What is the difference between a jonquil and a daffodil?

Q: We were having a discussion at the office about daffodils and jonquils, and we would like to know the difference between them. Would you please enlighten me?

A: Bringing light to the dark corners of garden knowledge is my specialty! Daffodils belong to the genus Narcissus, most of whose members have the familiar six flat flower petals surrounding a central cup. Daffodil is the common name for all members of the narcissus family.

You can use either “daffodil” or “narcissus” correctly when referring to any of this familiar family of bulbs.

The American Daffodil Society divides members of the Narcissus family into thirteen divisions, based on the shape of the flower. There are Cyclamineus daffodils, Double daffodils, Miniature daffodils, etc. Narcissus is sometimes used as the common name for a few members, i.e. “Paperwhite Narcissus”.

Older Southern gardeners would commonly refer to any early, yellow, fragrant narcissus as a jonquil. However, “jonquil” is properly used only as the common name for the Jonquilla group of daffodils. Daffodil is the proper common name for all thirteen groups of these bulbs.

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Difference between Jonquil and Daffodil

Key Difference: Jonquils and daffodils are members of the narcissus genus. Jonquils refer to a specific type of daffodil known as Narcissus jonquila. They are mostly identified by their dark green, tube-shaped leaves. Daffodils are hardy and easy perennials to grow in most areas in North America, except Southern Florida. They are mostly identified with their flat leaves.

There is a common confusion between the terms: Jonquil and Daffodil. The Jonquil and Daffodil are in the same genus Narcissus, but are from different families. Though they appear to be the same, the botanists have separated them due to some slight physical distinctiveness. They are mainly divided according to size, color, growth habit and other characteristics.

Merriam-Webster defines Jonquils as “a Mediterranean perennial bulbous herb (Narcissus jonquilla) of the amaryllis family with long linear leaves that is widely cultivated for its yellow or white fragrant short-tube clustered flowers.” The jonquil was derived from the Spanish junquillo, from the Latin “juncos”, meaning “rush”. It is the term mainly refers to a specific type of daffodil, known as Nacissus jonquilla. Their dark green, tube-shaped leaves are the easiest identification. Although it looks similar to daffodil, it has more than one bloom (blossom), sometime two blooms, or sometimes a cluster of blooms to the stem. The corolla and its length is the one of the identifying characteristic. It comes in white, yellow and peach; where jonquil only has yellow corolla, daffodils can come in any of the hues.

Oxford Dictionary defines daffodil as, “a bulbous European plant which typically bears bright yellow flowers with a long trumpet-shaped centre (corona).” The daffodil was derived from an earlier “affodell”, an alternative of Asphodel. They basically grow from a true bulb. However, most people use the word “daffodil” when referring to the large, trumpet-shaped flowers of the Narcassius pseudonarcissus. They are usually planted with ground covers rather than deep-rooted and tall-growing ones. Daffodils tend to compose the larger flowering varieties of Narcissus. The daffodil flower color varies from white through yellow to deep orange.

Comparison between Jonquil and Daffodil:

Jonquil

Daffodil

Kingdom

Plantae

Plantae

Clade

Angiosperms

Angiosperms

Clade

Monocots

Monocots

Genus

Narcissus

Narcissus

Family

Liliaceae or Amaryllidaceae

Amaryllis

Order

Asparagales

Asparagales

Sub-family

Amaryllidoideae

Amaryllidoideae

Trumpet of the flower

There are different colors of jonquils like creamy yellow, butter yellow and orange coronas.

Different colors of daffodils are white yellow, deep yellow and deep orange coronas.

Corolla

Jonquils only have a yellow corolla.

Daffodils can come in any of the hues.

Fragrance

Jonquils are extremely fragrant.

Daffodils are less fragrant as compared to Jonquils.

Stems

Jonquils have rounded stems.

Daffodils have long and slender stems.

Height of the flower

They grow about 16 inches in height.

They range from ½ inch blooms on 2-inch stems to giant 5-inch blooms on 2-foot stems.

Blossom

It has more than one bloom to the stem.

It has only one bloom to the stem.

Confusion reigns in the naming of one popular spring bulb. Should be we calling this plant a daffodil, a jonquil or a narcissus?

First, let’s get the term “jonquil” out of the way.

