Bulbs, Flowers, Plants, Stuart

What Is A Narcissus Flower? And Other Narcissus Questions

A Narcissus flower is a daffodil, a perennial trumpet-shaped flower where Narcissus is the Latin name and daffodil the common. Every daffodil is a Narcissus, but not quite every Narcissus is a daffodil (sneaky jonquil). If you’re ever unsure what that yellowy-whitey-reddy trumpet-flowered plant you’re looking at is, call it a Narcissus and Google won’t prove you wrong.

We’ve gone on a deep dive on what the Narcissus is, where it came from and where they go. If you’d like to skip straight to the planting instructions, click here!

What is the Narcissus flower named for?

Some yellow Narcissus flowers

There are several reported origins for the name ‘Narcissus’, and the most likely seems to be Ancient Greek for sedation/numbness, ‘Nárkosi’, according to the New York Botanical Garden and Pliny The Elder.

The myth of the man who fell in love with his reflection to the point of starvation, while one of the most well-known origins for the name, is one of the least likely, thanks to mentions of the myth post-dating mentions of the flower. The Roman poet Ovid and Greek traveler Pausanias wrote about Narcissus (the myth) in the beginnings of AD, while the flower is in texts from 6-700 BC.

Pliny The Elder (a famous Roman author and natural philosopher) mentioned the Narcissus flower in his writings, talking about its uses and disputing the origin of the name to back up the ‘Nárkosi’ explanation. This is thanks to the likely candidate for the ancient Narcissus flower, Narcissus poeticus | ‘Pheasant’s Eye‘, and its ‘intoxicating’ fragrance. So intoxicating it acted like a narcotic. See the link?

Where did Narcissus flowers come from?

Narcissus flower 'Pheasant's Eye'

Narcissus is native to southern Europe and north Africa, and has been around since ancient times. Ancient Greek writers and naturalists make mention of the Narcissus, and a Greek poet from around 6-700BC, so we’re looking at a flower that’s over 2000 years old at least.

Over the many, many years, Narcissus has found its way across the world, with varieties of daffodils found in the UK, United States and Japan as well as all across Europe and Africa. Narcissus came from the Mediterranean, but now it grows across the globe.

Are Narcissus plants poisonous to cats?

A cat walking amongst some Hyacinths and Daffodils

Yes. Narcissus and daffodils are poisonous to cats, dogs, horses and all sorts of animals if eaten, including humans. For animals, take them to a vet. For humans, call 111 to get the latest info then await fun symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal  pain. It’s unlikely to kill you because you’re big, but for little cats and dogs the toxicity can easily reach dangerous levels if they eat them.

But as seen in the picture above, if your pet can be trusted you can plant daffodils to your heart’s content.

Where do Narcissus flowers grow?

Narcissus on a mountainside

Narcissus will grow in full sun or part shade – if planted in full shade chances are they won’t flower and will instead be pale and spindly. In the wild you can find Narcissus all over the place, from mountainsides to meadows.

They’ll happily grow in garden borders, beds and flowerpots, and work well with other flowers. If you want to do something clever with your Narcissus, try making a bulb lasagne!

You can also plant them smack-bang in the middle of your lawn to give you an excuse not to mow. But you’ll have to leave that spot untouched until the leaves wither.

Planting Narcissus bulbs

A man planting on a plot. Probably not Narcissus bulbs, but its nice to dream

Unless you’re buying cut flowers, your Narcissus will always be supplied as bulbs. The size of the bulb will give you an indication of the eventual plant’s size (big bulb = big daffodil), but as that’s just a rough rule of thumb you can follow these instructions in pretty much every case.

When to plant Narcissus bulbs

Plant your Narcissus bulbs between September and December. Much later than this and you run the risk of them freezing in the ground before they’ve had a chance to establish. Or you’re just making more work for yourself digging through compacted frozen earth.

How to plant Narcissus bulbs

This can vary based on where you’re planting them, but the principle is the same. Dig an area about 10cm deep and 10x[Number of Bulbs]cm2 wide, in an area that enjoys full sun or part shade, or fill a pot with compost 12cm shy of the top. Place bulbs 10-15cm apart, facing up, and cover with compost/soil back to the original level of the ground. For pots, add 10cm of compost/soil over the top of the bulbs instead.

If you plant your bulbs upside down it’s not the end of the world. However, your daffodils will probably sprout late if so, and struggle unnecessarily.

Water in well (for the inexperienced, this means more water than you think without flooding the area), and then leave alone. Don’t stamp on the ground to flatten it: this would otherwise make it hard for your daffodils to break free.

How deep to plant Narcissus bulbs

Plant your Narcissus bulbs around 10cm deep. Too deep and they’ll struggle to sprout when they should – too shallow and you run the risk of them being dug up by curious creatures (that will then suffer to eat them).

Want to plant some Narcissus bulbs of your own? Take a look at our Daffodil Bulbs selection!

Yellow Daffodil Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash
Cat Daffodil Photo by Serhii Bilousko on Unsplash
Mountain Daffodils Photo by Laila Gebhard on Unsplash
Planting Photo by Jed Owen on Unsplash