The famous trumpeting, cupped receptacle on daffodils is called a corona, and botanists are confounded as to its function. However, the presence of the corona does assist us in explaining why daffodil flowers nod as opposed to staying upright. Were the cupped corona to face the sky, rainwater would collect in it, causing the pollen on the anthers inside of it to rot, preventing pollination and seed formation from taking place.

It is worth noting that daffodil species that bloom in the fall have coronas that stay upright, the reason being that these species are native to the Mediterranean basin where rain arrives later, after their flowers have faded, in the winter. Moreover, through hybridization and selecting for corona orientation, there are now spring daffodils with upright flowers as well.

There are two explanations for the daffodil’s scientific name, which is Narcissus. One is that the nodding daffodil evokes Narcissus from ancient Greek mythology, the handsome youth who gazed with bent head into a pool of water and fell in love with his image. He became so infatuated with himself – the most extreme form of unrequited love – that he fell into despair, would neither eat nor drink and withered away. His dead body was transformed into the flowers that bear his name.

The other explanation for the name Narcissus comes from its etymological root, narke, a Greek word meaning numbness or intoxication. There does seem to be a connection between the two names since a narcissist is effectively numb to others. The fragrance of some Narcissus flowers – paperwhites are most notable in this regard — is also said to be intoxicating. Place a vase of paperwhites in the center of a room and the scent will find its way into every corner.

All parts of Narcissus species are poisonous, especially the bulbs, due to the presence of alkaloids. So keep small children and pets at a distance from your hill of daffodils. And do not combine the daffodils you put in a vase with other flowers since cut daffodil or Narcissus stems exude lycorine, a toxic alkaloid that will be taken up the stems of other species, causing their flowers to wilt.

Daffodils and paperwhites are among the easiest bulbs to grow since they spread in sun or dappled shade, are pest-free, and naturalize or spread throughout the garden with no effort on your part. And yes, you can still plant them now. K. van Bourgondien, a popular source for bulbs located in Ohio, ships pre-chilled daffodil bulbs until May 1st. You can access them at or by calling 855-489-2538. Upon request, they will even mail you a free catalog with photos of a large variety of bulbs and other perennials in vivid color. Browsing through the catalog is a great way to bolster your confidence in plant identification.

And then, of course, there are summer and fall flowering bulbs and rhizomes as well. In Los Angeles, the most earnest flowering bulb plant is society garlic (Tulbaghia violacea), which may be planted from containers at any time of the year, blooms profusely and constantly, and is highly popular as a bulletproof ground cover. Two types are commonly planted, both with violet blooms. The standard type has shiny, slender green leaves and the variegated version has green-and-white striped foliage.

The downside of maintaining this plant is removal of the spent flowers which, unless they are painstakingly snipped off, remain attached for months in the form of floppy brown strands. There is an efficient way around this problem, however. When the quantity of faded flowers has given a stale look to the normally fresh-looking society garlic, simply shear the plant to the ground. It will be grateful for the brief rest you have given it before it regroups, releafs, and starts flowering again. There is, of course, the matter of the pungent garlicky odor you assume when working with society garlic, an ironic name considering its anti-social olfactory aspect.

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