In mid-summer, daffodils are rarely top-of-mind. But this is precisely the time when you need to be ordering them. And this is especially true for the more sought-after, unusual varieties. Why stick with yellow trumpets when daffodils come in so many colors, shapes and sizes? See below if one or more of these different types of daffodils wouldn’t be the perfect fit for your spring garden.
THE 13 MAIN TYPES OF DAFFODILS
Indeed, the possibilities are seemingly endless. Depending on who you ask, there are currently between 40 and 200 different daffodil species and over 32,000 registered cultivars. To keep things organized, horticulturalists use a standard method developed by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) known as the Official Classification System. Developed in 1975, it splits daffodils into 13 divisions based on flower color, form, and size and shape of their cups as compared to their petals.
Here’s an overview of the different divisions and links to some standout varieties in each one.
DIVISION 1: TRUMPET
Trumpet daffodils are one of the earliest varieties to flower. Characterized by large blooms and only one flower per stem, they produce trumpets that are as long or longer than their petals. Trumpet daffodils come in a wide variety of shapes and colors. Try Mount Hood, King Alfred and 4U2.
Trumpet daffodil ‘King Alfred’
DIVISION 2: LARGE-CUPPED
These cultivars have cups that are more than one third, but less than equal to the length of their petals. Each stem bears a single flower. Large-cupped daffodils come in a wide range of colors and have flat, ruffled or trumpet-like shapes. Great varieties include: Salome, Ice Follies and the striking, soft yellow Day Dream.
Large-cupped daffodil ‘Salome’
DIVISION 3: SMALL-CUPPED
The aptly named small-cupped daffodils have cups that are not more than one third the length of their petals. Each stem carries one medium-sized flower. Popular selections include the exquisitely-shaped Eleanor Auchincloss, Ringtone and Barrett Browning.
Small-cupped daffodil ‘Barrett Browning’
DIVISION 4: DOUBLES
Not everyone’s a fan of these unusually-shaped flowers with their frilly rows of petals that resemble carnations. Nevertheless, double daffodils have a sweet fragrance and look great under flowering shrubs and trees. Each produces one or more blooms to a stem. Try pink and white Replete, tropical-colored Tahiti or soft pink Angélique.
Double daffodil ‘Tahiti’
DIVISION 5: TRIANDRUS
Tiny and low-growing, triandrus daffodils have petals that flare back and droop downwards like columbines. They prefer wetter conditions and produce two or more pendent flowers to a stem. Great varieties include the dainty white Thalia, soft yellow ‘Angel’s Breath‘ and bright yellow Hawera.
Triandrus daffodil ‘Thalia’
DIVISION 6: CYCLAMINEUS
Cyclamineus daffodils have smaller-sized trumpets and petals that flare back from the cup. Prized for their early flowering and diminutive size, they’re perfect for naturalizing in large masses. Great varieties include: Wisley, Peeping Tom and February Gold.
Cylcamineus daffodil ‘February Gold’
DIVISION 7: JONQUILS
Instead of the flat leaves characteristic of most daffodils, jonquils have dark green, tube-shaped leaves that resemble rushes. The flowers are strongly fragrant and feature three or more small blooms to a stem. Although they are traditionally yellow, jonquils are also now available in white/yellow combinations. Great for naturalizing. Try Pueblo or Bell Song.
Yellow jonquil daffodils
DIVISION 8: TAZETTAS
Producing fragrant clusters of up to 20 flowers to a stem, tazetta daffodils are prized for their strong scent and heavy flower bearing. Great varieties include Geranium, Grand Primo and one of my personal favorites, Minnow.
Tazetta daffodil ‘Minnow’
DIVISION 9: POETICUS
It doesn’t get cuter than this! Also known as Pheasant’s Eye, Poet’s daffodils have very shallow, red-rimmed cups that look like eyes silhouetted against their bright white petals. Each has just one flower to a stem. Poeticus are one of the latest types of daffodils to flower. Great varieties include: Actaea and Recurvus.
White Poet’s daffodil
DIVISION 10: BULBOCODIUM
Also known as Petticoat daffodils for their lampshade-shaped cups, bulbocodiums grow to just 4 to 6 inches. The smallest of all the narcissus, the species is unusual in that its trumpet is exceptionally large in relation to its petals. Check out Yellow Hoop and Spoirot.
Yellow ‘Petticoat’ daffodils
DIVISION 11: SPLIT-CUPPED
Also called Butterfly daffodil, split-cupped daffodils have cups that splay out, which makes them appear as if they have another ring of petals.
DIVISION 12: MISCELLANEOUS OR OTHER TYPES OF DAFFODILS
This division Includes all those daffodils that don’t fall into the above classifications. Many are variants or hybrids of natural species.
Mesa Verde, a new cultivar developed in California by Bob Spott/Photo: RHS Flower Show
Division 13: SPECIES DISTINGUISHED BY BOTANICAL NAMES
Often left off the list, according to The Daffodil Society this division is nonetheless a part of the official daffodil classification system. It includes all the wild daffodils.
THE BEST WAY TO PLANT ALL TYPES OF DAFFODILS
On the East Coast, we plant our spring bulbs in November, once nighttime temperatures have fallen to around 45 to 50 degrees F. So hold on to your new purchases until at least late October. This is approximately six weeks before the first hard frost.
Plant your bulbs with the pointy end up and the flat end down. And make sure the hole is twice as deep as the size of the bulb. Back fill with soil and water well.
Once planted, all daffodil varieties are relatively maintenance free and (with a little help) will multiply year after year. Best of all, deer won’t touch them (due to some toxic properties.) Just make sure to respect your bulb’s requirements. They’ll flower best in full sun, but will tolerate part shade. And in my experience, they do fine in deciduous woodlands.
While there are many theories on when to remove the leaves, I leave the foliage until it yellows. This allows the plant to absorb energy from sunlight, which it redirects back down into the bulb to feed next year’s flowers.
To see some of my recent designs with daffodils, check out my Instagram And be sure to click on the Spring Garden Highlight to take a walk through a Virginia woods filled with 5000 colorful varieties.