Plant daffodils in spring

Planting Forced Daffodils In The Garden: Moving Daffodils After Flowering

To a gardener, few things are as dreary as the long, icy month of February. One of the best ways to brighten your home during cold months is by forcing bright bulbs such as daffodils, so that they bloom in the dead of winter. Once the flowering ends and spring begins to arrive, transplanting container-grown daffodils will probably be your next thought. Planting forced daffodils in the garden is possible, but there are some special techniques and precautions you should be aware of first.

Transplanting Container Grown Daffodils

Forcing bulbs like daffodils to bloom out of season is relatively easy, although it takes quite a bit of time and it takes a lot out of a bulb. Many gardeners consider these bulbs spent and simply discard them.

If you’re frugal and want to try to transplanting spring daffodils, keep in mind that they probably won’t have the energy to flower for two or three years. There are things you can do, however, to help the plant get ready and increase the odds of getting new daffodil flowers after only one year.

How to Transplant Daffodils to the Garden

Treat the forced daffodil bulbs like prized plants in the garden. The better conditions you give the daffodils, the more energy they’ll be able to produce for growing a large, strong bulb. Moving daffodils after flowering will be more successful if you prepare them during the early spring months.

Clip off the blooms when they begin to wither and die. This will eliminate energy from being diverted into possible seed production. Put the potted plants in a cool and sunny location and keep the soil moist, but not soggy, at all times. Grow the leaves as a houseplant for as long as they stay green.

When the leaves dry out and die off, dig up the bulbs and store them in a paper bag in a cool, dark place until fall. If you don’t have any place to store the bulbs, plant them directly into the garden. Plant them about 8 inches deep, and keep the ground moist to encourage strong root production.

Once you learn how to transplant daffodils to the garden, you can transfer this knowledge to any forced bulb you may receive as a gift. Amaryllis, crocus and tulips are popular gifts between the Christmas holidays and early spring, and transplanting all of these bulbs outdoors will eventually increase your perennial garden with very little extra effort.

By Rachael Liska

Daffodils, hyacinths, crocuses and tulips are welcome sights for the winter-weary. If you’ve ever looked at a swath of colorful spring bulbs with envy, plant a bed of your own. With this helpful guide to planting spring bulbs, it’s easy to do and completely foolproof!

The Four Basics of Spring Bulbs

Start smart and reap happy results. From planning to designing, these tips ensure success.

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Know your bulbs. There are those that flower in spring (scilla, allium, tulip, fritillary, hyacinth, crocus, snowdrop) and those that stun in summer (dahlia, gladiolus). Spring-flowering bulbs are planted the previous fall. This gives them time to adequately chill before rolling out their spectacular show months later. (Read more: 10 of the Best Daffodil Bulbs to Plant This Fall)

Make a plan. Look around and take stock of your existing plants. Consider where bare spots appear in early spring (under trees, in annual beds, along walkways where perennials won’t make an appearance until later), and imagine how a bed of beautiful bulbs would brighten up those areas.

Select the best. When buying bulbs at your local garden center, give them a good once-over. Make sure they are firm—avoid bulbs with mushy or moldy spots. Choose the largest bulbs in the variety you’re after, as those tend to be reliable bloomers. For a more comprehensive selection, check the websites of online nurseries. (Read more: 5 New Bulbs to Try This Fall)

Choose colors wisely. Mix and match spring-blooming bulbs as you wish, but resist the urge to include too many colors or varieties. Two to three will keep the look interesting and tasteful. Imagine drifts of orange-fringed tulips and grape hyacinths, or sweeping drifts of daffodils in varying hues mixed with pretty pansies.

How to Plant Spring Bulbs

You chose the best bulbs. Now you’re ready to dig in with confidence.

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1. Time it right. Plant spring-blooming bulbs too early and they won’t bloom; plant too late and they won’t take root and establish. Ideally, bulbs should be planted at least six weeks before the ground freezes, when temperatures are cool. In the upper Midwest, for instance, that could be from about late September through mid-November.

2. Location, location. Choose the right real estate for your bulbs and be rewarded with healthy, long-lasting blooms. Must-have amenities: full sun and well-draining soil. Bulbs don’t like wet feet, so avoid areas where water gathers, such as the bottom of a slope. Make sure to also provide a little distance from established plants because bulbs are known to multiply.

