How to plant daffodil bulbs: top tips for stunning spring displays

Here's how to plant daffodil bulbs for the easiest and most reliable way to bring colour and cheer to a post-winter garden

How to plant daffodil bulbs
(Image credit: Wouter Koppen/iBulb)

Want to know how to plant daffodil bulbs to ensure you get the best results next spring? Follow our expert advice and you'll be rewarded with the wonderful sight of a display of daffodils to remind you that spring is just around the corner after a long, grey winter. It could be a golden ribbon of flowers running along a verge, a group of bright pots placed on a patio or some tiny splashes of sunshine nosing through the lawn any time from January through to May. 

There are 13,000 different varieties of daffodil, which is the common name for any plants which belong to the Narcissus group. They can be split into 12 main types, defined by the size and shape of their petals. Some have large trumpets and single flowers, others are cup-shaped, or they may present in clusters on the same stem. 

Whether you prefer pops of primary yellow, dreamy whites, gold or uplifting orange, there’s a dependable daffodil to suit every colour palette. Keep reading for our top tips on how to plant them, then check out our guide to how to plant tulips to add some extra flair to your spring bulb displays.

When is the best time to plant daffodil bulbs?

daffodils planted in a pot

(Image credit: Wouter Koppen/iBulb)

September is the ideal month. They are sold as dry bulbs, appearing in stores in late summer. Like onions, they have lots of layers, which means they are sturdy and not prone to drying out. You can find the bulbs easily in supermarkets, garden centres, on market stalls or by mail order. If you are buying them in person, choose large, firm bulbs and avoid any which show signs of mould. 

Where can I plant daffodil bulbs?

bed of bright yellow daffodils

(Image credit: Wouter Koppen/iBulb)

Daffodils grow well in most soil types. They prefer a sunny spot in well-drained soil, but some can cope with light shade. Avoid putting them in heavily waterlogged soil or in sun-less spots. Once the daffodils are in the ground – it’s job done. These low-maintenance plants do not need to lifted once they have flowered.

How to plant daffodil bulbs in the ground

daffodils planted in the ground

(Image credit: Wouter Koppen/iBulb)

To plant daffodil bulbs in a bed or a border, dig over the soil and remove any weeds. Add some home-made compost (our guide on how to compost has all the info you need) or buy a bag of well-rotted manure and fork some in. Take a bulb and place it in the soil, at a depth roughly three times the height of the bulb. Make sure the pointy side is facing upwards. Cover the bulb with soil. To make a good clump which will create a pool of colour, choose at least seven bulbs. They should be planted about 10cm apart. 

Can I grow daffodil bulbs in pots? 

pots planted up with colourful daffodils

(Image credit: Wouter Koppen/iBulb)

Perfectly suited to container growing, a pot of daffodils can add instant cheer to a drab patio, a boost to a front garden or they may be used to brighten up a window box. Take a pot with holes, and put some pebbles or broken bits of pot in the bottom. This helps with drainage and air circulation. Fill three quarters full with a compost such as John Innes No 2 or John Innes No 3. Add some slow release fertiliser and put the bulbs in the container, pointed side upwards. Cover with soil, filling the pot to the top, so the daffodils are sitting at two to three times their own depth. Water well. The bulbs can be left in the same containers for a couple of years, but it’s worth refreshing the top layer of compost annually, and also adding some fertiliser to ensure plenty of super healthy flowers. 

How do you get daffodils to grow in the grass? 

daffodils growing in the grass

(Image credit: Wouter Koppen/iBulb)

There’s no prettier sight than naturalised daffodils – that is the term for flowers which grow through the grass. It is an easy effect to achieve. Take a handful of bulbs and toss them up in the air. Planting them where they land will create a random, informal effect. Using a bulb planter or a small, sharp edged trowel, remove a plug of turf, and insert the bulb into the cavity. Replace the turf on top. For a swathe of bulbs, cut out an H-shaped segment of turf and drop the bulbs into the space. Replace the turf lid, and water in well. The flowers will multiply over the years. 

Daffodil care

clump of bright yellow daffodils

(Image credit: Wouter Koppen/iBulb)

Deadhead daffodils after they flower, but don’t cut off the stems or leaves. Once they have completely finished, allow the foliage to die back for at least six weeks. It may look brown and messy, but this is the time when the plant is taking the goodness back into the bulbs, ensuring it will perform well next year. If your bulbs come up ‘blind’ (with no flowers on), it could be that the plants are overcrowded, or that they need feeding. 

Which type of daffodil bulbs should I choose? 

Want to find a great daffodil variety to grow in your garden? Try one of these colourful options this year. 

1. Early bloomer

'Early Sensation' daffodil

(Image credit: Wouter Koppen/iBulb)

For a guaranteed January flower, choose ‘Early Sensation,’ a classic, plain golden yellow daffodil which will push through soon after Christmas. It grows as tall as 30cm. Shop Narcissus 'Rijnveld's Early Sensation' bulbs at Crocus

2. Displays mini flowers

Tete a Tete daffodils

(Image credit: Wouter Koppen/iBulb)

Miniature Tête à Tête stand just 15cm tall with a bright yellow trumpet. Perfect for window boxes and rockeries, these jolly little flowers appear in March and April. Shop Narcissus 'Tete-a-Tete' bulbs at Thompson & Morgan

3. Multicoloured choice

'Smiling Maestro' daffodil

(Image credit: Wouter Koppen/iBulb)

For something strikingly different, ‘Smiling Maestro’ has bright yellow petals with a hot orange cup-shaped trumpet. It’s not subtle but it will make a splash.  

4. Pale and stylish

‘Petrel’ daffodil

(Image credit: Rob Cardillo/iBulb)

If yellow is not your thing, opt for an elegant white daffodil instead. Try ‘Petrel’ (pictured above) for two to five nodding flowers on upright stems and a March/April flowering time, or for a warmer toned, creamy coloured bloom, ‘Toto’ is a good choice. Shop Narcissus 'Petrel' bulbs at Crocus

5. Sweet smelling

‘Erlicheer’ daffodil

(Image credit: Dennis Brandsmer/iBulb)

‘Erlicheer’ is an exotic looking double flower with a delicious scent. It has white petals with an ivory coloured centre, and it flowers in early to mid-spring. Shop Narcissus 'Erlicheer' bulbs at Crocus

6. Super spreader

‘Hawera' daffodil

(Image credit: WH Zandbergen/iBulb)

If you have space for daffodils to multiply, try ‘Hawera.’ It has a dainty, pale flower with a short trumpet. The clumps should increase from year to year. Shop Narcissus 'Hawera' bulbs at Waitrose Garden

More advice: 

Fiona Cumberpatch
Fiona Cumberpatch

An experienced freelance journalist, editor and columnist writing for national magazines and websites, Fiona now specialises in gardens. She enjoys finding and writing about all kinds, from the tiniest town plots to impressively designed ones in grand country houses. She's a firm believer that gardening is for everyone, and it doesn’t matter if you have a single window ledge or an acre, there’s always peace and joy to be found outside. The small town garden of her Edwardian terraced house is currently a work in progress as she renovates the property, but her goal is always to fill it with flowers, climbers, colour, fragrance – and as many of her treasured vintage finds as she can possibly fit in.