Monday, March 5, 2012

Dividing Daffodils

If you are a gardener it is safe to say you like daffodils. If you like daffodils you most likely grow daffodils or know someone who does. A funny little trait of daffodils is that they multiply--exponentially! The above 'Ice Follies' daffodils were planted in my Front Foundation Garden a mere three years ago and they are really beginning to take off as you can see. Soon they will need to be divided. Dividing is not a chore I relish simply because it is very time consuming. Especially when you have as many daffodils as what grows in Tiger Gardens. Since I have been busy dividing daffodils I thought I'd share the process with you.
Each year I dread daffodil time yet I so love daffodils that I also eagerly anticipate daffodil time. The blooms are so cheery and refreshing after the short and dark days of winter-even one as mild as this one still had short and dark days. Normal daffodil time in my Zone 7A Middle Tennessee garden is anywhere from February to late May. This year the first daffodils bloomed in my garden on January 26. I have been keeping records of when flowers bloom here and since 2008 no daffodil has ever bloomed in January. The earliest one bloomed was last year when the first bright yellow bloom appeared on February 21st. The peak for daffodils will normally be in mid March but this year they are a bit early--not that I'm complaining or anything. 

Each year since I retired from the Army in 2003 I have been planting daffodils. I first started with a few bags of bargain daffodils. Some were mixed, some were all the same and included varieties such as 'Tete e Tete' and 'Ice Follies'. Still other daffodil bulbs were given to me by friends while even more (probably over 1000) were dug with a backhoe from a neighboring yard and deposited in my front yard. I enjoy each and everyone of them but as my garden grows some of the locations I initially planted the daffodils are no longer good locations. The daffodils are becoming overcrowded, shaded, and just not doing so well. Each year I divide daffodils by digging some clumps and transplanting the bulbs to better spots. I divide my daffodils any time of the year when I can see their location-early to late spring. Sometimes I dig up daffodils in the summer when I am planting perennials and I have to divide and replant clumps then. You can pretty much divide daffodils before bloom, during  bloom, or after bloom as daffodils are not picky about division and will still bloom even if divided before the bloom. I prefer dividing mine either before or during bloom but not after the bloom. But actually, in order to have an undisturbed show of blooms division after bloom would be a good thing. Daffodils are pretty much bulletproof so don't worry about killing them when you divide. 

A few years ago I felt I had run out of room so I began planting some daffodil bulbs in Mr. C's cow pasture directly behind my property. While that was a good idea at the time the problem was I planted those daffodils when they were dormant and I was not sure of the type of daffodil they were. The majority of them turned out to be 'Tete e Tete'; which are short but floriferous daffodils. I could not see them planted in my neighbor's field because they were so short. I decided to dig them up and put them elsewhere in my garden this year. In addition to digging the 'Tete e Tetes' I noticed my 'River of Daffodils' consisting of all 'Ice Follies' had become a bit overgrown and over crowded. I decided to divide them as well so this post will show you a few divisions of daffodils due to the busy work I've been doing here in Tiger Gardens. The two buckets in the above picture show some daffodils waiting to be planted. I am not sure of the cultivar of the daffodils in the blue bucket but the ones in the large white bucket are 'Ice Follies'.
Let's begin with this clump of 'Ice Follies' from the 'River of Daffodils'. There is a major problem with my river this year in that it has turned into more of a trickle than a river. The cause is not overcrowding of the daffodils but of trampling by three very large and bad dogs. I have actually had to fence off what is left of my river due to the dogs trampling and destroying almost all of the daffodil blooms this year. This problem has never happened in the past and I blame our new dog AJ. He is just a bull and can't help himself. I had left an area near the daffodils for the dogs to run but he doesn't understand that and just runs over the plants themselves. They are not looking well at all. Just look at the clump above. It is only half as tall as it should be and the blooms are missing. Sigh. At any rate they can still be divided as they have gotten a bit crowded. You don't have to divide daffodils if they are still blooming well. But, if you wish to increase your stock or the blooms have dwindled on clumps then dividing is the best route to go.

