Narcissus flowers (photo by Paul Meyer)

by Pam Morris

While fall is around the corner, it’s never too early to start thinking about spring. Nothing says spring like the emergence of Narcissus or daffodils, as they are commonly known. This bulb has a rich history filled with Greek mythology, poetry, medicinal use and cultural importance. Narcissus is a natural favorite among gardeners as one of the first signs of the promise of spring.

As part of the Amaryllis family, there are dozens of species and about 25,000 registered cultivars. The American Daffodil Society further breaks down these bulbs into 12 distinct horticultural divisions based on their description and size, and then by petal color and cup color. With so many varieties of daffodils to choose from, it might be a bit overwhelming to select the best ones for your garden. The Horticulture Department at the Morris Arboretum has chosen a few top selections to consider for your garden:

Narcissus poeticus – This late-blooming daffodil has a spicy fragrance and looks great in meadows where it naturalizes very well. This was hands down the most selected variety.

Narcissus “Thalia” – A later-blooming daffodil. This one is a pure white beauty! It is also a very fragrant variety that is a great perennializer as well.

Narcissus “Baby Moon” – This is a late, spring blooming multi-flowered form. It is a very diminutive-sized golden yellow flower with grass-like foliage.

Narcissus “Cheerfulness” – This variety has creamy, double white flowers with flecks of yellow in the center. It blooms later in the spring and has a sweet musky fragrance.

Narcissus “Carlton” – This is the world’s second most common daffodil and one of the best naturalizers. It has a very bold yellow flower and is located along the Magnolia slope.

Narcissus “Rip Van Winkle” – An endearing small double flowered yellow daffodil, this is an early to mid spring bloomer.

Narcissus “Golden Bells” – A wonderful N. bulbicodium cultivar, the flower is described as a “perfect little hoop petticoats.” These funnel shaped cups of rich golden yellow are on top of thin star-like petals that bloom mid-spring.

Narcissus “Rinjveld’s Early Sensation” – This is one of the earliest blooming daffodils. When the rest of the garden is still brown, this two-toned early bloomer is up and flowering in February.

Narcissus “Mite” – An early spring bloomer, this lovely, all-yellow variety has extremely reflexed petals with a long narrow trumpet. It is a very small, precious little daffodil.

Narcissus “Segovia” – This lovely, little blue ribbon winner daffodil has white, rounded overlapping petals with a small yellow flat cup. Segovia blooms in the mid spring.

In our area, fall is the best time to plant your bulbs, generally a few weeks before frost so that there is time for them to grow roots before winter. Narcissus bulbs are also deer and squirrel resistant because of the alkaloid toxin found mainly in the bulb, but also some in the leaves. Planting your Narcissus in the fall, you plant the promise of spring so you can reap the benefits after a long winter.

Pam Morris is a curatorial assistant at the Morris Arboretum