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What Are the Differences Between Daffodils, Narcissus, and Jonquils?

Updated on October 12, 2017
OldRoses profile image

Caren White is a Master Gardener and instructor at Home Gardeners School. She has been a volunteer at Rutgers Gardens for over a decade.

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The sunny yellow flowers of daffodils are a welcome sight after a long winter, especially in areas of the country where deer are a problem. Deer don’t eat them because they are poisonous.

In some parts of the country, daffodils are called jonquils. Bulb catalogs often refer to large cup varieties as daffodils and the rest as narcissus. And then there are usually a couple of pages of jonquils. Confused yet?

A daffodil by any other name . . .

Let’s see if we can sort this out. No matter what they are called by gardeners, all daffodils, narcissus and jonquils are members of the Narcissi family. Within that family there are 12 groups of flowers:

  1. Trumpet
  2. Large Cup
  3. Small Cup
  4. Double
  5. Triandrus
  6. Cyclamineus
  7. Jonquilla
  8. Tazetta
  9. Poeticus
  10. Bulbocodium
  11. Split Corona
  12. Other Cultivars

Mt. Hood
Mt. Hood | Source

Trumpet vs Large Cup

Most of us are familiar with trumpet daffodils such as the classic yellow King Alfred and the heirloom white Mount Hood. Aren’t large cup the same as trumpet? Actually, no. A daffodil is considered a trumpet if it has a single flower on each stem and if the length of the corona (“trumpet”) is as long as or longer than the perianth (surrounding petals). To be considered a large cup daffodil, it has to have a single flower on each stem with the corona shorter than the perianth but at least one third as large.

Poeticus
Poeticus | Source

Small cup vs Poeticus

Small cup daffodils have single flowers and coronas that are shorter than one third the length of the perianth. Poeticus daffodils are my favorite. They have single flowers and the corona is only a tiny disc usually with a red rim.

Double
Double | Source

Double

Double daffodils are pretty self-explanatory. The corona or the perianth or sometimes both, are double giving them the appearance of peonies or roses.

Thalia, an heirloom Triandrus daffodil
Thalia, an heirloom Triandrus daffodil | Source

Triandrus

Not often seen, triandrus daffodils have two or more flowers per stem. The coronas point downwards while the surrounding perianth are “reflexed”, meaning that they are bent away from the corona.

Cyclamineus
Cyclamineus | Source

Cyclamineus

Cyclamineus daffodils are similar to Triandrus but they only have a single flower per stem. They have the same downwards facing coronas and reflexed perianth.

Jonquilla
Jonquilla | Source

Jonquilla

Finally, we get to the jonquils. Jonquils usually have one to five flowers per stem and short coronas. Look at where they are joined to the stem. It is almost a ninety degree angle from the stem to the flower.

Tazetta
Tazetta | Source

Tazetta

If you have ever forced bulbs indoors, then you are familiar with Tazetta daffodils. The most common variety used in forcing are called Paperwhite Narcissus. They have multiple flowers per stem, anywhere from three to twenty and they are very, very fragrant.

Bulbocodium
Bulbocodium | Source

Bulbocodium

These are very tiny plants, only 6 to 8 inches tall. The leaves look like grass. The flowers are also unusual. Instead of being shaped like a trumpet, the coronas are flared. The perianth are just almost non-existent, just a few spike-y petals.

Split Corona
Split Corona | Source

Split Corona

Personally, I think that these are ugly. They look like their coronas have exploded. The coronas don’t look like “normal” trumpets, more like individual petals.

Tete-a-Tete
Tete-a-Tete | Source

Other Cultivars

This is a catch-all category that includes any daffodils that don’t fit into the other categories such as Tete-a-Tete, a miniature daffodil.

I hope that this very brief overview of a large family of flowers will be helpful to you when choosing daffodils for your spring garden. Try a few of the unusual ones and see how you like them. If you are like me and forget over the winter what you have planted, you will find exciting surprises as spring progresses. Only the deer will be disappointed.

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    • OldRoses profile image
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      Caren White 8 weeks ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      Mary, there are now pink daffodils that your husband may find more attractvie. Or I believe they are called Tahiti daffodils that have dark orange trumpets. Not all daffodils are yellow. Try some different colors! Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 8 weeks ago from Brazil

      I had no idea there were so many types. I love, what I now know is the King Alfred.

      The white ones are beautiful but I don't think I have ever seen them before.

      I agree with you, the split corona is rather ugly, it looks like a fried egg.

      Although I love the yellow daffodil, my husband hates them, saying they are no more than a common weed.

      Thanks for the informative article.