Expert Tips for Cutting and Displaying Daffodils

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Cutting daffodils

Cold hardy, durable and deer resistant, daffodils are the high performers of spring-flowering bulbs. They are also great cut flowers. A daffodil bouquet will brighten any room, and bring a touch of spring indoors on a cold, drizzly day.

I grow at least 20 different daffodils, which bloom over a long season from early March to the first of May. In addition to enjoying daffodil bouquets at home, I share many with friends and neighbors, because everyone loves daffodils. Here are my top tips for cutting daffodils and displaying them in simple spring bouquets.

Daffodils ready for cutting
Daffodils are ready to pick when the necks start to bend

1. Harvest daffodils when the buds color and the necks start to bend

When daffodil blossoms first emerge, the stems and buds stick straight up. This is called the pencil stage, and although some fat buds gather as pencils open, it’s better to wait until the necks start to bend. Daffodils gathered at the “gooseneck” stage will usually open within 8 to 24 hours.

If you have daffodils that are not quite to the gooseneck stage but a cold snap is coming, go ahead and pick them. In my experience, stems that have begun to bend are more likely to be injured by a hard freeze than pencil buds still wrapped in their protective sheaths.

2. Pull stems from near their base

When possible, harvest daffodils by reaching into the base of the plant and pulling the stem rather than cutting it. The tissues low down the stem bleed less sticky sap than those higher up, plus you get a longer stem to use in bouquets. Note that some people are allergic to daffodil sap, so it may be wise to glove up when harvesting daffodils.

Conditioning cut daffodils
After picking daffodils in bud, let them rest for a few hours before arranging them

3. Condition cut daffodils in cool water

As soon as they are gathered, place cut daffodils in a deep container of cool water, set in a shady place for at least three hours, or overnight. Cut daffodil stems bleed a bit of sap into the water, which can bother other species such as tulips or anemones that are often included in daffodil bouquets. Conditioning cut daffodils separately limits their negative effects on other flowers. This is of little concern when you are working only with daffodils, or when combining daffodils with greenery or branches gathered from shrubs and trees.

4. Choose the right size containers

Daffodils come in a range of sizes, and it’s important to choose display containers that are in proper scale with the blossoms. Arrange small blossoms in petite containers and use larger vases for big bouquets.

Daffodils in a bottle
The split corollas of ‘Electrus’ daffodils give them a tropical look

5. Reuse glass bottles as vases

Linear daffodil stems look great in clear glass, whether you are using your grandmother’s crystal vase or a canning jar. Throughout the year, I set aside small glass bottles with heavy bottoms and narrow necks for give-away daffodils. With some bottles, the labels add color and interest to a daffodil display.

6. Trim stems to different lengths

Sort or trim daffodil stems into three different lengths, long, medium and short, which will create a bouquet effect when the stems are arranged in a vase. Two-part daffodil blossoms naturally bring depth to any arrangement, but the trumpets and backswept petals become more noticeable when flowers are stacked according to height.

7. Feature an odd number of flowers

In small bouquets of fewer than ten daffodils, feature an odd number of blossoms. We don’t really know how this works, but the human mind is more interested in five flowers than in four.

Daffodils in sand
Damp sand secures daffodils in place in a wide container

8. Use sand, floral wire or greenery to keep long stems upright

If you want to use a container with a wide top, you will need to anchor stems in place using damp sand (in glass) or floral wire in a glazed vase. Or, use household tape to make a grid across the top of a jar to help hold stems in place. Once the daffodils are arranged, hide the tape from view with sprigs nipped from evergreen shrubs.

9. Make use of seasonal decorations

To make your daffodil displays even more irresistible, combine them with seasonal ornaments, which might be painted eggs, a bowl of jellybeans, or statues of rabbits, ducks, or chicks. Daffodils love cute company.

Daffodils
‘Poeticus’ daffodils have a spicy fragrance

10. Display fragrant daffodils at nose level

Most daffodils have little fragrance, but some mid and late-season varieties feature perfumes that may be sweet, fruity, spicy or musky. Daffodils produce most of their fragrance during the daytime hours, so when you have a daffodil with a nice fragrance in bloom, keep it close by. These wonders of spring won’t last forever.

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