Daffodil Narcissus

Multiply like rabbits? Check. Return year after year? Check. Not fussy about soil? Check. Not fussy about sunlight? Check. Not bothered by deer, rabbits, or other critters? Check! Daffodils are a great all-around flower!

I wonder what spendthrift chose to spill
Such a bright gold under my windowsill!
Is it fair gold? Does it glitter still?
Bless me! It’s a daffodil!

Celia Thaxter

The Meanings of Daffodils

No matter what the culture, daffodils seem to always signify an uplifting spirit. Their message is simple: energy! Because their brightness shines through the dark, cold days of winter and announces the arrival of spring, they are the perfect flower to mark new beginnings or to revive an old friendship or relationship. Daffodils are also strongly tied to creativity, inspiration, forgiveness, and vitality, plus a slew of other meanings from around the globe. Read on to learn more!

Creativity – Daffodils symbolize creativity every which way imaginable. This gem of a flower is a symbol of that limitless feeling some of us get when it comes to creativity and art. Many artists have used daffodils in their paintings as well as authors in their poetry and prose.

Forgiveness and memory – Daffodils are symbols of memory and forgiveness, and I guess the more you think about it, the more that makes sense that these two are tied together. In order to get past bad memories, we need to be forgiving, and hopefully create new memories which allow us to move forward in a more positive light.

Renewal and vitality – In addition to being the first sign of spring through the cold and dark weather of winter, daffodils also regenerate each year and are therefore a symbol of renewing energy and seeing things differently the next time around. [1]

Across the globe, here are some other meanings for daffodils:

China: The daffodil symbolizes good fortune in the Chinese culture. In fact, it is so esteemed for its ability to bring forth positive things that it is the official symbol of the Chinese New year.

Japan: To the Japanese people, the daffodil means mirth and joyousness.

France: In France, daffodils are a sign of hope.

Wales: A Welsh legend claims that the person to find the first daffodil bloom will be blessed with more gold than silver in the upcoming year. Guess it’s time to use my skymiles to get to Wales this year!

Arabian Countries: The Arabians believe the daffodil flower is an aphrodisiac and cure for baldness.

Medieval Europe: The medieval Europeans believed that if your gaze caused a daffodil to droop it was an omen of impending death. Geez, talk about the Dark Ages.

United States: In the U.S., the daffodil is the official symbol for the American Cancer Association, symbolizing a hope for a cure. It is also the flower for the month of March and the symbol of the 10th wedding anniversary. 

The History of Daffodils

In addition to the usual species of daffodils we all picture in our heads, the Daffodil Data Bank lists over 13,000 hybrids. 

All Daffodils have a corona in the center that looks like a trumpet and a ring of petals all around. The garden Daffodil’s ancestors come from the countries around the Mediterranean Sea, such as Spain,Portugal, and the Middle East. The earliest record of daffodils  dates to 300 B.C.

Grown extensively by the ancient Greeks and the Romans, daffodils nevertheless became a forgotten flower until about 1600, where they slowly began being introduced into the modern cultivar again,  and even in 1860, there were fewer than 350 cultivated hybrids.

Around 1629, a group of Englishmen took the daffodil out of the weeds and put it into the garden. Daffodils were back at it again!

During the days of the American manifest destiny and the expansion west, daffodils were well established as a “must have” in the garden due to their hearty nature and striking beauty.

Daffodils were brought to Britain by the Romans who thought that the sap from daffodils had healing powers. Actually the sap contains crystals that can irritate the skin and is toxic, so make sure you keep your four-legged friends away from eating them! [2]

Daffodils gain their alternate name from the Greek god Narcissus. According to legend, Narcissus was so enamored with his own reflection (hence the word ‘narcissism’) in the river that he drowned trying to capture his reflection. The daffodils growing along stream banks soon became associated with Narcissus and took on his name, probably due to the beauty of their reflected image in the water.

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DID YOU KNOW?

Daffodil Fun Fact

In the United States, the daffodil is the official symbol for the American Cancer Association, symbolizing hope for a cure. It is also the flower for the month of March and the symbol of the 10th wedding anniversary.

How to Grow Daffodils

Depending on  which botanist you talk to, (Do you know many?) there are between 40 and 200 different daffodil species, subspecies, or varieties of species and over 32,000 registered cultivars (named hybrids) divided among the thirteen divisions of the official classification system. Holy moly, that’s a lot of daffodils.

Daffodils are dependable perennial bulbs (meaning they return year after year with additional blooms). Under ideal growing conditions, they should outlast any of us. Daffodils are eternal. Okay, maybe not eternal, but they will last a really, really long time. While some kinds of bulbs tend to dwindle and die out, daffodils should increase.  Daffodils are probably the easiest and most dependable of all the families of flowers and ideal for a beginner in gardening in most regions of the United States. 

Daffodils are quite tolerant of cold, especially with a covering of snow, and are grown to the Canadian border. The only exceptions are a few tender cultivars, usually tazettas, such as the popular Paper White. Daffodils can also be grown throughout the South with the exception of parts of Florida which are free of frost. A cold treatment—natural or induced—is needed for flower bud initiation. Along a narrow band adjoining the Gulf of Mexico from Florida to Texas there are certain types and named cultivars which have been found to do better than others. [3] 

Daffodils are native mainly to the Mediterranean region, in particular to the Iberian Peninsula, as well as Northern Africa and the Middle East.

The paper-white daffodil could be planted in gardens that are outdoors, and also could also grow in indoor gardens during Christmas.

They look beautiful, but can you eat them? 

Nope! Better to leave these toxic flowers alone. They are toxic to humans, dogs, and many other animals. If you want to mix daffodils in a vase with other flowers, first soak them in water for 24 hours. This eliminates the sap they contain, which is often poisonous to other plants. Don’t cut the stems afterwards, as this triggers another release of the toxic sap. 

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DID YOU KNOW?

Daffodil Fun Fact

The daffodil is the national flower of Wales, where it’s referred to as a Lent Lily, and if you spot the first daffodils of the season in Wales, your next year will supposedly be filled with wealth.  [5]

How to Care for Daffodils

Start with a very clean vase. Make sure you clean it of any previous dirt or water marks which might cause bacteria and spoil your fresh flowers. Then, fill the vase with fresh, cool water, and add one pack of cut-flower food to the vase. Hold each stem next to your vase to gauge how much you’ll need to trim. Using a sharp knife, cut stems at a 45-degree angle so they won’t sit flat in the vase. This allows for better water absorption.

Here’s how to extend the life of your cut daffodils:

Replace the water and preservative every two days to keep the daffodils fresh. Use distilled water with a packet of commercial flower food or mix 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of sugar and 1/2 tsp. of bleach into 1 quart of water as a preservative. If the flower has already wilted, cut the last inch of the stem while it’s submerged under cool water at a sharp angle to prevent air bubbles in the stem and increase water flow into the flower. You can also place the whole flower, stem and petals, in a large container filled with cool water for 30 minutes to perk them up. Keep cut flowers out of direct sunlight and in a cool environment to help them last longer. [4]

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When to Give Daffodils as a Gift

Thinking about including some daffodils in your floral arrangement? Great choice! Just don’t include only 1. Legend has it that presenting someone with a single daffodil brings back luck. Instead, send a whole bunch of them: a gift of several daffodils is believed to deliver happiness to the recipient. But that’s no surprise to us! It seems impossible not to feel just a little bit of joy at the sight of them.

References:

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