Perhaps no floral symbol epitomizes the impending arrival of a new year as does the blooming of our assorted Narcissus species. The word narcissus is derived from the Greek word narke, meaning numbness or stupor. Some attribute the naming of the flower to its narcotic fragrance while others debate that it is associated with the poisonous nature of the bulbs, a built-in defense against nibbling rodents. In classical mythology, it was the young lad Narcissus who was so enamored with himself that he stared at his reflection in a pool of water until he eventually turned into his namesake flower. I’ve been in a stupor for them all my life as well.
Most Narcissus species are natives of southern France, Spain, and the surrounding Mediterranean areas. This explains their love of our dry summers and moist winters. Many species of Narcissus have been cultivated for hundreds, even thousands of years.
What’s the difference between jonquils, narcissus, and daffodils you ask? It’s an age-old question. Botanically speaking, they’re all different species of the genus Narcissus. To the average gardener, however, the differences are fairly distinct.
Without exception, the best types of Narcissus for perennializing and naturalizing are the early blooming species and heirloom hybrids. In addition to their early bloom, they tend to be cluster or small-flowered. This early bloom (January through March) ensures that the foliage can mature before mowing begins or hot weather sets in which kills the foliage prematurely. It’s extremely critical for successful perennialization or naturalization that the foliage is allowed to grow, mature, and ripen naturally. This means it should never be cut off or tied in cute little knots, as each year’s foliage stores up the food reserves for the next year’s bloom.
If you’d like to learn more about spring, summer, and fall bulbs, plan to participate in the Smith County Master Gardener annual bulb sale.
This year the Smith County Master Gardeners are once again hosting their annual, award-winning “From Bulbs to Blooms” sale and conference using a hybrid format. The educational program featuring yours truly, waxing horticulturally on the Earth-Kind bulbs in the sale, will be held via a PowerPoint recording and is posted on the Smith County Master Gardener Association website, Facebook, and YouTube pages. The popular sale will be conducted online (from October 3-October 11) with curbside pickup on October 15th at Pollard United Methodist Church (3030 New Copeland Rd. Tyler, Texas 75701). I will also be presenting “From Arcadia to Arcadia: Grannies, Kissing Cousins, and Narcissus” in person at 10:00 a.m. at Pollard on October 15. Seating is limited with free reservations made through the online bulb store.
The sale features tried and true heirloom, hardy, and hard-to-find Earth-Kind bulbs for Texas and the South, a number of which are grown by me and the Smith County Master Gardeners. The others are proven performers from years of my trials in East Texas. Unfortunately, most of the bulbs produced in Holland don’t perform as Texas-tough perennials here.
For the complete list of the bulbs and plants available, visit the Smith County Master Gardener website (Coming Events page). Additional information is available on the Smith County Master Gardener Facebook page. The link to the online store can be found at
Greg Grant is the Smith County horticulturist for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. He is the author of Texas Fruit and Vegetable Gardening, Heirloom Gardening in the South, and The Rose Rustlers. You can follow him on Facebook at “Greg Grant Gardens,” read his “Greg’s Ramblings” blog at arborgate.com, and read his “In Greg’s Garden” in each issue of Texas Gardener magazine (texasgardener.com). More research-based lawn and gardening information from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service can be found at aggieturf.tamu.edu and aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu.