The plant genus to which narcissus, daffodils and jonquils belong is Narcissus. It’s a huge genus with over 200 species and a staggering number of different cultivars – over 25,000 of them! Then there are early-mid and late season cultivars. What should you know?
Scientifically speaking, Narcissus, Daffodils and Jonquils are all Narcissus species but since this huge group of plants can be divided into three broad categories based on their appearance, we can divide them into three groups for convenience.
As we’ve seen, this is the true scientific name for all types of daffodils, but in common parlance, the word ‘Narcissus’ is often used to describe the ‘paperwhites’ only. Paperwhites are cute with spikes of small, white blooms and they’re great in the garden or for ‘forcing’ (a way of getting them to flower out of their usual season) in pots. If you’d like to know which of the 200 species this refers to, it’s usually Narcissus tazetta papyraceous.
Daffodils and Jonquils
A lot of gardeners don’t distinguish between Daffodils and Jonquils, but there are some distinctive differences between the two:
- Jonquil leaves have rounded tips while Daffodils have pointed tips.
- Jonquil flower stems are hollow, while daffodil stems aren’t.
- Jonquils are usually more compact, shorter plants.
- Jonquils have more fragrance and bear their flowers in clusters.
- Daffodils have longer petals.
- Daffodils come in a wider range of colors whereas jonquils are yellow.
Do remember that if people call daffodils and jonquils ‘Narcissus’ they’re not actually wrong! ‘Golden Echo’ is a gorgeous example of a jonquil whereas the stunning ‘Dutch Master’ is a fine example of a classic daffodil.
Daffodils, Narcissus and Jonquils flower from early to mid-spring and some people prefer to categorize them according to whether they flower early, in the middle of the daffodil season or later on in the season. This isn’t an exact science unless you force your blooms under controlled conditions, but it’s still an indication of what to expect. For simplicity, we’re going to call them all ‘daffodils’ for now!
Try ‘February gold’ if you’re hoping to get a head-start on spring and have really early blooms. It’s a gorgeous, bright-gold cultivar that speaks of sunny days to come! ‘Jetfire’ is another example of an early bloomer – nice for getting a bicolor effect and definitely full of the joys of spring.
Most daffodils are mid-season bloomers. The classic, pure white ‘Mount Hood’ is a cultivar that remains deservedly popular despite the long period of time it has been on the market. ‘Thalia’ is a mid to late daffodil, also white, but with a distinctive flower form. For a bright yellow, mid-season daffodil, try ‘Quail’ or get the best of white with a warm, golden- orange heart by choosing ‘Barret Browning’. It’s officially an early to mid-spring daffodil, but it’s a good choice to add to your selection if you want a selection of daffodils that will take you through the spring. Do you love the frilliness of double daffodils? Tahiti is a good choice for mid-spring blooms – sure to be a show-stopper!
Late Season Daffodils
‘Hawera’ is a late-season standby that will usually be among the last to bloom. It’s a tough little beauty with classic gold blooms and naturalizes easily. Looking for something with a touch more exoticism? Yellow Cheerfulness is one of the last doubles to bloom. The individual flowers are smallish, but they’re carried in such profusion that they can’t be missed!
Just to complicate things even further
There are trumpet daffodils (the classic shape), long cup daffodils, short cup daffodils, double daffodils, triandris daffodils and more! Don’t let it all confuse you. Just browse for your favorite flower colors and shapes and if you’re hoping to take full advantage of the daffodil flowering season, ask us for help in choosing a succession of reliable early, mid and late flowering varieties. Don’t forget to try some of the unusual pink shades too!