3. Keep them organized. Once bulbs are removed from their packages, chances are you won’t be able to tell which is which. Keep them contained, labeled or sorted until you’re ready to plant.

4. Dig deep. Check packaging for specific planting instructions. If unsure, dig a hole that’s two to three times deeper than the bulb’s height. For example, plant a 2-inch-high bulb about 6 inches deep. Many garden tools designed for this type of planting provide measurement markers. (Hint: Speaking of tools, a bulb auger is ideal if you plan to plant a bevy this fall.)

5. Give soil the spa treatment. Break up any clumps, remove rocks and weeds, and improve drainage and overall quality by mixing in organic matter such as compost or peat moss. The easiest way to do this is to dig one large hole instead of several individual ones. Then mix in amendments all at once. (Read more: 13 Ways to Take Your Garden From Good to Great)

6. Plant for success. Plant a bulb pointy side up, roots down, but whatever side is up, it will most likely find its way through the soil in spring. After planting, tamp down the soil lightly, water well and cover with a couple of inches of mulch.

7. Keep critters out. Squirrels and mice love digging up and snacking on freshly planted bulbs. To prevent their free buffet, either grow animal-resistant bulbs or lay wire mesh over the beds, then stake or weigh it down with stones. Remove once you see shoots in spring. (Read more: 5 Deer-Resistant Bulbs for Spring Blooms)

How to Create Beautiful Spring Bulb Displays

Use these ideas to get your green thumb in gear.

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1. Cluster for color. If you don’t have a lot of space, group one or two varieties together to create maximum impact. Concentrating color in small spaces delivers the most bang for your buck. Think bright, contrasting color if you’re the adventurous type. Muted pastels offer something more elegant.

2. Succession splendor. Select a few varieties with different bloom times. Intermingling early-, mid- and late-season bloomers sets the stage for an entire season of showstopping color.

3. Create layers. Adopt the double-decker technique and plant small, earlier flowering types such as crocus or scilla on top of larger mid- to late-spring blooming bulbs—tulips, daffodils and alliums.

4. Live on the edge. Use spring bulbs to edge early-season perennial beds and walkways. The blooms provide welcome color to areas of the yard that are just starting to show signs of life. An added bonus? If you plant them behind the perennials, emerging plants hide the spent bulb’s foliage as it fades.

5. Contain yourself. Force bulbs to bloom early by storing them in the refrigerator eight to 16 weeks, depending on variety. Keep them away from fresh fruit and veggies, as their gases cause spoilage. Once they’re properly chilled, transfer to a container filled with good quality potting mix. Store the container in an unheated garage or cellar until new growth emerges. Keep them in a cool, bright location indoors to enjoy spring a bit early. Then move them to a sunny location outside where you can enjoy the view.

Growing Daffodils in Pots

Wayne Steele

Livermore, California

The following information is how I grow daffodils for competing in daffodil shows. For everyday growing, you can probably increase the number of bulbs placed in a pot.

It is preferable to use 2 gallon pots for standard size daffodils and 1 gallon size for miniatures and small bulbs. Sterilize used pots with Clorox and let them drain.

The soil mixture I’ve developed is a ratio of 1 part perlite to 3 parts sterilized soil. In the bottom of the pot, over a little soil, place a pinch of 0-10-10 fertilizer. Do not let the bulb come in contact with the fertilizer. Try to place the bulb about 1/3 of the way from the top of the pot. If you plant too close to the surface, the new roots will push the bulbs above the ground. Place only one medium size bulb in a 1 gallon pot. Depending on the size of the bulbs, place 3 to 4 in a 2 gallon pot. If the bulbs are on the small side, maybe plant 5 bulbs.

If you see a bulb raising its head out of the ground, dump out the soil and carefully replant the bulb or bulbs at a lower level in the pot. For show bulbs, I prefer they do not touch each other. My rule of thumb is to place them at least the diameter of the bulbs apart with the same distance from the side of the pot.

After the 1st of November, heavily water the pots as it takes time for the peat moss in the super soil to completely saturate with water. Water every day for the first week. If you see pots drying out on top, give these extra water.

