Everything You Ought to Know About Growing Daffodils for Cut Flowers!

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When it comes to spring flowers, the one variety I’ve been growing the longest here at Two Sisters Flower Farm is none other than the daffodil. 

Now, there’s a lot of reasons to love daffodils- some of which we’ll get to in this blog post; but if you’re not yet a fan of this class of flowers, don’t worry, you’re in good company! When it came to daffodils, it wasn’t love at first sight for me either- my appreciation for this flower came much later…

You see, daffodils were, what I felt at the time, the least riskiest way to dip my toes into spring-flowering crops. And truthfully, they helped me grow my confidence to the point where I felt ready to tackle spring flowers on a much larger scale. 

As you may already know the rest is history because nowadays we grow a lot more during the earliest parts of the year including tulips, ranunculus, anemones and a few other fun spring loving flowers…

So if you’re curious why I love daffodils so much, or you’re considering planting your own patch of them yourself- then keep reading because I’m breaking down everything you need to know about growing daffodils for cut flowers.

If you’re ready, let’s go…

As you may already know, when I originally started growing flowers, I focused on growing warm-season flowers. My first cutting garden was made up entirely of easy-to-grow annuals like zinnias, cosmos and sunflowers.

And for a while that was enough.

But when I made the switch from growing for hobby to growing for business– I couldn’t help but feel like I was missing out during the spring season.

I used to watch these more experienced flower farmers on Instagram have these amazingly abundant spring seasons. I mean, I was so drawn to watching them with their armloads of tulips, and their buckets of ranunculus, and their big and beautiful harvests of peony blooms.

And more so than the flowers themselves, as a flower grower wanting to “make it” as a flower-farmer- what I appreciated most about these early spring blooms was how neatly they coincided with the more popular flower-holidays like Valentine’s Day, Easter and Mother’s Day…

It’s easy to see that spring naturally brings with it a lot of opportunity for flower growers.

I knew I wanted in on it, but the big question I faced was “how was I going to make that possible?”

Daffodils were my “in”.

Now I understand that daffodils might not be your first pick when you’re considering what spring flowers to grow, but given the resources that I had available at the time, daffodils just made the most sense for me. 

Why Growing Daffodils for Cut Flowers Makes Sense:

In case you’re wondering if daffodils are for you, let me break down my decision a bit further…

For starters, daffodils are extremely easy to grow. Unlike flowers grown from seed that need to be nurtured and cared for in order to thrive, bulbs have everything they need to bloom already inside of them. By nature, they are pretty self-sufficient which means that all you have to do is get them in the ground. Come spring, these bulbs- they bloom all on their own. It’s the easiest, low-maintenance kind of growing there is!

And if they already weren’t easy enough to grow, daffodils are pretty immune to pests and disease. Deer, rabbits, and many other pesky critters that like to munch on garden plants will actually leave daffodils alone so you don’t have to worry about whether or not you’re going to get to enjoy your fall-planted bulbs come spring.

For me, knowing that my bulbs would be safe from hungry critters, it gave me some extra reassurance- a little added security; and I really appreciated that confidence boost I felt as a result. Spring can be a scary season for a lot of growers when you’re just getting started- but daffodils can make it feel a little less risky. 

Now speaking of risk, it’s always a bit nerve-wrecking expanding into a new season. I remember questioning whether or not my existing customers would be interested in new spring offerings. And if they weren’t, would I be able to find a receptive audience that would be by the time my spring flowers were blooming?

The fact that daffodils perennialize so well helped remove a little bit of pressure during those early years when I didn’t have an established customer base for spring sales- because even if I wasn’t able to harvest or sell every bloom that flowered, it wasn’t as though my investment was “wasted”. 

Sure it can be a little disheartening if you don’t recoup your investment right away, but knowing that the life of my daffodil bulbs extended over multiple years (and weren’t just limited to one season) meant that I had more opportunity to reap the reward from my work.

I planted my very first daffodil bulbs in the ground back in 2020 and while every year I like to add a few more varieties to my collection, those original bulbs that I first planted are still producing for me even now- which is pretty incredible when you consider just how inexpensive of an investment daffodil bulbs are.

And daffodil bulbs aren’t just low investment but there’s also a short turnaround on that investment. 

When it comes to spring perennials, most people immediately think of peonies- which are a great crop to have on your flower farm for a lot of reasons but they’re a much more long term investment because they need about three years to establish. 

Daffodil bulbs don’t have that same wait time. You plant them in the fall and a few months later, the following spring you have flowers that you can harvest. And so if you’re looking to capture spring sales right away, daffodils can be an effective way to do so. 

