Narcissus vs. Daffodil vs. Jonquils – Differences + Identification

Most people interchangeably use Narcissus and Daffodil to describe perennial spring flowers in the Amaryllidaceous family. Are they the same thing or is there a difference between narcissus and daffodil flowers?

Daffodils are generally the same thing as Narcissus flowers. Together with jonquils, daffodil flowers belong to the Narcissus genus and that is why there’s no major difference and most people call them jonquils, daffodils or narcissus. Even so, jonquil flowers are basically yellow while daffodils can be pink, peach, yellow, and pink.

Narcissus is the botanical name of Daffodil, and scientifically it is the proper name for the daffodil flowers. The flowers of the narcissus genus, are predominantly spring bulbous perennial plants of about 50 species and produce between 1 and 20 florae on each stem.

Narcissus originates from a Greek word ‘narcissus’ which means numbness and relates the myth of a handsome boy Narcissus who died by the side of a stream of water while admiring his reflection.

Is Narcissus the same as Daffodil?

Narcissus is the botanical name for the daffodils flowers, and Daffodil is the common name for all flowers that fall under the genus Narcissus especially the great trumpet flower forms.

So technically, you can use the common name daffodil to refer to any of the flowers that belong in the genus Narcissus. However, when in doubt, use Narcissus because not all Narcissus are daffodils.

Why is daffodil called narcissus?

All flowers in the daffodil family are called narcissus because the entire flower is poisonous with the bulb being the most toxic part. The name comes form the Greek mythology that references numbness and the imagery of tragic events of passion.

In the mythology, young Narcissus takes his own life because of unreciprocated love from his own image, leaving behind an image in the form of the daffodil flower – with a white and golden resemblance – just like the daffodil.

It is this resemblance that has led to daffodil and jonquil flowers being called narcissus interchangeably.

Narcissus vs. Daffodil vs Jonquils – Differences

Narcissus vs Daffodils vs Jonquils - differences

There’s no difference between narcissus and daffodils because daffodils belong to the family of narcissus flowers. However, there are subtle differences between jonquils vs daffodils. Daffodils have slim and fairly pointed leaves while jonquils have slender leaves with round tips.

The flowers of jonquils are very similar to those of daffodils, making it very difficult to differentiate the two. However, the corolla in daffodils is longer than that of jonquils.

One of the main differences between daffodils and jonquils in the narcissus family is the color of the flowers. Jonquils bloom into bright yellow flowers while daffodils blooms can come in a variety of colors including white, peach, pink.

Narcissus is the genus name for hundreds of bulbous flower species and thousands of cultivars including daffodils, paperwhites and jonquils amongst others. Daffodil is the common name for the plants under the Narcissus genus though not scientifically correct.

Daffodil flower identification

Daffodils are bright and fragrant flowers that bloom in the spring. Here are some of the features that you can use to identify daffodils:

  • Long and narrow tube-shaped stem
  • Bright yellow, white or even orange flowers
  • A central trumpet-shaped corona with three or more petals
  • Long and flat leaves
  • Underground bulbs that resemble onions

Growing Daffodils and Jonquils

The best time to plant daffodil and jonquil bulbs is in the fall two to four weeks to winter.

  1. Select large and high-quality daffodil bulbs that have not completely dried out.
  2. Add organic fertilizer to the prepared planting holes to enhance nutrients levels.
  3. Place the bulbs in a three times deep the height of the bulbs holes that are spaced to about 3-6 inches and cover well with a sizeable layer of mulch.

Soil and Light Requirements

  • Daffodils blossom well in a wide range of moderately fertile, moisture-retaining and well-draining soils as they are susceptible to rot in water-logged soils. Most daffodils bulbs grow well in neutral to acidic soils with a few preferring slightly alkaline soils.
  • Plant daffodils in a site with full or partial exposure to the sun as they blossom well to the exposure of early spring sunshine.

Care for Narcissus Plants?

  • Apply a high-potash and low-nitrogen, organic fertilizer if the bulbs performance is not impressive after flowering.
  • Sparingly water daffodils in dry conditions to avoid early abortion of the flowers.
  • Cut off plants as flowers fade and retain the leaves for about six weeks, this is to give your garden a tidier appearance.
  • Allow daffodils to grow until they die off, this to give them ample time after blooming to store enough energy in the bulbs for next seasons planting.
  • To eliminate the dead plants, cut them off from the base or slightly twist the leaves as you gently pull.
  • After harvesting daffodils, add bone meal to the soil in preparation for the next season.

Are Narcissus and Daffodils Toxic?

Daffodils contain toxic chemicals, lycorine and oxalates, making them dangerous to human beings and pets. For instance, in humans, if taken in large amounts, daffodils and jonquils can lead to severe problems like liver damage and high blood pressure.

If consumed in small quantities, you can revert the nausea, diarrhea and irritation impacts by taking a lot of water or milk.

Therefore, avoid growing daffodils in sites that are easily accessible and reachable by small children or pets.

Daffodils, Jonquils and Narcissus Facts

The Greek Mythology

Daffodils originate from a myth of a handsome Greek legend, Narcissus, who fell in love with his reflection in a stream and remained by the stream to admire it. He succumbed to starvation while still fixated on his reflection, and Nemesis gods transformed him into a flower to forever stay at the side of the stream.

Daffodils of Happiness

Most people believe that bestowing someone with a bouquet of daffodils brings happiness. If you spot the blooms, your next one year will be full of joy and prosperity.

Holiday in Wales

The love of daffodils by the Welsh people is unmatched as they have set its National Flower Day, celebrated on the 1st March every year.

Benefit for Brain Cancer

Daffodil bulbs contain narciclasine, a natural compound believed to help treat brain cancer.

Misfortunes

Presenting a single daffodil someone, foretells their misfortunes to come.

Pesticide in a Flpwer

Daffodil bulbs contain poisonous crystals which act as a natural pesticide for insects and squirrels. 

Harm to Other Plants

Daffodils contain a toxic sap harmful to other plants. Therefore, soak daffodils in water for 24 hours before mixing with other flowers.

The American Daffodil Society vouches for the usage of daffodil name to refer to the entire narcissus genus flowers except in scientific writing.