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A clump of yellow jonquil flowers growing in a garden
Nothing signals the transition from winter to spring better than the sweet, intoxicating perfume of jonquils. Bursting through in midwinter at the first sign of spring weather, these reliable easy-care bulbs seem to last forever.

What you need to know about jonquils

Name: jonquils, rush daffodil, Narcissus jonquilla, tazetta daffodils, cluster daffodils, Narcissus tazetta.

Height: 15 to 45cm tall.

Foliage: long, narrow and tubular upright grey-green leaves arising from an underground bulb.

Climate: best in warm to cool temperate zones; avoid tropical areas.

Soil: will grow in most well-drained soils; enrich with compost.

Position: full sun or partial shade.

Flowering: multi-flowered with usually one to five single or double flowers per stem (N. jonquilla) or up to 20 per stem (N. tazetta). Fragrant flowers with the cups shorter than the petals.

Feeding: use a controlled release organic fertiliser specifically for flowering plants when planting in autumn and again in early spring after flowering with additional sulphate of potash.

Watering: water at planting time and then only after the foliage emerges. Water weekly during the growth and flowering period.

Appearance and characteristics of jonquils

Jonquils are perennials that arise from an underground bulb and produce a cluster of fragrant flowers on each individual stem in midwinter to early spring. The usual flower colours of the wild species include yellow (N. jonquilla) and white with a yellow cup (N. tazetta). The true jonquils are bred from Narcissus jonquilla and include the varieties ‘Intrigue’, ‘Bell Song’ and ‘Waterperry’. Many of the ‘jonquils’ or tazetta daffodils seen in gardens such as ‘Erlicheer’, ‘Paper White’, ‘Geranium’ and 'Soleil d’Or’ are developed from the wild Narcissus tazetta.

A close-up of yellow jonquil flowers

How to plant and grow jonquils

Climate

Jonquils are part of the Amaryllis family and are commonly found in Spain, Portugal and throughout the Mediterranean region where they have become naturalised in many places. This acclimatisation to warm Mediterranean climates makes jonquils a better choice for growing in warmer temperate areas, where daffodils don’t traditionally flower dependably. 

Jonquils prefer full winter sun or partial shade to flower well. Planting beneath a deciduous tree can be ideal as it lets through the full sun in winter and dappled light in the spring and summer months. You can plant jonquils in mixed borders with roses and deciduous shrubs or in containers where they make a spectacular display. They are often used as cut flowers although some people may find the scent of several cultivars a little overpowering when used indoors. 

Soil

Jonquils require a well-drained soil with the addition of aged or composted organic matter, although most garden soils are suitable. They prefer a slightly acidic soil with a pH between 6 and 6.5. 

Always use a premium potting mix in pots and containers and keep them well watered in spring and early summer.

How to care for jonquils

Fertiliser

Apply a controlled release organic fertiliser specifically for flowering plants underneath the bulbs when planting them in autumn. After flowering in spring, apply another top dressing of controlled release fertiliser and apply additional sulphate of potash for any bulbs that have not flowered. Avoid high nitrogen fertilisers.

How to plant jonquils

  1. Plant the bulbs with the pointy ends up. A general guide is to plant them at least twice the depth of the bulb deep, measured from the top of the bulb to the soil surface.
  2. In warmer areas or sandy soils, plant them at least 15cm deep and 10 to 20cm apart.
  3. For stunning spring displays in pots, plant between 6 to 15 bulbs in a 400mm pot or container, again placing them 15cm deep. 

Jonquils can be left undisturbed in the ground but perform best if the clumps are divided after three or four years. Jonquils grown in pots are heavy feeders so they are best planted in the garden the following year. Alternatively, repot them each year and use a high potash liquid plant food. 

How to prune jonquils

  1. Deadhead any spent flowers to conserve the bulbs’ reserves for flowering next year. 
  2. Allow the leaves to continue to grow for at least six weeks after flowering, and then die down naturally. 
  3. Do not twist, tie or cut the foliage. 
  4. If cutting jonquil flowers for indoors, place them in their own vase as they emit latex that can clog other flower stems. Alternatively, place them in water for at least 12 hours on their own before mixing with other flowers, but do not recut the stems.

Pest and diseases

Jonquils are usually trouble-free with occasional damage from snails and slugs. Use iron chelate based snail pellets around the clumps from winter to early summer. Stored bulbs can rot if the temperature is too high, or alternatively if high nitrogen fertilisers have been used extensively. Destroy bulbs with rot immediately and do not replant bulbs in that same spot in the garden for five years. 

Leaf scorch can affect bulbs in warm, humid environments causing red brown scorched leaf tips and spotting that may spread down the leaf. Remove affected leaves immediately and spray with of a copper-based fungicide to reduce the spread. Remove and destroy any severely affected plants.

How to propagate jonquils

  1. Lift and divide jonquils after the foliage has completely died down in late spring or early summer. 
  2. You may then store the bulbs for planting later in autumn. 
  3. Alternatively, lift in late summer/early autumn and replant immediately.

If you like this then try

Tulips: spring flowering bulbs with large showy, bright and colourful goblet-shaped flowers on long stems.

Daffodils: golden yellow and white trumpet-shaped flowers in spring, and newer peach and orange coloured varieties, including doubles and miniatures.

Pansies (Viola): brightly coloured perennials with dark blotches on the flowers; usually grown as annuals, and flowering from late winter through to spring, and sometimes summer in cooler climates.

Start growing today

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Health & Safety

Asbestos, lead-based paints and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber are health hazards you need to look out for when renovating older homes. These substances can easily be disturbed when renovating and exposure to them can cause a range of life-threatening diseases and conditions including cancer. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer or visit our Health & Safety page.

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