What’s more, a consideration I hadn’t realized until after planting daffodils myself, but this flower crop does have some versatility to it. Here’s the thing, early in my flower farming journey I looked at flowers through the lens of “will this flower be useful in a flower bouquet?”. I couldn’t see a use for flowers beyond just selling them as either straight bunches or wrapped bouquets.

And don’t get me wrong, having a narrowly-focused mindset is useful, especially when you’re starting out, but as I’ve gained experience and opened myself to other possibilities, I saw how some of the smaller flowering daffodils could work well for personal flower type projects too- you know things like flower crowns or boutonnieres or even in some fun spring-inspired wreaths. 

This realization ultimately helped me to see that having even a small number of perennial bulbs growing in my garden like hyacinths and muscari- flowers that I initially wrote off as they don’t typically have that long, desirable stem length- could in fact be useful.  

Now so far in this blog post I’ve shared with you all the reasons why I, as a flower farmer, love daffodils but I think it’s equally important to realize that a lot of that would be irrelevant if my customers weren’t equally as excited about these early spring blooms.

In my opinion much of this excitement comes from the fact that daffodils are an incredibly diverse class of flowers. When you start to look into all the available daffodil varieties that you can grow- you’ll notice how incredible this range really is.

Daffodils nowadays are different from that traditional, bright yellow flower that we’re all so familiar with. Believe it or not- you can grow daffodils in shades of cream, orange + even pink; And in addition, there’s so many unique styles and forms to choose from- you have ruffled varieties, more traditional trumpet styles and plenty of doubled varieties as well that have layers upon layers of petals. 

Add to the fact that many daffodil varieties have a subtle, sweet scent- it’s not hard to understand why customers would actually be excited to have daffodil blooms available to them in early spring.

I’ll actually share some of my favorite varieties that we grow here at Two Sisters Flower Farm shortly, but let me first share a few key considerations for you to think about before you get your first bulbs in the ground…  

Growing Daffodils For Cut Flowers (What You Really Need to Know):

Like I said earlier, daffodil bulbs are planted in the fall, they’ll actually develop roots soon after planting and then go dormant for the winter. Depending on your region’s climate they’ll begin blooming for you in early spring- which for some areas may be as early as late February, or if you’re like us here in West Michigan it can be closer to late April/ Early May.

And it can vary from year to year. This year, in 2024 I picked our first daffodil blooms the very first week of April. But back in 2022, I remember having such a cool start to the year that our daffodils bloomed much later- we actually sold daffodil bunches for Mother’s Day which you all know is in early May

I do want to emphasis that this cooling period is a necessary part of the daffodil’s life cycle- daffodil bulbs typically need to be exposed to cool temperatures for at least 12 weeks for them to form flowers and initiate bud so if you’re in a warmer region, you know, Zone 8 or above you may find daffodils to be challenging for your climate. 

Another key consideration that I want to hit on is that for best success with daffodils, or with bulbs in general- it’s to your advantage to start with a bigger (and better) bulb.

Remember a bulb holds inside itself all the resources a flower needs to bloom- and so, naturally it makes sense that a bigger bulb will have more stored energy that can then be used to produce a bigger plant with a more impressive display of flowers.

When it comes to daffodils, bulbs that are sized as 14 to 16 centimeters are usually considered larger and more premium- and that’s the minimum size I look for when I’m ordering bulbs myself.

You can quite honestly find these larger-sized bulbs most anywhere- if you’re buying for business, most every wholesaler has some kind of daffodil program that they offer. Personally, I think the popularity of daffodils is helping to make these sorts of bulbs easier to find, and I will add that for you home gardeners or those who want to grow daffodils on a smaller scale, every fall we do sell these more premium bulbs as part of our fall bulb sale. If you’d like to support our small farm, check back with us in September as that’s usually when our bulbs go on sale.

Now in terms of where to plant your bulbs- the good news is that daffodils are not fussy at all, they’ll grow almost anywhere (both in full sun or partial shade) so long as you plant them in well-draining soil. While there’s not a lot that will take out your daffodils- the biggest threat to this crop is usually waterlogged soil that causes your bulbs to rot.

I plant our daffodil bulbs, because I have so many, in long straight rows in my garden. We currently have about four rows that are thirty to forty feet long at the front of my summer cutting garden but daffodils can be tucked in wherever you have room- maybe you include them in your existing landscape or you make room for them in a raised bed, they’re not picky. 

To plant ours in long, straight rows I dig a small trench six to eight inches deep; I then place each bulb, pointy side up, about six inches apart from one another- this ensures each bulb has enough space to grow and multiply without becoming overcrowded.