The true jonquil, with upright, tubular leaves and small, clustered flowers. Source: worldoffloweringplants.com

Although many gardeners think that any yellow daffodil is a jonquil, this term should actually refer only to one of the some 60 accepted species of Narcissus, Narcissus jonquilla, and also to its hybrids (Division VII in the Daffodil Checklist). It produces small white or yellow flowers with a tiny cup, several per stem, but most strikingly, its very upright leaves are tubular, like chives leaves, and not flattened, like those of most other narcissus. This comes from the Spanish origin of the name, as “junquillo” (jonquil) means “little rush”, referring to the rush-like—that is, tubular—leaves. And rush is “junco” in Spanish.

The true jonquil tends not to be terribly hardy and is often mostly seen in Southern gardens, where on the contrary is it very long-lived. Even it‘s best known hybrid, ‘Baby Moon’, is really not that widely grown.

Narcissus (the plural of which can be either narcissus or narcissi, depending on your mood) is, of course, based on the botanical name of the genus and is therefore always correct. It is famously named for the Greek youth Narcissus who fell in love with his own reflection. (You can read How the Narcissus Got Its Name for further information that subject.) You can call any Narcissus by the name narcissus and you’ll always be right. In scientific situations (say, you’re talking to a botanist), it would be the most appropriate one.

As for daffodil, it’s the common name in English-speaking countries for Narcissus plants and flowers. You can use it as you wish: it applies to just about any plant in the genus. One exception I can think of is the “Paperwhite” (Narcissus papyraceus, formerly N. tazetta ‘Paperwhite’), and its relatives. The latter is pretty much always called a Paperwhite narcissus, never a Paperwhite daffodil.

The asphodel (here, Asphodelus albus) is a perennial with leaves similar to narcissus leaves, although the white flowers lack the classic central cup of the narcissus. Source: www.specialplants.net

The curious name daffodil is derived from asphodel (Asphodelus spp.), a herbaceous perennial with white flowers that does have certain similarities with white-flowered narcissus like the poet’s narcissus (Narcissus poeticus). No one knows, however, how the “d” got added to the name, making it daffodil.

So, to resume, avoid using “jonquil” unless you’re absolutely sure you’re referring to a true jonquil (N. jonquilla), but you can use daffodil or narcissus pretty much as you choose!

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Daffodils

Did you know? The earliest known reference to Daffodils can be found in the 6th century A.D. writings of the Prophet Mohammed.

Daffodils, the flowers symbolizing friendship, are some of the most popular flowers exclusively due to their unmatched beauty. Daffodils belong to the genus Narcissus. Daffodil flowers have a trumpet-shaped structure set against a star-shaped background.

Often the trumpet is in a contrasting color from the background. The name Daffodils includes the cluster-flowered yellow Jonquils and the White Narcissi , as well as the include as the more common trumpet shaped flowers (right), members of the genus Narcissus.

Kingdom Plantae Division Magnoliophyta Class Lilliopsida Order Liliales Family Amaryllidaceae Genus Narcissus Daffodils are constantly recurring flowers with at least 50 species and many hybrids. Where climate is moderate, Daffodils flourish among the first spring buds. Daffodils often bloom in clusters.

Daffodils are native mainly to the Mediterranean region, in particular to the Iberian Peninsula, as well as Northern Africa and the Middle East.

In addition to the species, the Daffodil Data Bank lists over 13,000 hybrids. Generally Daffodils are yellow, and range from yellow-and-white, yellow-and-orange, white-and-orange, pink, and lime-green.

All Daffodils have a corona in the center that looks like a trumpet and a ring of petals all around. The natural Daffodil is colored golden yellow all over while the trumpet may often appear in a contrasting color.

The paper-white Daffodils could be planted in gardens that are outdoors. But they could also grow in indoor gardens during Christmas.

Miniature Daffodils

Daffodils come in all sizes, from 5-inch blooms on 2-foot stems to half-inch flowers on 2-inch stems. Largely for show purposes or for guidance in gardening, certain species and named cultivars have been determined by the American Daffodil Society to be miniatures and must compete by themselves in Daffodil shows.

Difference between Daffodils and Narcissus

There is literally no difference between the Daffodils and Narcissus. The two words are synonymous. Narcissus is the Latin or botanical name for those commonly called daffodils and Daffodil is the common name for all members of the genus Narcissus.