Since our tap water is alkaline and daffodils prefer an acid soil, add about 1 teaspoon of Ironite (TM) for 1 gallon pots and 2 teaspoons for 2 gallon pots. This helps keep the soil acidic.

After blooming, add a pinch of 5-10-10 fertilizer to the pot. This gives the plant a little added potassium and helps build the bulb for next year’s bloom.

If a daffodil dies in one of the pots, I do not use that soil for daffodils again, but for other plants.

Happy Daffodiling…Wayne

Please note: Wayne was an award winning grower who planted all his daffodils in pots.

Additional Notes from Nancy Wilson of Garberville, California:

Narcissus appreciate a summer baking. They do well in pots and containers deep enough to let their roots run.

Six weeks after blooming turn the pot on it’s side and place out of the way. Turn it up again in the fall to start another year of bloom. You can keep bulbs in a pot for two or three years, then dry them off, clean the bulbs and store them in a nylon stocking or paper bag, label and put in a dry place until fall.

For those of you who live in an area where there are severe winters, (temperature drops below freezing), you will need to store your potted daffodils either in a green house or garage. When the temperature is not dropping below freezing, bring the pots out of storage, place in a location where they will receive full sun and water the pots thoroughly.


daffodil image by Witold Krasowski from

How Deep Do You Plant Daffodil Bulbs?

Plant daffodil bulbs to a depth of three times the height of the bulb. Small bulbs require 2 to 3 inches in depth, while large bulbs need to be planted 6 to 8 inches deep.

Plant daffodil bulbs to a depth of three times the height of the bulb. Small bulbs require 2 to 3 inches in depth, while large bulbs need to be planted 6 to 8 inches deep.

How to Divide Daffodil Bulbs

Use a garden spade, and dig up the daffodil after the foliage has died. Try not to damage the bulb as you dig and lift it from the ground.

Look to see if the bulb is a single bulb or a bulb mass. If it is a single bulb, replant it. If it is a bulb mass, shake off the excess dirt.

Hold the bulb mass in one hand. Use your other hand, and grasp onto a single bulb. Gently shake it until it becomes loose and frees itself from the original bulb. Repeat the process with each bulb. If the bulbs are stubborn and will not free themselves from the original bulb by being shaken, run the entire bulb mass under running water and shake them free.

Plant the freed bulbs and the original bulb back into the ground. Place the bulbs in the ground at a spacing that is ascetically pleasing to you at a depth of 5 to 6 inches.

Cover the holes with soil. Water immediately.

When to Plant Daffodil Bulbs

Plant daffodil bulbs in the fall, to ensure color in the spring. Plant fat side down, point end up, in a hole that is twice the depth or width of the bulb.

The Best Time to Transplant Daffodil Bulbs

The best time to transplant daffodil bulbs is in the fall, after they have bloomed and the flowers’ leaves have stopped actively growing. The next best time to transplant daffodil bulbs is in the spring.

What to Do with Daffodil Bulbs

Daffodils need a well-drained, sunny location. Most require at least 5 hours of sunlight a day.

Where to Plant

Daffodils can be planted in a shrub border, perennial garden or in a bed of groundcover plants. Plant in groups of three to 12 bulbs of one variety for the most natural effect.

When to Plant

Daffodils need time to develop their root systems before the advent of winter weather. The University of Missouri Extension recommends mid-October as a good cut-off date for planting daffodils. In warmer areas, planting time may be extended by a month or so.


Dig holes which will allow the bulbs to rest about 6 inches below the surface. Space bulbs 6 to 12 inches apart, depending on the variety. If desired, mix a complete fertilizer in with the soil. Daffodils do not require heavy fertilization.


Daffodils need moisture to establish good root growth. Water the bulbs throughout the fall if there is not adequate rainfall.

Indoor Daffodils

If you find you still have daffodil bulbs after it is too late to plant them, you can still enjoy them by potting them up to enjoy inside during the winter. See Resources for “Indoor Daffodils”.

How to Dry Daffodil Bulbs

Dig daffodil bulbs out of the ground with a spade once the foliage begins to die.

Rinse off the dirt from the bulbs and pat dry with a towel.

Slide individual bulbs into the legs of nylon stockings so the bulbs do not overlap each other.

Hang the bulbs in a cool, well-ventilated spot for two to three week until the bulbs dry out.

