According to legend, the patron Saint David was preaching to a large crowd in Wales when the ground on which he stood suddenly rose up to form a hill, allowing everyone to see and hear him better. The daffodils that covered the hill then bloomed, emphasizing the miracle and Saint David's message. Today, the daffodil is considered the national emblem of Wales and is worn on Saint David's Day, March 1, to show pride in Welsh heritage.
Today, daffodils, also known by their scientific name Narcissus, are one of the most popular and recognizable flowers in the world. They are the birth flower of March and have been a symbol of good fortune, prosperity, hope, and joy in different cultures and countries. Let’s dive into the history, myths, significance, symbolism, and care tips for daffodils.
Daffodils have a long and fascinating provenance, with the earliest recorded cultivation dating back to the 16th century in England. They are native to parts of south and western Europe, such as Spain, Portugal, Wales, England, and to northern Africa, where they grow in Morocco. Over time, they have spread around the world and can now be found growing in a variety of climates and conditions.
The name “daffodil” is thought to be derived from the Old English word “affodyle,” which means “that which comes early” or “early comer.” As we know, daffodils are often one of the first flowers to bloom in the spring, signaling the end of winter and the start of a new season.
Myths and Significance of Daffodils
The Latin name “Narcissus” comes from a Greek myth about a hunter named Narcissus who was lured to a stream and drowned when he fell in love with his own reflection. As daffodils often grow on the banks of rivers and streams, it is said that they grew from the place where he died. This myth has come to symbolize self-love and vanity, and is the root word for narcissism. In China, daffodils are symbols of good fortune and prosperity, while in Japan they symbolize joy and mirth. In France, daffodils are symbols of hope, and in the Middle East, they were believed to be aphrodisiacs.
Daffodils have also been associated with breast cancer awareness, as the bright yellow colour of the flower is used as a symbol for hope in the fight against the disease. The daffodil is the symbol of the American Cancer Society's National Cancer Awareness Month and is used as a visual representation of hope and encouragement to those who are fighting cancer. During the month of March, The Canadian Cancer Society also sells daffodils as a way to raise funds for breast cancer research and to support those affected by the disease.
Daffodils come in a variety of colours, including bright yellow, all white, and white with a contrasting pink, orange, or yellow corona (the middle part of the flower). Yellow daffodils are associated with hope, joy, and happiness, while white daffodils are associated with purity and innocence. The most common type of daffodil is the wild yellow daffodil, also known as Narcissus pseudonarcissus. Other well-known varieties include jonquils (Narcissus jonquilla), which are usually the cut flowers you’ll find at a florist, and paperwhites (Narcissus papyraceus).
When to Plant and How to Care for Daffodils
Daffodils are best planted in the fall, about six weeks before the first hard frost. This gives the bulbs time to root and establish before the winter sets in. They prefer well-drained soil in a sunny location but can also grow in partial shade. To care for daffodils, water them well after planting and be sure to keep the soil consistently moist, but not waterlogged. In the spring, daffodils will begin to grow leaves, which will provide the necessary energy for the flower to bloom. After the flowers have faded, it is important to allow the leaves to continue to grow until they yellow, as this allows the bulb to store energy for next year's bloom.
How to Care for Cut Daffodils
When daffodil stems are cut, they release a kind of sap that blocks the uptake of water by other flowers, causing them to wilt faster. To avoid this, soak your cut daffodil stems in clean water for at least six hours before mixing them with other stems to neutralise the sap. While it is often recommended to regularly trim the stems of your fresh-cut flowers, this is not the case for daffodils, as more sap will be released. Whether in the ground or on your table, enjoy this month of bright yellow blooms.