Daffodils in Minnesota: The Basics
Don't buy or plant any bulb that is soft or mushy. Local garden centers don't store their bulbs in ideal conditions and many bulbs will be soft on their shelves. Don't be tempted by markdowns; feel the bulbs for firmness.
Open mail-order bulbs immediately and provide cool air circulation until you can get them into the ground. Again, inspect bulbs for firmness immediately. Most reputable firms will either replace or give credit for soft bulbs, if notified within a day of receipt. See Sources.
Think twice before buying daffodil mixtures. They often contain varieties not hardy for Minnesota.
The Daffodil Society of Minnesota sells bulbs locally, offering newer varieties that aren't yet widely available commercially. See Calendar of Events for sale dates and locations.
Good drainage is a must for any bulb, but especially for daffodils in Minnesota. Avoid places where the snow is last to melt or are regularly the last to dry from summer rains. Avoid very heavy clay soils unless you can add granite grit and organic matter to improve drainage.
Daffodils can be planted under deciduous trees, since trees don't provide much shade until their leaves fill out, and daffodils are going dormant by then. Avoid trees with dense roots near the surface: maple, dogwood, and beech. Also avoid black walnut trees because of the juglone in their tissues. Evergreens are also poor choices, except on their southern sides, because they usually provide too much shade in early spring. Any full sun exposure until late June is just fine.
Daffodils can be mixed into your garden beds as long as watering requirements
for your other plants are not excessive. Excess water during the summer
causes daffodils to rot, unless it drains quickly. Select daffodils
which will work best for the specific conditions in your
See: Which Divisions Go Where.
See Gallery of Minnesota Daffodils for recommended varieties in each division.
The rule of thumb is to plant the bulb in a hole 3 times its height, or approximately 6" deep for standard bulbs and 4" deep for miniature varieties. Deeper planting results in slower bulb division. They may bloom later in the Spring, but you won't have to divide the bulbs as often.
Daffodils in Minnesota should be planted in September and need to be in the ground by October 15th at the latest, since our ground typically freezes by the end of November. Late planting risks complete loss of your bulb investment. See: The Science of Daffodil Hardiness.
After October 15, if you find a bag of bulbs you forgot to get into the ground, plant them in a pot for winter bloom indoors. See: Indoor Pots of Daffodils.
If you need to renovate a garden, the best time to move bulbs is 4 weeks after bloom. But, if replanted immediately, they can be moved any time during the growing season.
In the Fall, daffodils need 1/2" or more of water every week until the ground freezes. Minnesota Autumns can be very dry, you will need to provide 1/2" of water if it doesn't rain. One of our Daffodil Society members recommends digging a hole, filling it with water, then planting the bulbs (pointy side up), after water has drained. Why, you may ask? See: The Science of Daffodil Hardiness.
Mulching in Minnesota means keeping our plants cold until Spring really arrives. We can have 'January thaws' that trick our plants into thinking it is Spring, then refreezing causes severe plant damage, even plant death. Daffodil bulbs are no different. Usually a good time to mulch your daffodils is late December. Holiday pine bough decorations make great mulching materials, and your neighbors will love you for recycling their trash! Chopped leaves are also good.
Most soils in Minnesota are fertile enough for newly planted daffodils so fertilizer application at planting is not required. In fact, it can be harmful if fertilizer comes in contact with the bulb surfaces. If your soil is very poor and you want to add something at planting time, dig your planting holes 1" deeper than normal and put your fertilizer well under your bulbs. Place 1" of soil over the fertilizer. The roots will grow down to it.
In Spring while your daffodils are beginning to bloom, you may add a fertilizer with low nitrogen. To increase color intensity, we recommend Muriate of Potash as a side dressing, watered in. Apply it once during bloom and once in Autumn.
Daffodil bulbs go dormant about six weeks after blooming. It is vital that you keep up watering until their leaf tips start to turn brown. DO NOT REMOVE DAFFODIL LEAVES or braid them or otherwise interfere with their food storage or you will eventually lose your bulbs. See: Which Divisions Go Where for recommended amounts of watering for best growth.
Mark your personal calendars with a reminder to water your daffodils starting in September. You will forget about them because nothing happens in the Autumn above ground.
Contact us if these growing instructions don't make sense to you.