Naturalizing Bulbs: Tips On Planting Daffodils Like Mother Nature

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Did you know that daffodils don’t come from Holland?

Indeed, many of today’s thousands of lovely cultivars are developed and grown in Holland, but original daffodils grew wild in Spain, Portugal, and Wales.

Daffodil FlowersPin

Like other wildflowers, they spread randomly (both by bulb and seed), creating informal, lovely drifts of yellow blooms in the springtime. 

  • How can you plant daffodils like Mother Nature?
  • What kinds of daffodils do well when naturalized?
  • Can you get original wild daffodils today?

This article explores these and many other questions about naturalizing daffodils. 

20 Questions and Answers On Naturalizing Daffodils

What Is Naturalizing? 

Naturalized plants are those that can do well naturally in your landscape.

Once planted, they are quickly established, and then they grow, spread, multiply, and return year after year with little or no attention from you. 

We usually think of daffodils and other spring bulbs planted in rows in flowerbeds but naturalizing tosses this image out the window.

When you naturalize bulbs, you place them in casual, natural settings, such as at the base of trees or scattered randomly in meadows.

How Do You Naturalize Daffodil Bulbs? 

There are a couple of common methods for naturalizing daffodil bulbs.

If you want to create the effect of a sweep of daffodils, you could do the following:

  • Dig a wide trench of the right depth to accommodate your bulbs.
  • Scatter the bulbs randomly into the trench
  • Turn the bulbs pointy-side-up and cover them with soil and mulch. 

If you want a very unplanned result, you can simply toss your daffodil bulbs about in an open (mowed) field and then walk about digging individual holes in which to plant each individual bulb. 

It’s best to do either of these activities when it’s just rained or when rain is expected so that your bulbs will be naturally watered in.

Why Should You Mow Before Naturalizing Daffodils? 

One good reason to mow before naturalizing daffodils is that you don’t want to lose your bulbs in the grass, but that’s not the only reason.

By mowing your naturalizing area very short, late in the autumn, you give your daffodils a good start in the springtime.

The very short grass will allow more sun and warmth to the area.

Which Is Better, Trenches Or Random Tossing? 

Trenching works best if you want to create a dramatic visual effect with sweeps of daffodils.

However, if you want a very natural look, tossing works best. 

When making your choice, also think about upkeep. For example, a sweep of daffodils on a lawn is easier to mow around than scattered daffodils.

For this reason, you may want to save your scattering for open fields that you do not plan to mow.

What If The Soil In My Meadow Is Hard And Compacted? 

Here are the steps to follow:

  • Dig a bit deeper and larger hole for each bulb than you normally would.
  • Put a good, thick layer of soil amendment or compost in the bottom of the hole.
  • Cover the bulb with a layer of good garden soil mixed with coarse sand.

How Can I Dig Holes In Hard, Natural Soil? 

A bulb planting tool may work if you can’t make a dent in the soil with a shovel or trowel.

Otherwise, you may need to use a pick, crowbar, tire iron, or even an electric drill. 

How Deep Should Trenches Or Holes Be For Naturalizing Daffodils? 

When planting daffodils in your garden, the holes should be at least three times deeper than the bulb is high.

When naturalizing, you may wish to dig a little deeper hole. 

What Kind Of Soil Is Best For Naturalizing Daffodils? 

A loose, airy, loamy soil with lots of organic matter is best.

Areas at the edge of woods work well because of the natural enrichment and mulching provided by fallen leaves. 

What Sort Of Setting Is Best? 

Naturalized daffodils, like garden daffodils, need at least 6 hours of sunlight daily and well-draining soil, so a hillside or other slightly raised setting that is not directly under thick foliage will work well.

Do You Have To Water Naturalized Daffodils? 

The idea is to have the bulbs grow naturally, but you may need to give them a bit of help.

They should be well watered until they are established. After that, natural rain should provide enough water.

Of course, in times of drought, you should water. However, it’s best to occasionally provide a slow, deep watering than spray overhead or use a sprinkler frequently.

Do You Have To Fertilize Naturalized Daffodils? 

It can’t hurt to incorporate a bit of complete, low nitrogen fertilizer (3 -6-6 or 5-10-10) into the soil mixture you put in the bottom of the planting hole.

Take care not to allow the full-strength fertilizer to touch the bulbs as it will burn them.

If you have good, rich soil, your bulbs may do fine without fertilizing.

It’s wise to have your soil tested to ensure it will provide the right amounts and types of nutrients to support your growing daffodils.

Do You Have To Deadhead Naturalized Daffodils? 

In a naturalized setting, you can let your daffodils go to seed if you want.

The seed may or may not scatter and result in new plants.

