Lesley Ramsay, New Zealand

Planting Depth of Daffodil seed

January 14, 2009

Categories: Growing Daffodils, Hybridizing, Planting, Seeds

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At several ADS Hybridizers’ Forums the question of what is a desirable depth to plant seed has arisen.  Several people have argued that planting seed up to three inches deep is advantageous – claims have been made of large round bulblets being lifted after two years.   My own practice has been to plant at about 1 ½  inches allowing for a top up of about ½ inch in their second year in the planter boxes.   However two years ago I decided to try out deeper planting.  I have just lifted the trays – the good news is that there were no misses and there are lots of bulblets.  The bad news is that they are small, albeit nice and round and no pencil shaped bulbs.  There were also no tactile  roots which indicates that they were certainly deep enough.  I would doubt that they will flower at 4 years old (I usually get about 5% in flower at four ) and am not sanguine about them all  making it by six when the discard process takes place.

I would be very interested in other growers’ experience with  planting seed and results obtained, especially as I will be planting my 2008 seed next month.

Trying to get our garden in order after several week’s total neglect while we lifted – all finished now – lifting that is, not tidying.



5 responses to “Planting Depth of Daffodil seed”

  1. Donna Dietsch says:
    Hello Peter,
    This subject has had ongoing discussion among the members of the hybridizers robin for the last 23 years that I have been a member.  The question is always one of the first ones asked by novice hybridizers.  Dr. Bill Bender started one discussion that I remember.  His contention was that the seed should be planted three or more inches deep.  I’ve forgotten his rationale.  I tried that and got similar results to yours – the bulbs were very small.  I plant the seeds at 2 inches deep.  I use plastic mesh berry baskets.  At first the roots contracted to pull the bulb below the bottom of the basket, right through the openings.  The bottom being three inches deep.  I now use a square of netting and the bulbs will sometimes still try to grow through the netting and I have to use scisors to remove them.  So I still think that some of them would have liked to be lower than three inches in the soil. I don’t think size has anything to do with how low they want to grow.  It is more likely the division of the parents. 
    I find that the shape of the bulb is mostly determined by the division and the size could partially be determined by that as well..  Trumpets are always larger and pear shaped, as are most division 2’s.  Threes usually are very round and will sometimes be large, and that depends on the size of the parent bulb.  I’m not sure what makes the bulbs pencil shaped.  I’ve had that happen occasionally, but have nothing to attribute it to.
    Tazettas, the few that I have bred, are round and poets will many times be quite large and oval.  I can only tell you that I get as much success as I am prepared to accept and have only tried planting deeper than 2 inches one time.
    This is an interesting topic and I hope others will join in.
    Donna Dietsch
    Columbus Ohio

  2. Larry Force says:
    Hello Donna and Peter,
    I also plant my seed in the berry baskets and have experienced  them pulling themselves through the bottom of baskets. I have always planted the miniature seed 1/2 to 3/4 inches deep and the standard seed appx. 1 to 1 1/4  inch deep. While I think that depth is ok for planting and germiniating the seed obviously the bulbs want  to be deeper and are doing what they programed to do for survival, as determined throughout the econs of time. I personally don’t think planting 3 inches deep would be an advantage but don’t have any documentation or proof for that idea. Question, by planting that deep could part of the engergy stored in the bulb be used up before the leaf ever reached the sunlight or maybe not even reach the surface. Or maybe by planting deeper, it would not have to use up energy to pull  down deeper. Peter, keep us posted on your depth planting trial.
    Donna, as far as your question about the pencil shaped young bulbs? It’s probably something else evolved thru out time. It would be easier for a sharp pointed pencil shaped bulb to pull  down to it’s  proper depth than a round blunt bulb. Once to the proper depth it then fills out to it’s normal shape. Isn’t nature grand, sometimes it’s smarter than we give it credit for.
    One small problem I had last year I’ll share with you. In one seedling bed I didn’t have any mulch on, I had a few germiniating daffodil seeds to heave out of the  ground due to freezing temperatures. Would deeper planting have prevented this, maybe. Anyway, I now make sure I have at least a light mulch on the new beds.
    Good luck and good growing everyone in the new year,
    Larry Force
    Southaven, Mississippi

  3. Clay Higgins says:
    What do use use as mulch on your seedling?  and how much do you use.
    I’m laid up right now with two fractures of my left fibula from a fall on the ice last week, so I can’t go out to see how my daffodil seedling are doing.
    However, I have the last three years used a lite covering of pine straw (pine needles) as a mulch.  The seedling come up right through the pine straw and it helps keeps the weeds down.  When I say a lite covering, it means that I can see the ground under the straw and it is not tightly packed.
    I’ve often wanted about mulch.
    On planting seedling, I use the 2 inches down for standard seedling howeve, I plant miniature about half of that. I use the type potting soil that has moisture slow release.  I get better germanition using that then plan earth, as I plant my daffodils directly in the ground as I’m terrible on watering pots.  They go dry and nothing lives.
  4. Larry Force says:
    I run the lawn mower  over the oak and sweet gum leaves with the mulching bag attached and chop them up. I then place 1/2 to 3/4 inch on the seedling beds, probably should use a little more, can always rake some of it off in the spring.  A few pine needles on top of that helps to prevent the leaves blowing off in winter. Pine needles are very good for mulching the standards also, it keeps dirt from splashing up on the blooms and they don’t blow off like leaves do. With 7 degrees being forecast tonight (very unusual for my climate) I have the new seedling beds covered them with piecies of old carpet I have saved for this type of emergency. Have got a lot of miniature trumpets and sixes showing buds and bulbcodiums in bloom that I have covered also.
    Very sorry to hear of your fall, hope you are up and around for the spring shows.
    The jonquilla seed you sent me, germinated very well and seedlings are doing fine. The bulbs sent did great also. Thanks again.
  5. Clay Higgins says:
    Thanks for the information.
    In a hybridizing session at King of Prussia a couple years ago, Steve Vinisky said that planting seed too shollow will cause the bulbs to be long instead of round.  I had some N. jonquilla seedlings that I took out of the ground that year, and they were long like baby white radishes.  I replanted them with some deap and dug a couple in 2008.  The bulbs are now round and look like any other miniature N. jonquilla bulbs.