Fill a sturdy box halfway with vermiculite or dry sand.

Bury the daffodil bulbs upside down in the vermiculite or dry sand in the box for storage until replanting the bulbs in the spring. Wait until replanting to divide the bulbs by cutting offsets.

Cut off any side bulbs (offsets) growing from the main bulb by severing them at their base with a knife and replant the bulbs.

When to Plant Peruvian Daffodil

The Peruvian daffodil is a tender perennial for containers or climates above 50 degrees F. Plant its bulbs in the spring in full sun under 5 inches of well-drained soil.

How to Plant Daffodil Bulbs

Loosen the soil in the garden bed with a spade or hand rake. Loosen the top 8 to 10 inches of soil.

Dig a hole with your spade to a depth three times the daffodil bulb’s length. Space holes 3 to 6 inches apart in rows or circles.

Sprinkle bulb fertilizer onto the bottom of each hole to encourage root growth before the first hard frost.

Set the bulb in the hole with the fat, flat end on the bottom. Scoop the soil back into the hole.

Water the daffodil bed deeply, then cover with an organic mulch such as pine bark or straw.

The Best Time to Divide Daffodil Bulbs

The best time to divide daffodils is after they’ve started to die in the late spring. To do this, dig around the daffodils and take out a clump of bulbs. Replant sturdy healthy bulbs immediately.

When Is Daffodil Planting Time in Tennessee?

Daffodil image by azzzh from

Daffodils should be planted in the fall, before the ground freezes. According to the University of Tennessee Extension, this generally means from late September through early November. Planting in the fall gives the bulbs enough time to develop roots before winter temperatures arrive.

Planting Instructions for Daffodils

Remove weeds, grass and brush in an area with full sun exposure in October. Plant while the weather is still nice and the soil is still warm to allow the daffodils to grow roots.

Loosen the soil to the depth of 10 to 12 inches with a shovel. Break up large dirt clumps. Remove any buried debris such as rocks and sticks.

Spread a 1-inch layer of sand over the soil and a 2- to 4-inch layer of peat moss to add drainage and organic materials to the soil. Add a layer of 1/4 cup of 6-24-24 fertilizer for every 12 bulbs. Mix thoroughly by turning the soil over with a shovel.

Dig out the planting area so that the bases of the daffodil bulbs are 6 inches below the soil line. Place the bulbs on the soil with the flat side down and 2 to 4 inches apart. Fill the planting area with soil.

Spread 4 to 6 inches of pine needles, wood chips or shredded bark mulch.

Flood the daffodil bed with water for five minutes. Water the flower bed once a week during the fall to encourage root growth.

When to Plant Daffodils

Daffodils, or Narcissus, need to be planted in the fall to bloom the following spring. Cover with one inch of soil and water. Watering will need to be every week for their growing season.

What Colors Do Daffodils Come In?

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White daffodils are often called Narcissus, although “Narcissus” is the genus name of all daffodils. The color can be bright white in some daffodils, or a more creamy, off-white shade. Silver Chimes, for example, has up to 12 creamy white flowers on one stem. Hybrids of the Triandrus species are also usually white.


Oranges in daffodils range from a true, bright orange to a pale, almost salmon color. Ceylon is a double-petaled, long-blooming daffodil with orange cups. Geranium has bright orange flowers.


Yellow is perhaps the most common color found in daffodils. In fact, the most commonly planted type of daffodil, Carlton, features flowers in two hues of yellow. Follies, which is second in popularity to Carlton, has a yellow cup that gradually fades to white as the flower ages. Yellow Cheerfulness features small flowers in lemon-yellow.


Red is rarely seen in daffodils, but a few do contain some red in the flowers. Poeticus daffodils, and the Actaea cultivar in particular, feature striking centers edged with a red border. Cabineers have a deep, reddish-orange cup.


Many daffodil species and cultivars have flowers composed of several of the above colors. Sir Winston Churchill has orange centers with white petals. Avalanche has white petals that are set off nicely by a pale yellow center cup.

How to Grow Daffodils in Water

Thomas Northcut/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Get a forcing glass. The cup is designed to hold the bulb over the water, so the moisture encourages the bloom to emerge. Each forcing glass holds one flower, so get as many as you need for the desired amount of blooms.