I dug this clump from the river of 'Ice Follies'. And to think I planted only ONE daffodil bulb here in 2003! The best thing to do when dividing daffodils is to dig deeply underneath the clump and gently lift all daffodil bulbs out of the ground. I use a normal shovel but some people use pitch forks or long bladed shovels as well. I then lay the clump of bulbs on the ground and try to break it into manageable chunks so I can hold the grouping in my hands when I gently begin separating the bulbs. I personally just gently tug the bulbs apart but if you have the time and the wherewithal you could dunk the clump of bulbs in a bucket of water and separate them in the water. Generally speaking one way is not better than the other but water separation might be easier on the roots of the bulbs. The only problem with water separation is you usually divide daffodils in the winter so water might be a bit cold. However you do it the point is to gently separate all bulbs into individual bulbs.You can easily tell what can be separated but if you don't see a seam between bulbs it might be best to leave them together unless you can be sure the off set has a good set of roots.
Laid out on the ground or placed in a wheelbarrow or bucket for placement in their new planting spots the gardener can really see what she has after separating the bulbs. In this particular clump I managed to get 35 daffodils bulbs. The one bulb I planted in '03 has now turned into 35!! Daffodils are such a great plant because they normally aren't bothered by pests (except dogs who trample and dig them) and they readily multiply each year. Who can beat that?
Division is necessary because as the bulbs grow and multiply they tend to get crowded and compete with one another for food and water. Over time flowering can decrease so division will improve flowering. As a bonus you get more plants! The drawbacks of division are where you may have had 35 blooms you will now only have one. But never fear, within two years one bulb will become three or four bulbs and they will begin increasing exponentially each year after that and before you know you know it you are overloaded with daffodils. 

The big black dog in the above picture is Mr. C's pet dog Deacon. Deacon is a people's dog. Even with over 100 acres on which he can roam Deacon chooses to come and visit us and many other neighbors at least once a day. We love Deacon and think he is a fine dog. He never bothers other animals and is a well mannered dog. He doesn't fight with our dogs (though they go berserk and need to be penned in the garage when Deacon visits) and he never bothers the rabbits in the front yard. Deacon loves to hang out with me in the garden and even laid on the daffodils as I was planting! There is a problem with Deacon though. When he wanders off from his property he is wandering onto a very busy highway. I worry myself sick he will be hit by a car any day. Usually I will load him up in one of the trucks here and run him home but on this day I had only my car. Deacon is far to smart to get into a car as he has decided he only rides in the back of trucks. He is a super good dog other than his wandering. Mr. C is the kind of old time farmer who sees no need to tie up or otherwise contain his dog. So far he has been lucky in that Deacon seems to be smart enough to stay out of the road. I truly hope this smartness keeps up with him.


The Tete e Tetes I dug from Mr. C's field wound up in my front lawn. I don't particularly like planting bulbs in the lawn because I like a nice and tidy lawn and planting bulbs in the lawn means I will not be able to mow the lawn until late May when the foliage on these bulbs has ripened. There are a total of three very large sections of the front lawn that are now planted with hundreds of daffodils. The other two types are 'King Alfred' bulbs and 'Ice Follies' in order to complement the very short Tete e Tetes. I was sure to leave paths among the bulbs in order to walk but the paths are rather small and I am thinking I will soon not have any space for daffodils or paths! Perhaps by the next time I divide daffodils I will be giving them away instead of planting them here as the gardens are getting pretty full but dividing is part of what makes daffodils so rewarding so it is all okay with me.

