do narcissi come in?

    Bright yellows through to the palest lemon, cream and whites. Centres can be orange, yellow, lemon, white or even peachy pink depending on variety. You can find double flowering types with ruffles of petals or singles which resemble mini-daffodils. Some varieites have just a single flower per stem whilst others have clusters of flowers - there's a narcissus out there for everyone!
  • When are narcissi available to buy as cut flowers?

    They're available commercially grown from November until Easter. Grown locally, you can expect to find them from February-early May.
  • How long do narcissi last in the vase?

    It depends what stage you cut them at. Cut them when the buds are plump and you can enjoy watching them unfurl into full bloom over the course of a week. Cut when the flowers are fully developed, they'll last several days in a cool room. Narcissi stems ooze sap when cut and this can stop other flowers in a vase with them being able to take up water.  If you want to arrange narcissi in a mixed vase with other flowers, cut them to the heights required and leave them in a vase on their own overnight.  Once they've done their oozing, they can be mixed in with the other flowers without harming them - just remember not to recut their stems to set the whole process off again!
  • When should I plant narcissi?

    Plant bulbs between late September and December for flowers the following spring.