Do you really know how to pick a daffodil?

Do you really know how to pick a daffodil? No, that’s not a rhetorical question. Daffodils, due to their very nature, can be more than a little tricky to use successfully in a vase. Conventional wisdom tells us that daffodils should never be mixed with other flowers because of their toxicity. Specifically, daffodils contain something called calcium oxalate crystals which are found, among other places, in the sap of cut stems.

To follow up on that thought, we know that all parts of daffodils are toxic. Several of the Gardening Grannies particularly value them for that very reason. Marauding garden critters somehow know they are poisonous and voles (underground, vegetarian scarfing rodents), squirrels (rats with furry tales) and deer (with voracious appetites) tend to leave the bulbs and foliage alone.

Conventional wisdom, once again, tells us not to mix daffodils with other flowers in arrangements. It is generally believed that the toxicity of the daffodils substantially reduces the life of other flowers in an arrangement. The Gardening Grannies agree in principle…..sort of. They do have a couple practices which they claim reduce the problem.

The first practice is to use small leafed evergreen shrubs, such as boxwood or holly spears, for greens in the arrangement and fore go the use of other flowers. Shrubs are of a considerably more substantial body than flowers and can stand up without wilting to daffodil secretions that cause the problem. You can also recycle pruning leftovers from flowering fruit trees by using them in the arrangements as well. Used skillfully, they can make exceptionally attractive arrangements. Tulips, in particular, seem to be susceptible to the secreted calcium oxalate crystals and, since they often bloom at the same time as daffodils, folks unwittingly put them in the same arrangement ….and then, they wonder what happened.

The second practice is related to how you pick a daffodil. Let’s see…..we go out with a pair of scissors and a container of water and cut a bunch of mixed flowers and greens. We bring them inside and put together our arrangements. Right?

Stop! Let’s go back and revisit that. It’s fine to cut most flowers, but never cut a daffodil. It’s important to pick daffodils. To harvest them correctly, reach as far down the stem as you possibly can and snap it off near the ground. When you look at the bottom of a daffodil stem picked this way, you will see that the bottom is more or less solid. If you cut a daffodil part way down the stem and look at the bottom edge of the cut, you will see that the stem is hollow and that an opaque-ish liquid is seeping from the stem. This liquid is the villain.

The only real problem with picking daffodils the correct way lies in the fact that you can’t control the length of the stem. Mother Nature does that for you. You now have to work around the natural length of the stem in your arrangement. Insurmountable? Probably not. It just makes the arrangement process a tad more challenging. The Gardening Grannies think that is a small price to pay for a mixed arrangement that has a bit more longevity. So! Off your rockers and into your gardens. It’s time to start having those fresh flower arrangements in the house. They will make you smile!

The Gardening Grannies are a group of avid and Master Gardeners who live, love and garden on the Delmarva Peninsula.