A Beginner’s Guide To 13 Types of Daffodils

At the end of August, daffodils are rarely top-of-mind. But this is precisely the time when you should 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 other colors, shapes and sizes? See below if one or more of these different types of daffodils wouldn’t be the perfect fit for your 2021 spring garden. 

THE 13 MAIN TYPES OF DAFFODILS

The choices are seemingly endless. Depending on who you talk to, there are currently between 40 and 200 different daffodil species and over 32,000 registered cultivars. To keep them all organized, horticulturalists split them into 13 divisions. These thirteen divisions are known as the Official Classification System. It categorizes daffodils based on the size and shape of their cups as compared to their petals.

Here’s a rundown of the divisions and links to some of the standout varieties in each one. 

DIVISION 1: TRUMPET

Characterized by large blooms and only one flower to a stem, these cultivars have trumpets that are as long or longer than their petals. Some of the earliest to bloom, trumpet daffodils come in a wide variety of shapes and colors including 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 exquisite, soft yellow Day Dream.

Large-cupped daffodil ‘Salome’

DIVISION 3: SMALL-CUPPED 

These 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, these types of 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, these daffodils have petals that flare back and droop downwards like columbines. Triandrus daffodils 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 found in most daffodils, jonquils have dark green, tube-shaped leaves that resemble rushes. Strongly fragrant, they 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 an eye, especially when 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. 

Look for Apricot Whirl, Lemon Beauty and tiny coral-pink Shrike.

Split-cupped daffodil

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 daffodil at the RHS SHow

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 maintenance free and will naturalize year after year. 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 ascribe to the one that advocates leaving the leaves on for about 6 weeks after blooms until they yellow. This allows the plant to absorb energy from sunlight which it redirects back down into the bulb to feed next year’s flowers.

Bulbs coming up too early? Check out my post, What To Do If Your Spring Bulbs Come Up Too Early.

 

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