JoAnne Skelly: Plant daffodils now

JoAnne Skelly

JoAnne Skelly

The fall colors have me itching to plant bulbs, so I’m going shopping for daffodil bulbs.
I love to see their bright flowers in the spring after a dreary gray winter. An added plus is that the ground squirrels leave them alone, not like the tulips, which the squirrels love to eat.
I have hyacinths that the squirrels don’t touch, but that may be because they are planted right by our back door. Maybe all the coming and going keeps the squirrels away from them. Maybe I will try more hyacinth bulbs too.
To have a successful spring display, start with large, firm, healthy daffodil bulbs. Plant them in well-draining soil at the proper depth in a spot that gets at least half day of sunlight. They will grow under deciduous trees because the trees usually have no leaves at the time the bulbs come out. However, evergreen trees will shade out the daffodil plant and they will be spindly with few flowers.
Work the soil to a depth of 10 to 12 inches while mixing in a bulb fertilizer (5-10-10, 3-6-6 analysis) according to the label. Don’t place the fertilizer directly in the bottom of the hole or let it come in direct contact with the bulbs or the bulbs, and eventually any developing roots, could be damaged.
Place the bottom of the bulbs approximately two times as deep as the bulb is high below the soil surface with the pointy side up. Rather than place bulbs singly, plant in groups of three or more of one variety for a fuller display in the spring. Tamp the soil down to remove air pockets. Adding mulch will help maintain soil moisture and reduce weeds come spring.
Mid-October is the optimum bulb planting time, because the bulbs need to develop a root system before the coldest weather. However, if, like me, you often forget to plant your bulbs, they can go in the ground as long as it’s not frozen. It is best to get the bulbs in the ground before Thanksgiving.
There are many species, subspecies and varieties of daffodils – between 40 and 200 with over 32,000 named hybrids, according to the American Daffodil Society, www.daffodilusa.org.
With so many colors and types to choose from, especially those that are scented, I could easily become a daffodil fanatic. Have fun and explore websites to see all the choices. Then go to a good nursery, such as Greenhouse Garden Center and buy!
JoAnne Skelly is associate professor & extension educator emerita.

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