Dividing Daffodil Bulbs: Little Work for a Lot of Blooms

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Naturalizing daffodils bulbs
This drift of daffodils started out a modest clump. Then I began to separate and replant the bulbs each season . In no time, a few blossoms became many, and stole the show.

In my garden, spring is heralded by a cheerful brass section of daffodils, all eager to trumpet the advent of longer and warmer days. From nowhere, they appear bigger and better than the year before, naturalizing into bouquets of amber and gold. And I say, Hallelujah for their visual song and seasonal promise.

country land blooming daffodils
Redeeming some shady bystanders with a change of scene

 The daffodils down my lane welcome me home this time of year, but some have quit blooming because of the deep shade of a large western red cedar. The tree is going nowhere, so it’s moving day for several clumps of daffodil bulbs. 

How to divide daffodil bulbs

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As a bulb, the daffodil rarely needs a gardener’s intervention, but if said gardener wants more daffodils, fewer things are easier than dividing daffodil bulbs and spreading the love. In this post, I’ll show you how to divide daffodil bulbs, and replant them for future bloom. Here’s to a spring concert in your corner of the garden.

daffodils in the shade
1. Select a healthy clump to move.
digging daffodils bulbs
1. With a shovel, cut a circle around the clump.
2. Shovel blade should be at least six inches away from the shoots.
3. Position blade vertically before stepping down to dig.
4. Not Good: If handle is vertical, the blade will be sharply angled and slice into the bulbs.
daffodil bulbs
5. With shovel handle, rock and leverage bulb clump on each side of circle.
6. Lift bulb clump with shovel.
7. Gently shake off soil to reveal bulbs.
8. Return soil to hole.
separating daffodil bulbs
9. Working from the outside of the clump, pull off an individual bulb. A light tug separates the roots.
10. Set aside and continue until all bulbs are free from the clump (40 bulbs in this clump).
planting spring daffodils
9. Dig a new hole.
10. Chop up and loosen soil.
11. Place several bulbs apart in the hole.
12. Plant to original depth.
13. The leafy green growth should be above the soil.
14. The bulb and emerging white stem should be below the soil line.
replanted bulbs
18. Cover bulbs with soil.
19. Gently press down to firm soil
20. Water bulbs to rejuvenate foliage.
big leaf maple daffodils
Blooming friendship: Big Leaf Maple and new spring neighbors

Every year I divide daffodils bulbs and plant them around the property. One year later, I receive many a cheery and floriferous thank you.

Dividing and Planting Daffodil Bulbs: More Info and Tips

  • Daffodils
    • are long lived, and very deer resistant
    • require good drainage
    • prefer full sun, but can take partial shade
    • can be planted in lawns, but must be allowed to die back naturally as the foliage makes the food that is stored in the bulb for next year’s bloom
    • go dormant in the summer
    • are great long-lasting cut flowers
    • are available from bulb supply companies to be planted in the fall, including these favorites of mine:
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Thriving and blooming: “Ice Follies” daffodils I divided and transplanted a couple years ago.

24 COMMENTS

    • Karen you have a good memory. I’m determine in the next month to start fixing up the cabin. I’m finishing up my office space right now as I was really tired of getting oatmeal on my keyboard and pasta bowls littering my work space. My combo kitchen nook/office just isn’t working. Correspondence with peanut butter smudges is not too professional a calling card, so they tell me. 😉

    • Sarah, I divide and plant my bulbs in spring, because I have no idea where they are after June. In my neck of the woods, the foliage dies back and the plant disappears two months after blooming.

  1. My fiancé owns a house up on Cranberry Lake in the Adirondack Park and remembers, from his childhood, his grandfather planting and growing daffodils there. They ceased blooming some thirty years ago or more because the tamaracks and maples had grown so much and shaded them out. Then a few years ago a couple of the big trees had to come down after being damaged in a storm and, what do you know, the daffodils are back! Who can help but admire that? Good looks and doggedness. (And even though it’s a sad poem, Ted Hughes’ “Daffodils” is quite beautiful: Ballerinas too early for music, shiverers/ In the draughty wings of the year.)

    • Anne I love your line “good looks and doggedness.” Sounds like a great book title to me, one that would encompass the old and new life at Cranberry Lake. And thanks for the mention of the Ted Hughes poem. Unfamiliar with it, I am I’m now delving into its story, which seems to be a potent and sad tale as you mentioned. I could always fall back on Wadsworth’s “Daffodil” if I need to find rainbows and unicorns.

  2. Tom, love your daffodils and your walkway/drive. I think it is absolutely my favorite spring flower. Looks like spring has arrived in the Pacific NW. That is a good thing because most of the rest of the states has in deep despair.

    • Thank you Susan. I was just thinking how lucky we are, rainy and mild in our Northwest corner, as California struggles with a serious drought and the snow dominates the forecast east of the Mississippi. Here’s to rain and warming up for them.

  3. Beautiful daffy’s Tom. Alas we have none on our property but hopefully there will be in the future. We were in the valley & in Portland the past 2 days where it is raining cherry blossoms. Such a fabulous time of year!

    • June were you on a Willamette Valley wine excursion? Sounds like life is good for you and the big guy in your beautiful corner of the world.

  4. Tom, I never thought about dividing daffodils. What a great idea – it’s like getting more flowers for free! Could the same thing be done with tulips, I wonder?

    • Hi Lucy, good question, and generally speaking I’d say most of the large flowering tulip varieties we’ve come to love don’t naturalize as well as daffodils. They tend to peter out after a couple years. Species tulips which are smaller and more closely related to their wild tulip cousins, naturalize nicely and can be divided successfully for re-bloom later.

  5. Thank you for the wonderful info and tutorial, especially the shovel tip. And I love the pic with your new gate in the background! That is the type of pattern I would love on a deck or gate of mine one day. I always enjoy getting your posts. Lots of Spring blessings, Diana*

  6. Diana, the gate was inspired by the porch rails of Mark Twain’s house in Hartford, Connecticut. I modified the design for my gates. Thanks for noticing!

  7. Your images are making me so eager to see if we got any daffodils this year in the mountains. CAn’t wait! and thanks for the pointers. One day I hope to learn gardening and do it for hours and hours, that’s the med diet I miss.

  8. What lovely photos! I love the driveway.
    Is that your writing shed in the back. I love the way it looks. Are there more pictures of the cabin?

    • I’m scratching my head on this one Denise. I know some flower petals fade with age, but I’ve never heard of daffodils ever changing colors from year to year. There is a possibility some crazy squirrel planted or stored some new bulbs near the old ones. That’s all I can come up with. Hydrangeas are the only flower I know of where you can change the flower color, through a change in soil pH. Sorry I can’t help you with this. As for depth, as a general rule, I plant the bulb three times the depth of the width of the bulb. So if the bulb is 1.5″ in diameter, I multiply that by 3 and plant the bulb 4.5″ deep.

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