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Mini Daffodils: Enchantment on a Small Scale

September 08, 1985|ROBERT SMAUS ROBERT SMAUS

At every daffodil show, there's a section devoted to the most charming of these bulbs--the miniatures. To qualify as miniatures, daffodils must be small of flower and stature (although they may come from any of the other divisions, from the large-cupped to the wild forms).

If you've ever seen miniature daffodils at shows, you've probably been enchanted by them, so you'll be pleased to know that they are not particularly difficult to grow. The only difficulty involved is that of finding the tiny--but expensive--bulbs at nurseries (we'll suggest sources below). If there's a danger involved, it is the possibility of losing the flowers among the weeds. If you have no garden, take heart--most of the miniature daffodils seen at shows have been grown in pots.

Pots are, indeed, the best home for most of these miniatures, although a few--such as the true jonquil ( Narcissus jonquilla )--will grow in the garden next to some device that marks its location and protects it from being trampled on. In Southern California, miniatures do best with a smattering of shade, whether they are in pots or in the ground.

In pots, they should be planted just below the surface (which, in the ground, means about twice as deep as they are tall). Begin with any commercially available potting mix and add to it some coarse silica sand or fine perlite (Sponge Rock) so that the soil will be less absorbent and excess water will drain quickly. At the same time, add a teaspoon or so of a complete bulb fertilizer; that will make a difference in the size and number of flowers. Don't put the bulbs in too large a container; they should almost fill the container from side to side. However, the container should be four to eight inches deep to allow plenty of room for roots. (Pictured at left is a small pot stuffed with the variety Hummingbird.) Water thoroughly immediately after planting. Then water sparingly until the bulb sprouts, after which you can water it as you would any other container-bound plant.

After the flowers fade in the spring, cut them off, but allow the foliage to remain and continue the watering until the foliage has dried on its own. At that time, cease watering and place the pots in a cool, shady place for the summer. Begin watering again in October, and with any luck, the bulbs will sprout and bloom again. If, in time, you get many leaves but few flowers, you probably should unpot the bulbs and divide them; that's best done before storing the pots for the summer.

October is the best month for planting--in pots or in the ground--but now is the time to order bulbs, because miniatures are often available only from daffodil specialists. One such specialist is Nancy R. Wilson, Species and Miniature Narcissus, 571 Woodmont Ave., Berkeley 94708. The fabled Grant E. Mitsch catalogue ($3, in color) also contains many miniatures, although the business is now operated by Mr. and Mrs. R. D. Havens, P.O. Box 218, Hubbard, Ore. 97032. Another source is McClure & Zimmerman, 1422 W. Thorndale, Chicago 60660. Locally, Burkard Nurseries in Pasadena often has bulbs of miniatures.

How big are these daffodils? The bulbs may be no more than half an inch tall. And many of the flowers are on stems only a few inches tall. Those pictured below are a bit larger, about half life-size.

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