Remember that when daffodils go to seed, it robs energy from the bulb. This may result in fewer flowers in the coming year. 

Do You Have To Care For Naturalized Daffodil Foliage? 

If the yellowing Daffodil foliage bothers you, you can go around trimming it off.

You are probably better off waiting in a large naturalized area until the vast majority of your naturalized daffodils’ foliage has yellowed and withered and then mowing with a mulching mower. 

What If Animals Like Chipmunks Dig In The Fresh Soil?

Put a thick layer of coarse wood chip mulch over the soil. This will discourage pesky varmints, and it will help hold in moisture and protect your bulbs against freezing. 

Do You Have To Divide Naturalized Daffodil Bulbs? 

Because naturalized bulbs should have plenty of room to spread and grow, the division is not as imperative as with daffodils in a garden setting.

Even so, clumps can become overcrowded with time. If your naturalized daffodils’ performance falls off, the division may be in order.

When Is The Best Time To Divide Naturalized Daffodil Bulbs? 

You can divide and relocate (or dry) bulbs anytime throughout the growing season, but for best results, wait until the plants’ foliage has yellowed and died back in the summertime. 

When Should You Naturalize Daffodils? 

The best time of year to plant daffodil bulbs is in the autumn, about a month before the severe first freeze.

Can You Get Original Wild Daffodils Today?

There are still some wild varieties available.

Among them are the subspecies:

  • Welsh Tenby daffodil (Narcissus pseudonarcissus: ssp. obvallaris)
  • Pretty Poet’s Daffodil (Narcissus poeticus)
  • Rush Daffodil or Jonquil (Narcissus jonquilla)
  • Angel‘s Tears Daffodil (Narcissus triandrus)

If I Find Daffodils Growing In The Woods, Are They Wild? 

The answer to this question depends on where you are.

If there is a variety of daffodils that hails from your location, maybe they are wild. 

Otherwise, they may be the naturalized survivors of an abandoned homestead. [source]

What Kinds Of Daffodils Do Well When Naturalized? 

Some of the best types of daffodils for naturalizing include: 

  • Tete a Tete is a lovely early spring bloomer in warm climates. It is a mid-spring bloomer in cooler climates. 
  • Ice Follies is a mid-spring, large cupped bloomer.
  • Mount Hood is another good choice for mid-spring blooms. 
  • Actacea is a late spring blooming, small cupped daffodil. 

For the best results in your area, check with your local garden center or garden clubs to find out what has been performing well for gardeners in your location. 

Of course, if you happen to find daffodils growing wild or naturalized in the woods near your home, you can be sure that a few lifted bulbs will do well in your setting!

Is It Better To Naturalize One Type Of Daffodils Or A Mixture? 

If you want a sweep of uniform color at a specific time of year, you may wish to plant all one type.

On the other hand, if you wish to varied blooming throughout the growing season, by all means, plant a mix. 

Other advantages of planting a mixture include having a bit of insurance if some types don’t do well for you.

If you plant a wide variety, you will get good results from some (if not all) of them. 

After your first blooming season is over, you’ll know what varieties to increase in the upcoming season.

Good Bulbs To Mix In With Daffodils For Naturalizing 

Lower growing bulbs make an excellent background for daffodils in a naturalized setting.

Be sure to keep your USDA hardiness zone in mind when making your choice.

Some top picks include: 

  • Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica) produces multiple pretty pink, primrose-like blooms with long, wide, medium green foliage. It is a North American native plant and thrives in USDA hardiness zones 3 and up. 
  • Crocus (Crocus) is the classic daffodil companion providing color early in the springtime in various colors and sizes. Crocuses are winter hardy in USDA hardiness zones 3 and above. 
  • Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) are early bloomers and often present their pretty white flower while the ground is still covered with snow. These lovely, hardy plants attain a height of about 6″ inches and are winter hardy to USDA hardiness zone 3. 
  • Glory-of-the-Snow (Chionodoxa forbesii) is a low-growing plant with grass-like foliage and pretty, pale lavender, star-shaped blooms. It is winter hardy to USDA zone 3.
  • Grape Hyacinth (Muscari) is another excellent ground cover with pretty, deep blue/purple clusters of round, grape-like blooms. This plant is winter hardy to USDA hardiness zone 4.
  • Siberian Squill (Scilla siberica) stands about 6″ inches high and has strappy, deep green leaves and pretty, deep purple drooping blooms. This native of Russia is winter hardy to USDA zone 2.
  • Winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) is native to Bulgaria and southern France. This hardy ground cover presents yellow, buttercup-like blooms early in the springtime. It is winter hardy in USDA hardiness zones 3 and higher. [source]

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