How to Divide Daffodils

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“How to Divide Daffodils©”

By Arlene Wright-Correll

Living in zone 6 gives me the ability to consider lots of perennials and one of them is daffodils. Ever since we moved to Kentucky, we have never been here in the winter. We usually leave to follow the sun about mid November and come back about the end of April. By then most of the spring bulbs have come and gone. This is the first spring we have been here and it was an amazing delight to see all the different types of daffodils I had planted. I usually only get to see the green stems and leaves.

I remember the first year we moved here, I gave my daughter-in-law a present of about 100 tulip bulbs and 50 or so Daffodil bulbs. She planted them in the fall and they graced her entryway in the following spring. I mentioned to her that it was necessary to allow the tulips, once they lost their blossom, to get that scraggly, droopy look as tulips needed to have their strength or energy go back down towards the bulb in order to produce again and again. Needless to say, the first weed whacker job did them in and they were never to be seen again.

However, the Daffodils did not get the “hatchet job” for some reason and they had bloomed every year in the same area since the spring of 1998.

The weed whacker caught up with them the other day by my grandson before I could issue instruction, so who knows what will happen. These were just ready to be divided, as they were pretty tight in that one area. I doubt they will come back again next spring.

Daffodils are among the easiest and showiest bulbs to grow in the early flowering garden. They love lots of sun but tolerate a half-day shade. Yet, they grow just fine among deciduous trees because they flower before most trees leaf out.

I love the daffodil because it is such an early harbinger of spring. It is sometimes referred to as a buttercup or a jonquil. These are all common names and they are all correct. But its Latin, or botanical name, is narcissus.

Over the years I have purchased daffodil bulbs that bloom at different times of spring. So it might behoove you to look at the blooming time when you purchase daffodil bulbs. They are usually labeled, early spring blooming, mid-spring blooming and late spring blooming. This gives me daffodils over a longer period of time.

Once the joy of the blooms have come and gone, one of the first questions that arises is what year you should treat it with respect. This grass like foliage actually restores the bulbís energy through photosynthesis. It helps it prepare for blooming next year so donít cut it back.

Itís okay to remove the spent flower but be sure to leave the stem intact. Even though the foliage begins to look a little scruffy let the foliage die back at least six weeks to rejuvenate the bulbs for next yearís flowers.

Divide daffodils every three to five years or when the bulbs produce few flowers. Since daffodil blooms seem to be everywhere in the spring, I always thought they were native American wildflowers, but theyíre not. Most of them come from Europe and have been used in gardens long before the time of the Romans.

Over the years, many different varieties of daffodils have been developed. In fact, they are divided into twelve main divisions and numerous subdivisions, which help us to keep them straight.

One question has always stumped me. I will see daffodils planted in someoneís yard. Then I see clumps of them nearby in the oddest places such as down the road in a ditch in a nice clump. I do not think they have been planted there. How did they get there? At any rate, lets get back to the theme of this article.

Dig as soon as the foliage starts to die, but is still visible. Separate the bulbs in the clumps, but do not tear them apart as they will come apart when ready. Of course just remember the name of the game here is to keep the foliage green as long as possible. As long as the foliage is green it is working to recharge the bulb for next yearís flower.

You may damage them by tearing them apart if they are visibly attached; many bulbs stay in place for years and continue to bloom with proper fertilization. Feed bulbs in the fall; top-dress them with a slow-release 5-10-20 daffodil fertilizer. Greensand, bone meal and wood ashes from your fireplace make good organic nutrients.

However, if you donít periodically dig up and divide your daffodils, youíll find the bulbs are very small and wonít produce as many flowers. Every year in Holland they dig up and sell their largest daffodil bulbs. I like to replant my largest bulbs where I like them to be seen and you could put the smaller bulbs in the back of your garden and fertilize them to encourage root growth.

I like to start new beds with them, myself. As I get older and have less strength, I have to find easier ways to garden.

I have become the “cardboard box” gardener. I used to use weed block, but that does not break down.

Cardboard boxes are not only biodegradable, they are cheaper and I love recycling stuff. I always like to make “rooms” for my garden or boarder beds in certain areas. Cardboard boxes work for me.

I do not have to rotor-till the grass and all the hard work that goes with it. I just put down my boxes after I have broken them apart to make them flat.

Newspapers work well also, but tend to fly around in the wind. Try to avoid the colored sections of newspapers as they usually have different chemicals in them. I lay my cardboard out larger than the area I am going to cover with dirt. That way I can lay an extra foot or so of mulch around the dirt and the mower person or weed-whacker person does not come near my bulbs or plants.

I also like raised beds as raised beds warm up quicker in the spring. After I have laid down my cardboard in the area I want the new bed, I engage my strong 16 year-old grandson at $5.00 per hour to haul my 40 pound bags of topsoil for me to the cardboard.

This is usually done in an hour or less and worth every penny of the $5.00 bill. I use one bag of black cow to 4 bags of topsoil and he opens them up onto the cardboard. I

t is into these raised prepared beds that I plant my Daffodil bulbs or any other plants or seeds I intend to plant. However, since this is an article about daffodil dividing we will now get to the five simple steps of doing so.

Over the years, a single bulb can produce many offsets. Most small-flowered can continue to bloom when congested. The large-flowered daffodils suffer terribly when they become crowded and bear fewer, smaller blossoms or even none after 3 or 4 year.

