What to Call Them?

— Written By Peg Godwin and last updated by
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Some call them daffodils or jonquils and others use the name Narcissus. What do you call those yellow spring flowers growing in clumps? The common names for these eye catching beauties can be confusing.

The American Daffodil Society considers a daffodil to be a large-flowering bulb with flat, strap-like foliage. The flowers that are described as having 6 flat flower petals surrounding a central cup are divided into 13 groups. The division between the groups is determined by flower color, size and shape, as well as the foliage type, flowering schedule and the number of blossoms to a stem. There are over 25,000 registered hybrids. All of these perennials fall under the Narcissus genus.

Jonquil is one of the thirteen divisions of daffodils with the name of Narcissus jonquilla. They are described as having smaller, fragrant, clustered flowers and cylindrical pointed leaves. The leaves look like quills. Narcissus is a good common name for this group of daffodils.

You can use either “daffodil” or “narcissus” correctly when referring to any of this familiar family of bulbs.

Daffodils are amazingly easy to grow and last for many years with very minimal care. The most important care comes after flowering. Taking time to remove the faded flowers will prevent the plant from forming seeds and conserving the energy that would be needed. It is strongly recommended to leave the leaves in place so they can do their job of absorbing the energy from sunlight. Through the process of photosynthesis, the energy is converted into chemicals that produce the sugar needed to keep the flowers forming year after year. Removing the foliage too early will result in smaller and fewer flowers. It usually takes about 6 weeks for the foliage to die down and turn yellow. Resist the urge to bunch the foliage with rubber bands or braid the green leaves as this will reduce the sugar production needed for future years.

Divide daffodils every three to five years, or whenever you notice that flowers are smaller in size or number. Divide the plant when the foliage is dying but still visible so you can see where to dig.

No matter what you call them, these attractive spring flowers are a long term asset to the landscape.