Narcissus is from Greek mythology. He’s the good-looking lad who was supposedly so enamored with himself that he stared into the water, looking at his reflection so long that he turned into a narcissus. I, for one, am glad he did, as I’ve been enjoying heirloom naturalized narcissus at old homeplaces in East Texas all of my life. I love them all, but the sweet smelling jonquils are perhaps my favorite. Here are some notes I’ve made through the years about the most commonly found naturalized narcissus in East Texas.
Narcissus jonquilla (wild jonquil): Known as “sweeties” because of their intense perfume, jonquils have precious clusters of tiny yellow, fragrant blooms in February. They multiply best on acid, sandy loam soils. This species is native to Spain and France. It produces viable seed and will naturalize on good sites if the seed capsules are allowed to ripen.
Narcissus x odorus (Campernelle jonquil): Campernelles are adapted throughout the state with clusters of medium-sized yellow, fragrant blooms in February. I consider it the best jonquil of all because it’s so foolproof and tough. It’s an old sterile hybrid between N. jonquilla and N. pseudonarcissus so only spreads by division.
Narcissus x intermedius (Texas Star jonquil): This historic perennial sports clusters of small primrose-yellow, fragrant blooms in February. It’s a natural hybrid between N. jonquilla and N. tazetta. It, too, is sterile, so only spreads by division. It has a fabulous fragrance.
Narcissus pseudonarcissus (Lent lily): This one has small creamy yellow trumpets in February. It also multiplies best on acid, sandy-loam soils and is native to Spain and France. This small, early daffodil sets viable seed, too, so will naturalize on good sites. It’s the parent of all modern daffodils and the subject of Wordsworth’s “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.”
Narcissus tazetta ‘Grand Primo’ (Grand Primo narcissus): This super-hardy perennial is adapted to all parts of the state. It has clusters of creamy-white, intoxicatingly fragrant blooms in February and thrives in alkaline or acid soils. ‘Grand Primo’ is a several-hundred-year-old cultivar and is our most common polyanthus (tazetta) narcissus. It is also sterile, so only spreads by division and is the result of an apparent cross between the paperwhite (N. papyraceus) and the Chinese sacred lily (N. tazetta orientalis). N. papyraceus (paperwhite) has pure white blooms and blooms between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. N. x italicus has creamy-white, starry flowers with yellow cups, blooms in mid-January and is also common.
Every year I dig and divide clumps of these bulbs to spread throughout my landscape. I’ve created four different flowering meadows that feature thousands of them blooming each spring. It’s comforting to plant flowers that you know will outlive you. If you’d like to learn more about these and other Earth-Kind bulbs, plan on attending the Smith County Master Gardeners “From Bulbs to Blooms” conference and bulb sale Saturday at Harvey Convention Center. The conference is free, with registration at 8:30. There will be door prizes, vendors, a special silent auction, rare seed, garden calendars, refreshments, plus my preview lecture of the heirloom, hardy and hard-to-find bulbs in the sale from 9 to 11 a.m. The award-winning bulb sale will take place from from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in Harvey Convention Center, across from the Rose Garden Center.
Greg Grant is the Smith County horticulturist for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. He is co-author of “Heirloom Gardening in the South.” You can read his “Greg’s Ramblings” blog at arborgate.com, follow him on Facebook at “Greg Grant Gardens” or read his “In Greg’s Garden” in each issue of Texas Gardener magazine (texasgardener.com). For more information on adapted bulbs for East Texas, check out Scott Ogden’s “Garden Bulbs for the South.”