Facts about Daffodils

  • The garden Daffodil’s ancestors come from the states around the Mediterranean Sea, such as Spain and Portugal and the Middle East, such as Turkey. The earliest record mentioned about Daffodils was around two or three hundred years B.C.
  • Grown extensively by the ancient Greeks and the Romans, Daffodils nevertheless became a forgotten flower until about 1600 and even in 1860, there were fewer than 350 cultivated hybrids.
  • Around 1629, a group of Englishmen took the Daffodil out of the weeds and put it into the garden. Daffodils were in favor again.
  • During the days of the American experience and the expansion west, Daffodils were well established as a “must have” in the garden.
  • Daffodils were brought to Britain by the Romans who thought that the sap from Daffodils had healing powers. Actually the sap contains crystals that can irritate the skin.

Growing Daffodils

Daffodils grow perennially from bulbs. In temperate climates they flower among the earliest blooms in spring. Daffodils often grow in large clusters, covering lawns and even entire hillsides with yellow.

Depth, as a general rule, needs to be thrice the height. This means large bulbs should have a depth of 6 to 8 inches, a medium size 3-6 inches and a smaller size 2-3 inches. Always remember that the load of soil proves helpful in protecting the bulbs from breaking too easily and in keeping them upright for a longer duration.

If this fact is ignored and enough depth is not given, the Daffodil will bend down very soon. Though Daffodil blooms will come in bigger clumps, the bulbs and flowers will be scant.

Steps to growing Daffodils.

  • Choose a well-drained, sunny place, with a slightly acidic soil.
  • Plant your Daffodils so that their top (pointed end) is at least two times as deep as the bulb is high (top of a 2″ bulb is 4″ deep).
  • Plant bulbs deeper in sandy soil than in clay.
  • High-nitrogen fertilizers should be avoided.
  • Daffodils need lots of water while they are growing.
  • After blooming, never cut the foliage until it begins to turn yellow (usually late May or June).
  • This is then the time to dig them. Wash the bulbs thoroughly and let them dry completely (at least a week).
  • Put them in onion sacks (or panty hose) and hang them in the coolest place you can find until they’re ready to plant. Good air circulation will keep the storage rot at a minimum.

Daffodil Plant Care

  • Like most perennials, Daffodils will do well with about 1 inch of water per week while they are actively growing and blooming – from March to May.
  • Mulch can be tremendously helpful for Daffodils to conserve moisture.
  • The best thing you can do for your Daffodil bulbs is to provide them rich, well-drained soil with lots of organic matter in it.
  • Most organic bulb fertilizers can be placed right into the planting hole because they’re very gentle and non-burning.
  • Since a Daffodil is a perennial, every 5 to 10 years, divide the clumps of bulbs in early summer.

Meaning & Symbolism of Narcissus / Daffodils

Symbolizing rebirth and new beginnings, the daffodil is virtually synonymous with spring. Though their botanic name is narcissus, daffodils are sometimes called jonquils, and in England, because of their long association with Lent, they’re known as the “Lent Lily.” Lore connecting the daffodil to not only a sign of winter’s end but a lucky emblem of future prosperity is found throughout the world. In Wales, it’s said if you spot the first daffodil of the season, your next 12 months will be filled with wealth, and Chinese legend has it that if a daffodil bulb is forced to bloom during the New Year, it will bring good luck to your home.

The March birth flower and the 10th wedding anniversary flower, a gift of daffodils is said to ensure happiness. But always remember to present daffodils in a bunch – the same legends that associate this cheerful flower with good fortune warn us that when given as a single bloom, a daffodil can foretell misfortune.

View more on our Flower Type Meaning Page

Daffodil

Daffodil, (Narcissus pseudonarcissus), also called common daffodil or trumpet narcissus, bulb-forming plant in the amaryllis family (Amaryllidaceae), widely cultivated for its trumpetlike flowers. Daffodils are native to northern Europe and are grown in temperate climates around the world. The daffodil’s popularity has resulted in the production of many varieties; in addition to the classic yellow form, the trumpet and petals may themselves be of contrasting yellow, white, pink, or orange.

daffodilDaffodil (Narcissus pseudonarcissus).Jukal

The daffodil is a perennial and grows to about 41 cm (16 inches) in height. Each plant features five or six linear leaves that grow from the bulb and are about 30 cm (12 inches) long. The stem bears one large yellow blossom with a corolla deeply cleft into six lobes and a central bell-shaped crown, or corona, that is frilled at its edges. This trumpet shape contains the stamens and is the flower’s most conspicuous feature.

daffodilDaffodils (Narcissus pseudonarcissus).Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

Daffodils

Flower Pictures of Daffodils

Daffodil Photo

Basic Daffodil Flower Information

Common Names
Daffodil, narcissus, jonquil, Lent lily, Easter bells

Scientific Name
Genus species Narcissus hybrid
Family Amaryllidaceae

History
There are two legends of note about the origins of the daffodil, each being very different. It seems this flower has different meanings for different cultures of the world. For the West, it’s vanity, and the East it means fortune and prosperity.

