Narcissus: Variations


A Narcissus is among the simplest of flowers, yet the genus is populated with thousands of cultivars and hybrids.  There are even a few ‘species’ available for gardeners to buy and grow, for those of us who enjoy seeing the purity of what nature gave us before a human hand got creative with it!


Narcissus ‘Cragford,’ a pre-1930 heirloom Narcissus.


Amazing creativity has allowed all of these fascinating variations, once we figured out how to go about hybridizing new varieties from old.  This was a very passionate topic in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Enthusiasts wanted to apply the new understanding of plant genetics to create beautiful and useful new plants.  Others believed that it is wrong to tamper in this way with the natural world.  In the end, there was enough of a market for all of the new varieties of grains, fruit, vegetables and flowers that hobbyists breeding new plants realized there was a great deal of money to make from plant breeding.

Most of the plant breeding was done in small, family businesses or on estates.  The market for these new and unusual plants drove the industry to keep providing new plants for enthusiastic gardeners and collectors.


Double Van Scion, or Guernsey Double Daffodil c. 1620 England


Today, The American Daffodil Society has divided the genus into 13 divisions, based on the shape of each part of the blossom, and its heritage. 

If this interests you, please find a copy of Noel Kingsbury’s beautiful book, Daffodil: The Remarkable Story of the World’s Most Popular Spring Flower.  You will learn about the fascinating history of daffodils, their collection, breeding, mythology and the many beautiful variations in their flowers.

I am particularly fond of daffodils from Division 11- Split Corona.  The corona, or cup, in the center of the flower is split into sections, often frilly, and curved back against the flower’s petals.


Mary Gay Lirette, a Heath hybrid.


The corona is often a contrasting color from the petals, and the stamens are yet another shade.  This makes for a flower that looks double, though it truly isn’t, and shows a beautiful, open face to the world.



Many of the split corona daffodils come along a little later in the spring.  The first daffodils to open in our garden are generally the ‘normal’ looking ones, with a long, tubular corona, or trumpet,  and six simple petals:  Division 1- Trumpet.



These are followed closely by some of our miniatures of similar form.  Miniature may be classed in various divisions, but are called miniatures because they are only about 6″ tall.




We buy nearly all of our daffodils now from Brent and Becky Heath.  The Heath’s are internationally famous for their beautiful daffodils and sell many of their own hybrids.  I am endlessly fascinated with growing daffodils, and love seeing how the slight variations of color and form recombine in so many beautiful ways.


Right: Ice Follies, a popular 1953 hybrid that multiplies extremely well.  Division 2-Large Cup.  This is their second spring in our garden.


Daffodils, grown from bulbs, are true perennials.  These are tough and persistent plants that increase each year.



Each bulb sets off new bulblets each spring, so a single daffodil bulb becomes a sturdy clump of daffodils within just a few years.  Many of these flowers also set seed.  If you don’t deadhead the flowers, the seeds will ripen and spread in early summer.  New plants will grow from these seeds, and crop up in unexpected places.  This is how areas around old homes often come to be carpeted in stands of daffodils each spring.

The daffodils you plant will very likely outlive the gardener, bringing spring time beauty to many, many others in the years ahead.



Woodland Gnome 2019



About woodlandgnome

Lifelong teacher and gardener.

11 responses to “Narcissus: Variations

  1. There is almost too much variety out there. I know that some enjoy the variety. I still prefer the simplest of them; paperwhites and ‘King Alfred’ daffodils. I would like ‘Mount Hood’ daffodils, but only because the are simple like a white version of ‘King Alfred’.

    • Mount Hood is one of my favorites, and has been since the first time I saw them. I also love the smaller, pure white Thalia. Where I grew up, we always had the yellow trumpets, but we also had the smaller, fragrant, multi -flowered jonquils. I enjoy the variety because it allows for a long season of bloom. Did you know that many of the pure species originated on the Iberian peninsula? The yellow trumpets are most like those native to northern Europe. Other species Narcissus are found in N. Africa, or Turkey and the Middle East. The Egyptian pharaohs grew them 🐝 So much history behind such simple flowers.

      • My first were the ‘King Alfred’ sort that my mother grew when I was a tyke, but after that, I enjoyed abandoned cut flower fields in Montara, where both the ‘King Alfred’ and the paperwhites grew in wide overgrown rows. They were in the fields where Diego River painted people harvesting cut flowers, mostly callas and gladiolus a very long time ago. To me, that seemed to make them of historical significance. They are gone now; and a new monster home is there.

  2. FN

    As always a delightful blog to read, welcoming spring.

  3. Lovely colors!
    We still have an all-white canvas – winter is not over here, maybe another month or so 😀

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