So you see dividing the clumps does the daffodil a big favor, besides giving you a nice supply of bulbs without the cost of buying them.

Step 1. As I said before, dig your daffodils in the summer just after the foliage ripens and dies down. The location of the bulbs will be apparent because you can still see when the foliage enters the ground. I like to use a flat garden fork to dig up large clumps of bulbs, as this tends to cause less damage to the bulb than a spade does. Always insert the fork in the soil several inches away from the bulb to avoid spearing them. Carefully pry out the clump of bulbs.

Step 2. Handle the bulbs gently as bruised bulbs tend to rot. Use your fingers to brush off excess soil. Most bulbs will separate naturally as the soil is shaken off. Other may remain connected at the bottom or basal plate. Gently break apart those that are loosely connected, leaving the offsets that are firmly attached to the mother bulb. Discard any bulbs that are soft, rotten, or damaged.

Step 3. Daffodil bulbs can be planted immediately or stored for fall planting. I always plant immediately as I have too many other things to do in the fall and I am too lazy to cure the bulbs in order to harden them and keep them better. However, should you wish to do so, set an old window screen on two boxes or sawhorses in a dry, shady spot with good air circulation. Gently place the bulbs on the screen in a single layer. After a few days of curing, put the bulbs in a paper bag and place them in a dark, cool and well-ventilated location for storage.

Step 4. When you replant, reserve the largest bulbs for planting areas where you want the showiest displays. The smallest offsets will not flower in their first year and should be planted where you will know where they are, such as in a nursery row to grown bigger or as part of a naturalized planting where a few non-flowering bulbs wonít be obvious. Like most other bulbs, daffodils grow best in well-drained soil in sun or light shade. I always add a bulb fertilizer, such as an organic 3-6-3 at this time as it gives the bulbs a gentle boost and will not burn any tender new roots. For spot planting, I dig the holes 8 inches deep and 8 inches apart. I place a tablespoon of the 3-6-3 in each hole and then insert the bulb and cover with soil. I do not like to put in a row of bulbs. Regardless of what bulb I am planting, I like to put them in “clumps” of color or variety. Not like little soldiers all in a row.

Step 5. Once planted, i.e. covered with soil and water them. Then I always cover the bulbs with 1 to 2 inches of mulch. Such as shredded bark, leaf mold or compost. This helps conserve soil moisture and keeps down the weeds.

I water the mulch this time. Chipmunks, moles and squirrels dislike daffodil bulbs, so they need no special protection. But those little rascals love crocuses and tulips. Here is a hint for those of you, who like myself, love to bring flowers indoors.

When cutting daffodils for you table, always choose ones that have not opened yet. They will open quickly in your vase and last a lot longer. Also, do not cut all the way down the stem and cut randomly through out your bed.

The following bulbs also can be divided: Glory of the Snow (Chionodoxa):

Divide after foliage dies; plant 3 inches deep; space 3 to 4 inches apart.

Grape hyacinths (Muscari): Divide summer to fall; plant 3 inches deep; space 3 to 4 inches apart.

Tulips (Tulipa): Divide after foliage dies; plant 6 to 8 inches deep; space 4 to 8 inches apart.

Squill (Scilla): Divide summer to fall; plant large species, such as S. peruviana, just below soil, others 3 to 4 inches deep; space 6 to 12 inches apart.

Always remember to buy the best bulbs you can afford, as they will reward you year after year, so in the long run, they are the best investment. Plus, try to find or start a local gardening club to trade your accumulating bulbs in the future years for things you do not have.

To learn more about easy gardening check out “The Impractical Gardener by Arlene Wright-Correll.

I grant “ONE-TIME” publishing rights ©Copyright All rights reserved. About the author, Arlene Wright-Correll (1935- ), free lance writer, award winning artist and avid gardener is mother of 5 and the grandmother of 8. For almost 40 years she was an International real estate consultant and during the last 20 years of her career traveled to many parts of the world. She has been a cancer and stroke survivor since 1992. While working and raising her children she had many hobbies including being a very serious home-vintner for approximately 14 years while residing in upstate New York in St. Lawrence County producing 2,000 to 3,000 bottles of wine a year. She was the president of the St. Lawrence County chapter of the American Wine Society in Potsdam, NY. During that time she wrote a Home Vintner column for the Courier Freeman and the Canton Plain Dealer. In 1975 her hearty burgundy won first place at the annual American Wine Society meeting in Toledo, Ohio. This home vintner created many formulas or recipes for not only still wine, but sparkling wine and beer. She enjoyed the friendship and fellowship that was created by working with other home vintners during those years. She is an avid gardener, an artist, and a free lance writer of many topics including, but not limited to “The ABCís of Making Wine and Beer©” by Arlene Wright-Correll this jam packed information CD includes 15 chapters on how to make your own wine and beer. This CD has loads of tried and true recipes, easy instructions, equipment identifying photos and it includes three bonus articles “How to Host a Wine Tasting Party”, “How to Build an Underground Wine Cellar” and ” Everything You Wanted to Know about Wine, but Were Afraid to Ask”. This $19.95 value is on sale today for only $14.95 at

(Contact Arlene Wright-Correll at 270 524 9567 or email her at  to review and read other How To articles by Arlene Wright-Correll click here. 

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