The first legend is one you might be familiar with: it begins with a young Greek boy named Narcissus who was completely obsessed with himself and his beauty. (As you might have guessed, this is where we get the concept of narcissism.) One day, the boy found a small pond where he was able to see his reflection; he was so completely engrossed with himself he refused to leave and died of starvation. The gods turned the boy’s remains into the first “Narcissus” flower and that is the origin of the lovely flower we see today.

The second legend comes from Chinese culture and is a little more positive. It is said that a poor but good man was given cups of gold every morning from this flower.

I also found a story about two brothers who were given land from their dying father. One brother seized the good, hardy land; the other got the rocky leftovers. The poor brother found the beautiful daffodil flower on his land and begin to cultivate it. The bulbs did very well and brought him fortune. The evil brother was jealous and bought as many bulbs as he could to cash in on his brothers fortune. The greedy brother’s bulbs ended up dying and the good brother was able to buy back his father’s land.

Daffodil Flower Meaning
Regard, unrequited love, you’re the only one, chivalry, affection returned, sympathy, desire, love me, the sun is always shining when I’m with you.

Astrological Flowers
Aquarius (Jan 20 – Feb 18)
Gemini (May 21 – June 20)

Floral Design Qualities For Daffodils

Type Of Use: Flower

Form: Mass/ Form

Fragrance: Mild

Line: N/A

Silhouette: Trumpet /Pinwheel

Blossom Texture: Satin

Ethylene Sensitive: Yes

Stem Size: 8″ – 14”

Blossom Size: 1″ – 3”

Vase Life: 3 – 6 Days

Special Prep: Daffodils secrete a slimy substance that can be harmful to other flowers. Place them in a separate container of water for 6-8 hours before being arranged to remove this sap. After this process, they are safe to use with other flowers, even if you cut them again.

Daffodil Design Uses
Daffodils are attractive in bouquets by themselves or mixed spring arrangements. Use daffodil bulb and all, if possible, to extend the life of this flower.

Daffodil Flower Colors
Yellows, white, orange, peach and creams.

Blooming Seasons
Late winter, spring.

General Flower Availability
Winter, spring

Wedding Flower Availability
Winter, spring.

The meaning of the daffodil flower and origins of its name

Daffodil is a trumpet-shaped flower that blooms quickly at the beginning of the spring. Daffodil is a bulbous plant and belongs to the Amaryllidaceae family. It is a flower with a tragic background story. Therefore, there are many interesting and beautiful facts about this plant. Let’s take a look at the daffodil meaning, origins, history, and other interesting facts.

Characteristics of daffodil

Before digging into the daffodil meaning and origins, let’s take a look at the characteristics of this flower. As we’ve already mentioned, daffodil belongs to the Amarilaceae family and there are around 50 species of this flower. Daffodil looks like a trumpet and has elongated leaves. It comes in a variety of colors such as yellow, white, pink, and orange.

Daffodil is native to the woods of southern Europe and North Africa. Usually, daffodils grow in groups but they can also appear individually. The blooming of a daffodil lasts only 20 days. Daffodils are a quite popular flower to grow in gardens. If you’d like to decorate your interior with this flower, make sure you don’t mix it with other flowers. As the stem of daffodil accelerates the death of other plants.

Image via Kika

The care of the daffodil is simple. They require a warm climate and good sunlight. Also, you must ensure that your daffodils get a proper amount of water and nutrition for the soil. So, you will need to water it constantly and use some fertilizers such as Espoma Bulb-Tone.

Daffodil meaning

In the language of flowers, the daffodil is a symbol of selfishness. And most of us associate this flower with this negative meaning. But daffodil has other meanings as well. So, if you are doubting whether you should give daffodil to someone, let’s break some myths.