Once my bulbs are securely in place, I go back and gently fill the trench with soil, covering those bulbs I just planted. If there’s no rain in the forecast I usually finish this project by giving my newly planted bulbs a good soak to help them settle in- but the rest of the details I leave up to Mother Nature.

Now if you’re not as obsessed with daffodils as I am and you’re perhaps planting a more normal amount, you can skip the trench altogether but in general the process is the same. A lot of local hardware stores actually carry inexpensive bulb planters that will help you dig a small hole so that you can drop a single bulb down into it and then cover it with soil.

To make the biggest impact, I encourage you to plant your bulbs in small groups or clusters as this will give you a fuller, more dazzling display of blooms.

During the winter, you won’t see much, if any, activity from your daffodils above the ground- but as the weather starts to warm, you’ll begin to notice the tips of the daffodil leaves emerging from the soil.

The biggest fear that I think most people have is they see these leaves start to appear during times when their area is still experiencing temperatures below freezing- don’t worry, daffodils are extremely hardy and the exposure to cold doesn’t harm the foliage at all. 

Now so you’re aware, your daffodil foliage will usually grow first and once that reaches about 4 to six inches in height then you’ll start to see flower buds appear- they grow from the base of the plant. Don’t freak out if all you see are leaves at first, the buds will soon follow. 

You’ll know your daffodils are ready for harvest once they get to what’s called “goose-neck” stage- which is when the buds are completely colored but still slightly nodding. Picking your flowers when they’re at this stage will ensure the longest vase life- which for daffodils is usually about five to seven days. 

I have noticed over the years, especially with my white-petaled daffodils and many of the more doubled varieties, harvesting them too early sometimes causes these blooms to not fully develop. I sometimes see that the resulting blooms are a bit underwhelming in terms of their color- they often retain some of that green that is present in early, immature blooms. and for this reason I sometimes will harvest these types of daffodils just a tad later than gooseneck stage. 

To harvest flowers I reach all the way down to the very base of the stem to snap it off with my fingers. I’ve found this method to be faster and I can usually get a slightly longer stem using my fingers than if I were to use snips to harvest.

I’m careful to not harvest the leaves and pick just the central stem. That’s because in order to ‘recharge’ for next year’s blooms, the bulb needs to be nourished through photosynthesis. Leaving the leaves uncut allows this process to happen. I like to leave the leaves on my own plants untouched for a good six weeks after daffodil season is over to ensure that I get big beautiful blooms next year as well.

Once spring fades into summer here at our farm, the leaves that are left behind will start to turn yellow and fall over. Once this happens it’s safe to prune the leaves to the ground + tidy up your beds.

As we discuss harvesting, I do want to mention that your freshly cut daffodil stems will release a clear, sappy liquid upon harvest. While I’ve never personally experienced skin irritation from coming in contact with this slimy sap, if you have sensitive skin, you may find it helpful to wear gloves while you’re handling daffodils. 

Be aware that this sap is one reason daffodils have the reputation of not “playing well with other flowers”. If daffodils are used in combination with other flowers in an arrangement, the sap from the daffodils can diminish the vase life of the other flowers.

Your best bet to circumvent this is to condition your daffodils separately before arranging. Simply cut your stems to their desired height, place them in their own bucket with cool water and allow them to remain in that water for a couple of hours. During this time, the ends of your daffodil stems will callous over + stop leaking sap, allowing them to be used in combination with other flowers. 

Understand that if you wish to recut your stems, you’ll need to repeat this conditioning process all over again as a fresh cut will cause more sap to be released. 

Of course you can skip this process altogether by creating an arrangement solely of daffodils. I find that there’s so much variation among all the different daffodil types that creating stunning arrangements with just daffodils is unbelievably easy…

Storing Cut Daffodil Stems:

Now if you’re picking your daffodils to sell at a later date, know that daffodils do store relatively well. If I need my daffodils to keep, I’ll harvest them at that correct goose neck stage; I’ll bunch them together, usually a dozen or two at a time and then I wrap them in kraft paper.

The reason I do this is because daffodils hydrate a lot through their petals; if you’ve paid close attention to your daffodil blooms and have seen them with that wrinkly look, it’s usually because they’ve been exposed to an environment with low humidity.

I wrap my stems to help them maintain hydration in their blooms and then store them laid flat in a cooler or refrigerator. Ideally you want to store your daffodils at 33 to 38 degrees Fahrenheit and in an environment with a relative humidity of 90 percent- this should give you an extra seven to ten days for your daffodils, though I have heard of some flower farmers storing them longer. 