Turn on the water faucet. Fill the forcing glass with tap water. Make sure the water is lukewarm or cool. Place the bulb on top of the glass container.

Place the glass in a cool, dark room, with a preferred temperature of under 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep it there for four to eight weeks until you see roots develop. The top of the bulb will also get longer.

Check it often for root growth. Add more water the glass if it evaporates. Once roots start to grow, add 1 teaspoon of vodka to the glass. It will stunt the stem’s growth so the bulb can stay upright. This will not affect the daffodil blossom.

Move the plant to a bright window. The daffodil will soon blossom.

Put bulbs of bunch-flowering varieties of daffodils, such as Soleil d’Or or Paper White, in shallow bowls of water. Fill the bowls with pebbles or small rocks.

Secure the bulbs in the pebbles. Make sure they are deep enough so they are touching water.

Store the plants in a cool, dark place for a few weeks so the roots can grow. Move them to a sunny location once you notice root growth.

How Long Will Daffodils Last? Images

Garden Grown

Daffodils last in the garden for three to four weeks. About a week to 10 days after the daffodil blooms fade away, the leaves start collecting energy for the following year. Removing the leaves at this point will weaken the bulb and likely kill it after a year or so. Allow the leaves to grow until they naturally brown and wither. Trim the brown leaves from the plant and wait until the next spring for the new blooms.

Cut Flowers

It is hard to resist cutting daffodils in the spring when the months of winter are over. If you must cut a few for indoor decoration, they should last in fresh warm water. Expect to keep them for up to two weeks before they shrivel and die.


Daffodil plants will live for about five years in one location. After that, the flowers will look weak and small. If you dig up the bulbs, separate them and replant them in amended soil, they should come back in the spring with a renewed vigor. Make sure you allow the plants to grow until the leaves die back.

Dry Bulbs

The shelf life of a daffodil bulb is similar to most other flower bulbs. If you store the bulb in a protected environment where the moisture levels are low, the bulb easily lasts one year. After that, the bulb tends to dry out and the chances of successful blooming drop quickly.

How to Plant Daffodils in Containers

BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images

Step 1

Fill a container with about 2 to 3 inches of high-quality potting soil with fertilizer already mixed in. Lightly tamp it with your fingers. Containers that are at least 5 inches deep work well for smaller daffodils and ones that are 6 inches deep work well for larger bulbs. No matter the container, it must have a drainage hole.

Step 2

Arrange the bulbs on top of the soil with the tips facing up. Rotate and push the bulbs down a bit into the soil to secure them in place. Arrange daffodil bulbs close together with about 1/2 inch of space in between.

Step 3

Fill the container with potting soil until just the tips of the bulbs are above the soil line. Tamp the soil lightly. In the end, the soil should stop about 1/2 to 1 inch below the container rim.

Step 4

Water the daffodil bulbs well until you see water drip out the bottom drainage hole. Check the soil one or two times a week to ensure the soil remains slightly moist.

Potted Bulbs Finished Blooming…Now What?

Bulbs in Pots: A “One Hit Wonder” or A Lasting Treasure?

I’ve received lots of inquiries lately regarding bulbs planted in pots. We’ve all seen it: the gorgeous pots of hyacinth, tulips, and daffodils in full bloom sold at the local supermarket or floral shoppe. If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably purchased one (or at least thought about it) and triumphantly brought your little piece of spring home with you. We are all anxious for spring and who wouldn’t want a little reminder that it will one day indeed come?

So you’ve brought home the pot of adorable miniature daffodils or extremely fragrant hyacinth or maybe you’ve signed up to receive a potted Easter Lily at church and they produced gorgeous blooms for a week or two. But now what do do with these beautiful indoor bulbs after flowering? Was the money you spent on this pot of once-blooming flowers wasted? Is there nothing left to do but dispose of the pot along with the bulbs just as though it were a fresh floral arrangement? Absolutely NOT! Why not replant the bulbs in your garden or another pot to enjoy for years to come? The process is actually quite simple:

  1. Once the plant has stopped blooming, discontinue watering and allow the foliage to die back.
  2. Once the foliage is dried and brown, remove it from the pot by gently tugging on the leaves until they break from the bulb and come out of the ground. (If the leaves do not pull away from the bulbs easily you haven’t waited quite long enough for the foliage to die. It is very important to not remove the foliage prematurely as it helps to put energy back in the bulbs for the next year’s blooms.)
  3. Remove the bulbs from the dirt and dust them off. Check for any rotten or soft spots on bulbs. If these spots are visible on any bulbs, discard them. Allow them to dry out on a piece of paper in a cool, dry and dark place (such as a cellar or basement) or plant them directly in the ground if the weather is suitable for planting.
  4. If you live in Hardiness Zones 3 – 8 (an area that stays consistently near or below freezing for a period of at least 10-12 weeks during the winter), the bulbs can be replanted in your outdoor garden in fall, anytime between late September and early November, preferrably prior to the first frost.
  5. If you live south of Hardiness Zone 8 (your winters do not fall into the above mentioned category), you will need to “pre-chill” these bulbs in October or November by placing them into your refrigerator in a brown paper bag for a period of 10-12 weeks. Be sure not to store any fruits or vegetables near your bag of bulbs as they give off a chemical called “ethylene” while ripening that can cause bulbs to rot. Once the bulbs have chilled for the correct period and may even have started to sprout, they are ready to be replanted either in the outdoors or in a pot!
  6. IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER: This process of artificially chilling bulbs and then forcing them to bloom early takes quite a bit of energy from the bulb. Therefore, you may not see blooms for the next few springs. Be patient: once the bulb stores up enough energy, they’ll be beautiful once again!

So the next time you pass the floral counter at the grocery store or hear of an offer to order some potted bulbs for Easter, don’t hesitate to pick one up for yourself! Remember, spring planting bulbs work great for this, too! Good luck to you!

Until next time,

Want to learn more about planting bulbs in pots? Email Bridget at [email protected]! Your question may even be featured in a future blog post!

Spring is here! Daffodils are in bloom and ready for the picking. I just purchased two bunches of the sunny yellow flowers for only $3, and I’m intent on keeping them around as long as possible. Usually, the bouquets will wilt after about three days, but there are a few things you can do to make them last up to five.

  • When you’re picking your daffodils, either from a grocery store or from the wild, avoid choosing any petals that look discolored or crumply, or have signs of translucency.
  • Before you put your flowers in a vase, hold the stems in bowl of water and trim off the bottom half inch of the stems. Then arrange as you see fit!

Read on for a few more helpful tips!

  • At night, cover your bouquet with a sheet of plastic wrap or a plastic bag and leave them in the refrigerator overnight. Just remember to remove them in the morning!
  • Keep your daffodils in a cool spot away from direct heat, be it the sun, stovetop, or your heaters.
  • Use cold water in your vase.
  • Put your daffodils in a vase of their own. Their stems have a compound that’s toxic to other flowers.

Make a donation to American Cancer Society’s Daffodil Days and a bouquet of 10 daffodil stems in a vase will be delivered to people with cancer in hospitals and treatment centers!

Daffodil Flower Care

1. Start with a very clean vase. Fill it about halfway with fresh, room-temperature water.

2. Hold the daffodils next to your vase to gauge how much stem you’ll need to trim.

3. Using a sharp knife or floral shears, cut stems underwater at a 45-degree angle so they don’t sit flat on the bottom of the vase, for better water absorption. You can leave the protective husks on or gently remove them. Daffodils will last longer in shallow water.

4. Add the included cut-flower food to the vase; use the extra pack with your first change of water. Frequent re-cutting of the stems helps prolong the life of fleshy-stemmed flowers such as daffodils.Your daffodils might arrive with closed buds, but they will open over the next few days after conditioning.

Care Tip

Recondition the flowers every two to three days: Re-cut the stems, change the water, and add nourishment. To nourish flowers after the flower food is used up, refill your vase with a solution of one teaspoon sugar and two drops liquid bleach per gallon of fresh, cold water. Keep fresh flowers in a cool area to help them last longer.

Daffodil Tip

Daffodils release a substance harmful to other flowers, so they are best kept to themselves in arrangements. If you’d like to mix them with other flowers, first place the cut stems in a container of cool, clean water to soak overnight. This soaking helps the daffodils release some of the harmful substance.

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