In modern days, the daffodil flower has more positive meanings. For example, it is one of the first flowers that bloom in the early spring. Some people say that daffodil is the herald of the spring. It announces to the other plants and flowers that the spring has arrived, and that’s why it’s shaped like a trumpet. So, a positive daffodil meaning is good news.

But if we return to the most popular daffodil meaning, we can find other aspects as well. For example, if you are giving a daffodil flower to a person you love, it could send a message that this person’s behavior is too selfish. Maybe you don’t want to end the relationship yet, so a daffodil could be an indication that you hope for a change.

Image via Kika

But perhaps one of the saddest things that daffodil symbolize is broken love. Give this flower to a person as a farewell to a love that you never received from him or her. It is a very delicate way to seek closure to your pain. Others point out that giving a daffodil can also send a message that you think that a person is super beautiful and you are attracted to him or her.

Origins of the daffodil name

The scientific name of this flower is Narcissus, and it comes from the Latin language. The most popular explanation of the name’s origins is linked to the myth of Narcissus. But some researchers say that daffodils grew way before Greek civilization.

Apart from a daffodil, narcissus also has other names including daffadowndilly and jonquil. The name daffodil is a derivation of a Greek word ‘asphodelos’, which was given to a plant ‘asphodel’. Why the letter “d” was added to the beginning of the word is not known. The name ‘daffadown dilly’ has been used since the 16th century.

Types of daffodil colors and their meanings

Many people consider daffodils to be unlucky. They will not have these flowers in their home or give them to anyone. This belief comes from the image of the daffodil’s hanging head. In some cultures, people believe that daffodil brings tears and unhappiness. A white narcissus is a common flower used to decorate the graves and is considered as a symbol of bad luck.

Image via hermgs

Daffodils come in various shapes and colors. Although the flower has a general meaning, each color may deliver a different message. As with almost any other flower, it’s impossible to assign a different meaning to each variety, so we will focus on the most popular colors.

Yellow daffodil meaning. This is the most popular of all daffodils. It is the trumpet that announces the arrival of spring. Yellow daffodil is the one that blooms right after the winter. It is a symbol of strength, overcoming the obstacles, and the arrival of success and wealth.

Violet daffodil meaning. This is the color that is linked to the Greek myth about Narcissus. Therefore, it means selfishness. From another point of view, a violet daffodil is a symbol of self-esteem. So, you can give it to a person who has self-doubts as a symbol of encouragement. It is also a perfect gift to those, who want to beat their bad habits.

White daffodil meaning. Generally, white is a color of purity. But when it comes to a daffodil it signifies a desire for a transformation. It leads a person away from the selfishness and vanity, to a more pure way of living.

Orange daffodil meaning. This is a color that symbolizes joy, vitality, and enthusiasm. Orange daffodils motivate a person to overcome negative energies. It expresses one need to be more positive and thankful for everything we got.

Daffodil meaning in Greek mythology

In Greek mythology, Narcissus is a very beautiful young man. He is often portrayed as a cold man who rejects everyone who loves him. According to the legend, the gods punished him so that he fell in love with his image in the water. Narcissus didn’t do anything else and he stopped eating and drinking. Eventually, he died as he couldn’t stop looking at himself. Later, the daffodil bloomed in the same spot.

Image via el_arboretum

There is another Greek myth about Narcissus. The god Zeus loved the company of beautiful nymphs, so he often visited them on earth. His wife Hera became suspicious of his frequent visits and decided to catch him with the nymphs. Echo wanted to safe the nymphs, so she started talking to Hera to give some time for Zeus and nymphs to getaway. But Hera realized what Echo was doing, and punished her. Since then, Echo could only repeat the last sentences of others.

Later, Echo fell in love with the Narcissus, who was in love with himself. As the Echo couldn’t speak, she tried to describe her love by the Narcissus’ own words. But Narcissus rejected her as he did with all the other women. With a broken heart, Echo begged the Aphrodite to end her suffering. Aphrodite fulfilled her prayers, but she loved her voice, so she left it to echo forever.

The story of Narcissus led to the term ‘narcissism’. People that have a ‘narcissistic personality disorder’ think they are super unique and have many abilities. They believe that they will achieve everything they want. Narcissistic people seek attention and are extremely sensitive to criticism as well as have an enormous fear of failure.

Cover image via hawthorn_belisama

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