Favorite Daffodil Varieties to Grow for Cut Flowers:

So let’s talk favorites!

I’ll be honest, there’s very few, if any varieties that I’ve grown that I wouldn’t grow again- which I think proves that you can’t go wrong with any of them, but let me highlight those varieties that I enjoy seeing year after year…

Apricot Whirl: This butterfly style daffodil is such a fun addition to any spring garden!

Blooms feature a dense frilly, apricot-colored center. The entire flowers looks as if it’s bursting with ruffles and it often reminds me of a summer pinwheel!

Pink Charm: A beautiful pink-throated trumpet-style daffodil.

If you like that traditional daffodil shape but prefer a softer, more subtle color pallet, Pink Charm is for you!

Sir Winston Churchill: Small clusters of dainty blooms sit atop strong, sturdy stems.

Blooms are white with a saffron center. Our customers love the soft, romantic feel this daffodil adds to spring arrangements. This variety is highly fragrant and a must-grow in my opinion!

Popeye: This fun, novelty variety is truly one-of-a-kind!

It sports a beautifully pronounced trumpet shape that is buttery yellow and stuffed full with layers upon layers of ruffles.

Le Torch: Bright, vibrant and bold- one of my all-time favorite yellow varieties!

Blooms are large and upward facing. Petals alternate between a deep golden yellow and a rich orange. This late season variety is one of the last to bloom for us each year + I love ending our season on such a high note.

Ice King: Crimped petals in shades of soft yellow sit in the center of this daffodil. They are a nice contrast to the outer, smooth ivory petals.

This early-blooming variety is always the first to pop in our daffodil patch!

Precocious: A beautiful salmon-colored disc adorns the center of this variety- it’s ruffled edges are slightly darker than its light pink center

Flowers bloom on long, strong stems that hold up well throughout the spring season!

Queen’s Day: Layers of petals in alternating shades of rich goldenrod + bright egg-yolk yellow, this ultra-ruffled variety is fun and cheery!

It’s name after the Dutch national holiday, formerly known as Queen’s Day

Delnashaugh: A favorite of mine for both it’s unique coloring- soft white petals mix well with peachy-salmon hues- as well as its unique form. There’s just so many layers of petals that constitute this doubled-daffodil variety.

Obdam: Big, fluffy and loaded with the most beautiful crisp-white colored petals!

This variety blooms with the faintest hint of yellow within its center, yet as it ages that soft yellow hue slowly fades away.

White Lion: A beautiful color combination! Creamy white petals alternate with shorter, and more ruffled yellow petals.

It’s both classic in color and yet elegant in texture. One of my favorites to see blooming in the garden each spring!

Replete: This variety is chocked full of petals! Lavish, salmon-colored ruffles fill the center of this bloom.

It’s sweetly scented and what I love most about this variety is that as it ages its ivory outer petals reflex backwards giving the illusion of a beautifully pronounced trumpet shape. It’s a beautiful daffodil variety through all stages of its life cycle.

Lingerie: Beautifully scented! This variety has thickly ruffled centers that display in alternating layers of white and golden yellow petals.

Conclusion:

And there you have it, a full rundown on one of my favorite early spring blooms that I’ve come to rely on more and more!

If you’re not already growing daffodils yourself, I hope this blog post inspires you to give them a try. And if you are growing daffodils, I’d love it if you’d share some of your favorite varieties down in the comments below- I’m always looking for fun favorites to add to my collection.

Wishing you the best of luck and much success with growing flowers for an abundantly beautiful spring season!

Picture of Britney Zondlak

2 replies to “Everything You Ought to Know About Growing Daffodils for Cut Flowers!

  1. Thank you for answering so many of my questions. I’m going into my second year flower farming in zone 5. In order to supply flowers for a farmers market in the closest large city starting in May I need to focus more on early season flowers. I think you’re in my zone. When do you typically start harvesting daffodils ? I know at least in my area we are several weeks ahead of a typical year this year but I don’t have anything ready in early May. Your daffodils are GORGEOUS!! If daffodils don’t work I might have to resort to taking the tulip workshop and force tulips. Thank you for all you do!

    • Glad to hear this content was helpful! Our daffodil harvest does vary from year to year depending on the weather. We’ve harvested as early as the first week of April and in cooler years we’ve harvested as late as the first week of May 🙂 Best of luck to you!

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Hey there, I'm Britney!

A dairy farmer turned flower farmer growing + selling specialty cut flowers in West Michigan! I think flowers are the best way to savor the magic that comes with every season- that’s why at Two Sisters Flower Farm we grow everything from daffodils in the spring to pumpkins + dahlias in the fall!

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