Narcissus is the name given to any flower of the daffodil family – so even daffodils are officially ‘narcissus’. In the UK, we tend to call the bright, happy, larger trumpet-shaped flowers ‘daffodils’, and the smaller, scented types ‘narcissi’.
The name comes from the Greek legend Narcissus, a word which means ‘numbness’, referring to the narcotic properties of the plant – the bulb contains a toxic substance.
The scent of narcissi is so sweet and fragrant that they’ve become a very popular spring flower in the UK. Some companies even specialise in posting UK-grown cut flowers nationally – see our list of members for more details.
Narcissi and daffodils, along with tulips, are spring flowers still grown in the UK. Main flower growing regions are Lincolnshire and the Isles of Scilly, where many farms have been growing flowers for generations and business continues to thrive in modern times.
South Western Europe. Grown extensively in the UK - we export daffodils to Holland. First cultivated by the Romans.
Over 25,000 varieties in shades of yellow, white, orange and peachy pink.
Seasonal availability October to April. The Isles of Scilly start the season off in October with the tiny tazetta types. It finishes in April with large trumpet daffodils from Scotland.
There is a huge number of cultivars, in a range of colours including combinations of white, yellows, oranges and pinks. There are multi-headed tazetta types and some with a strong fragrance. Yellow tazetta narcissi "Soleil d'Or'"and white "Ziva" have the strongest scent, and also make ideal indoor plants as potted bulbs.
Daffodils and narcissi have sap which is toxic to other flowers. Display separately, leave in water on their own for at least 12 hours before mixing with other flowers and do not recut the stems. Or use specially formulated cut flower food for mixing daffodils with other flowers. If kept cool they will last about a week.
Narcissi are mainly cultivated in the Channel Isles, the Isles of Scilly, Great Britain and Holland. The daffodil is the emblem of Wales and is worn on St David's Day. Poultry keepers thought the flower unlucky and would not allow it in the home as they believed it would stop their hens laying eggs or the eggs hatching. Prince Charles is paid one daffodil annually as rent for the unattended lands of Scilly. The local Environmental Trust is reponsible for the payment. The daffodil is used by Marie Curie Cancer Care to raise money on National Daffodil Day. They believe it symbolises new hope and life.
Narcissus in Greek legend fell in love with his own reflection in a stream. He stayed transfixed by the stream and the gods thought he would die of starvation so they changed him into the flower to stay there forever.
They are good flowers for Geminis, who like the daffodil's yellow cheerfulness; and Pisces who appreciate the white narcissi's scented delicacy.
In Victorian times daffodils signified regard, while narcissi meant self-esteem or even vanity.
Daffodils are being grown for Galanthine, a substance in the bulbs being used to fight Alzheimer's.