Perennial Daffodils Make Naturalizing Easy
A naturalized plant is one growing wild in a region where it is not indigenous. Naturalizing is a technique used by gardeners and landscapers to establish plants outside of typical garden beds while encouraging them to multiply and spread. Naturalizing plants can be viewed as setting traditionally cultivated plants free to mingle with wildflowers and woods or allowing formally domesticated plants to become feral.
As long as you have a site with decent drainage that does not need to be mowed until summer that enjoys about six hours of springtime sunlight, you have a good place to naturalize daffodils.
Gardening is perhaps one of the most hopeful activities anyone can engage in, and planting bulbs in fall with the anticipation of enjoying flowers the following spring—and for years to come— may be the purest form of hope gardening has to offer. If you’ve ever visited an abandoned homestead or farmhouse in spring, and marveled at the flowers left behind by long past residents, you have experienced the lasting beauty and charm of naturalized bulbs.
The first showy flowers of the season, the daffodil bears blooms with a cup or trumpet-shaped corona surrounded by six outer petals collectively called 'the perianth'. Flower sizes range from 1” to 6” wide. Daffodil colors include shades of white, yellow, orange, pink, and red. Flowers are borne singly or in clusters above strap-like leaves. Plant height varies from diminutive species that are just a few inches tall to sturdy hybrids reaching as much as two feet.
Inspired by Nature: Naturalizing Daffodils Beyond Boundaries
Gently sloping fields, meadows or forest edges are ideal for naturalizing bulbs like daffodils. Daffodils can grow in just about any soil as long as it is well-drained and not too compacted. Daffodils need sun but little maintenance. Early-blooming cultivars of daffodils can be planted at the edge of the woods as they will receive enough sun to ripen foliage before most trees leaf out. Mowing will need to be delayed wherever daffodils are naturalized and be sure keep free range chickens of ducks away from where daffodils grow.
Once an area has been chosen for naturalizing, decide what color and how many bulbs the site will accommodate, as well as what cultivar will do well in that spot. Daffodil bulbs can tolerate some crowding, especially in natural areas outside garden beds, but they do best when they are spaced 3-6 inches apart. Remember, nature works in curves rather than rows, and naturalizing is a casual affair. To be sure to keep the end result informal, landscapers recommend planting bulbs in irregular clumps and drifts of similar colors. A pleasingly relaxed effect can be achieved by tossing bulbs to be naturalized one handful at a time and planting each bulb where it happens to land.
Plant daffodils in the fall about 2-4 weeks before the ground freezes. Before planting in a grassy area, lower the mower for the last mowing of the fall to give the bulbs maximum access to sun and warmth when they will need it in early spring. Be sure to use bulbs soon after obtaining them, the best bulbs feel firm and heavy and show no signs of mold or rot.
Learn How to Plant Fall Bulbs.
Planting naturalized daffodils in clusters and swaths not only creates a more natural look, but this will make it possible to mow around the plants in the late spring if the plants get too messy. In general, daffodils require deeper planting than other bulbs, and when planting bulbs in a natural area to be left undisturbed for several years, it is recommended that each bulb is planted even deeper than would be necessary for a garden bed.
Use a special bulb planting tool, a trowel, a tire iron, a crowbar or even a battery powered electric drill to make holes for each bulb in the soil or sod. Each hole should be at least 8 inches deep or approximately three times the height of the bulb. Free the soil in each hole and add some compost or soil amendment, then some sand and/or soil, and, finally, the bulb.
Place bulb so that the pointy end, or top, is up, and cover the bulb with sand or soil before closing the hole or replacing the sod. Exactness is not crucial, daffodils are not fussy plants. But planting deeply and adding some soil amendment to each hole can help daffodils thrive for years.
Naturalizing Daffodils with Trees
Trees and shrubs can provide an ideal backdrop for the daffodil flower. Daffodils suppress the growth of surface feeding grass and are unpalatable and even poisonous to deer and rodents, qualities that make them ideal companions for most deciduous tree and shrub species. Lawns are not the best companion for most tree roots and daffodils out-compete grass and bloom long before a tree’s canopy can block the sun needed for these early spring bloomers.