Fall has special meaning for gardeners. When I look out my back window, I see the fluffy blooms of the native grass prairie dropseed sparkling in the autumn light, set off by a blazing red backdrop of chokeberry leaves. The dogwood leaves are on fire, the spicebush leaves a brilliant yellow, and purple asters add their own color splashes. Goldfinches perch to nibble on seedheads. Autumn jewels, rich and quiet, speak soul deep.
And yet, the youthful fresh energy of spring lies just beneath the surface. Fall, this time of winding down, of approaching dormancy, is also the time to set the stage for a fantastic rebirth.
Yes, I’m talking about bulbs. Specifically, daffodils, and still more specifically, naturalizing daffodils, the most reliable and rewarding of spring bulbs. All daffodils come back year after year but naturalizing narcissi produce new bulbs underground, and thus they become more dense and produce more blooms over time.
You can increase your bloom time by mixing at least three varieties, choosing an early, a mid-season and a late-bloomer. This can give you two months of non-stop daffodil joy.
It is hard to find a list of naturalizing narcissi and even less likely that you will find them divided into bloom season categories. Van Engelen, a wholesale bulb company, compiled such a list. I cannot find it on their website, so I will quote it here. Get out your scissors. The list at the bottom of this article is a keeper.
To find many of these varieties, it is likely that you will need to order them. It is best to plant your bulbs when they arrive, as long as the weather has cooled sufficiently. If you are unable to plant right away, be sure to open all the boxes and bags to ensure good air circulation. Store them in a cool, dry place, out of direct sunlight.
Your planting site should be sunny and well drained. The information on the bulb packages will provide planting depth and spacing for your particular bulb selections. Dig two to three inches below the planting depth since loosening the soil will encourage good root development.
Wait to plant until the weather is consistently cool, but before the ground has frozen. And remember: pointy end up. Lightly dust some bulb food over the surface, as a top dressing, after you finish planting. Top dressing will avoid the possibility of root burn. After the ground freezes completely, cover the planting area with about two inches of mulch to retain moisture and keep the ground frozen during periods of warmer weather. Straw or leaves will work just fine.
When spring arrives, remove the mulch as soon as the flower shoots emerge. Top dress with another application of bulb food.
Once the blooms are spent, dead head the flowers but leave the foliage to die back naturally. It’s a good idea to apply bulb fertilizer again to help nourish the bulb. Remove the foliage only after it has died back naturally. (Cutting the blooms before they die will weaken the bulb for nest year’s blooms.)
Here are some other choices for naturalizing bulbs: Galanthus, Anemone blanda, Crocus, Muscari, Scilla, Camassia, Allium sphaerocephalon, Rockgarden Iris, Puschkinia libanotica, Hyacinth-oides, Ipheion uniflorum, Eranthis hyemalis, Geranium tuberosum, Oxalis adenophylla, Leucojum, Fritillaria meleagris, Ixiolirion pallasii, Chionodoxa, Ornithogalum, and lilies.
Rock your bloomers this season.
Earlier Blooming Naturalizing Narcissi:
Trumpet Daffodil Rijnveld’s Early Sensation
Miniature Trumpet Daffodil Little Gem
Miniature Trumpet Daffodil Topolino
Large Cupped Narcissus California
Small Cupped Narcissus Barrett Browning
Cyclamineus Narcissus February Gold
Cyclamineus Narcissus Tête-á-Tête
Species Narcissus obvallaris
Mild Blooming Naturalizing Narcissi:
Trumpet Daffodil King Alfred
Trumpet Daffodil Marieke
Trumpet Daffodil Mount Hood
Large Cupped Narcissus Accent
Large Cupped Narcissus April Queen
Large Cupped Narcissus Delibes
Large Cupped Narcissus Fortissimo
Large Cupped Narcissus Fortune
Large Cupped Narcissus Ice Follies
Large Cupped Narcissus Pink Charm
Large Cupped Narcissus Professor Einstein
Large Cupped Narcissus Salome
Cyclamineus Narcissus Peeping Tom
Poeticus Narcissus Actaea
Later Blooming Naturalizing Narcissi:
Large Cupped Narcissus Flower Record
Double Narcissus Cheerfulness
Double Narcissus Yellow Cheerfulness
Poeticus Narcissus Pheasant’s Eye
Triandrus Narcissus Thalia
Jonquilla Narcissus Quail