When you replant your divided daffodils be sure to put a pinch of either bonemeal or bulb fertilizer in the hole prior to planting the bulb. Plant the bulbs at the same depth at which they were growing or a little deeper. I like to try to get my bulbs planted so they are perpendicular in the ground. Slanted bulbs do not straighten themselves out. The foliage that emerges from slanted bulbs will grow straight but the bulb will stay slanted as I have discovered upon digging mine. Sometimes I get so behind I try to hurry dividing daffodils and just dig a slit in the ground to pop in the daffodils which causes the daffodils to be slanted in the ground. It pays to dig a nice big hole and plant the bulbs for longevity so don't rush the planting. Dividing daffodils can be so fun and rewarding....

in the garden.....

Words and Photos Property of In the Garden Blog Team, In the Garden


  1. Thank you so much for this information. I am long overdue to do this and wasn't sure it could even be done. I always like dog stories too.

  2. Great info on dividing daffodils. I have not had to divide any yet because our ground is not very conducive to multiplying. One day maybe..... Have a great week! Carla

  3. Hmmm Another project for me from Tin's ever busy brain. :) Actually, I didn't realize you could do this pretty much anytime you could find them. That's helpful to know cause I could never find them in the fall....

  4. I do not know how you divide so many every year. I really LOVE daffodils. I think if I had to pick a favorite flower it would be a toss up with them and lilacs. That being said, I never nor never will have the gumption to divide like you do. I wish someone would come up with one that blooms all summer. How good would that be?

  5. I am loving my Daffys so much this year! I have been inspired by you to add more each year and the ones added in Dec. have been putting on a nice show for me. I am glad you talked about this today as I now feel like I will be able to divide when the time comes. Nice to know they can be divided after blooming as that will be an easy way to find the little buggars.

    Hey girl, I got the bowling balls out from the storage closet. The Saint is not happy but will be once I do what I have planned…Hee hee….

  6. Fascinating post! I love daffodils, although I wouldn't have a clue as to how to plant them, let alone, how to divide them. Thanks for taking me through the process. It's magical.

    Greetings from London.

  7. Feeling somewhat better. I so enjoy my daffs. Only 2 blooming at present. Yours look fantastic.

  8. I am about to have to divide my daffodils and they have only been in the ground one season! So glad that someone posted about the way to do this! Thanks!

  9. Thanks for all the excellent information, Tina! I have never divided my daffodils, so I'm sure it's about time I do that. Love your "river of daffodils"--I'm still waiting for the first blooms of my little "creek."

    I grew up on a farm, and our dogs were rarely tied up and often wandered over to the neighbors'. Today, though, I feel very differently--Sophie has wandered across the road a couple of times, and I nearly panicked every time. She got a good scolding and definitely knows better now. I'd invest in an invisible fence if I didn't have such a large area to cover.

  10. That was great info. Thank you. I need to divide the daffodils by our front porch. I know there are tons of bulbs in there but the blooms are dwindling because they're crowded. Now I have the nerve to dig them earlier than I thought I could.
    You're going to have the best lawn when those daffodils multiply. I like bulbs in a lawn that is short like the Bermuda and Buffalo popular here. They don't green up until the daffodils are about done so it works well. But, I still have plans to remove the little bit of lawn we have left so no bulbs going out there yet.
    Planting them in the neighbor's field was a great idea. Just need the tall varieties!

  11. Tina,

    This is he post I've been waiting for at least a few months. You might recall in 2009 and 2010 I planted a lot of daffodils here. Now half of them are not blooming, lots of thin foliage, just no blooms. So I can move them, give them some better soil and plant them and hope for more blooms..

  12. I look forward being able to divide some of my daffs. I will have to move some the ones I planted in the drain field. They are a yellow paperwhite and small bloomed. You can't see them from the road will trade out some of the bigger ones and plant the paperwhites by the driveway. Bonemeal...hmm, need to buy some I guess.

  13. I know I need to divide a few areas but will have to wait for now since it was 10 degrees out this morning...only a few patches need dividing since they still seem to flower profusely even in their crowded beds. Perhaps this spring or summer since I usually don't see the first one bloom until early April, although I found a few buds already coming up...I will be shocked if I have daffs in March.