Narcissus is the proper name for the daffodil family. It is so called because its bulb houses a toxic substance – the Greek word ‘narcissus’ means ‘numbness’, so it is a reference to its narcotic nature.
Narcissus is very distinctive, with its long, narrow tubular stem (hypanthium), its central crown (corona cup) and its three petals and perianth, or petal-shaped sepals. The Narcissus flower is usually yellow or white and sometimes the cup can be a different colour from the crown.
Normally native to the Mediterranean, the Narcissus plant can also be found in China and Asia where there are a few native species.
Narcissus grows from a bulb and will thrive when planted in well-drained soil. They are available from October in the Isles of Scilly when the small tazetta types bloom, and the season ends in April in Scotland with the trumpet daffodils.
The genus of Narcissus has many different species and varieties, as well as many hybrids that have been cultivated. The most popular Narcissus plants widely available are the Paper Whites, Daffodils and Jonquils.
Narcissus plants do not need much care and attention. However, when they have finished flowering they should be dead-headed in order to encourage good seed production within the bulb. The bulbs need to be planted between August and November, although August is the best time. They should be placed at a depth that is equal to the height of the bulb multiplied by three.
After you have dead-headed the plant and the flowers have gone, do not remove any of the wilting leaves, as these are also essential to encourage good seed production and will release nutrients into the soil that produce a healthier plant the following year.
Did you know?
Wales has the daffodil as its national emblem – it is traditionally worn on St David’s Day.
The name comes from the Greek legend of a handsome young man named Narcissus, who fell in love with his own reflection in a stream and remained there to admire it. When he succumbed to starvation because of his fixation the gods transformed him into a flower so he could remain at the side of the stream forever.