Growing Daffodils for Flower Shows

Greetings fellow daffodil devotees! This year is my first-time growing daffodils for flower shows, and I’ve learnt some things along the way I want to share: 

Choose your bulbs carefully – get your bulbs from reputable growers so you know they are healthy and pest-free. Watch out for sad, squishy bulbs in the stores…

Prepare your soil – add some slow-release bulb fertiliser and make sure it’s well-draining.

Care and maintenance - watch out for pests! – water your bulbs, and make sure the slugs and earwigs don’t invade. Earwig traps are your friend!

Brace for weather – when the flowers start to open you may need to provide some wind protection to keep things looking pristine for the shows.

Read the daffodil classifications – know your 1Y-Y from your 4W-P i.e. know how to interpret what kind of a daffodil you’re hoping to show

Be prepared for nature to take its course – sometimes the best laid plans don’t survive contact with the enemy aka the forces of nature. Celebrate others’ successes and start planning for next year.

Growing Daffodils for Flower Shows

Choosing my Daffodil Bulbs

My experience in choosing daffodil bulbs had been very limited up to this point, and I used to happily purchase the ubiquitous “two packs for $10” bargains. But I now realise these bulbs are often not the healthiest (as evidenced by how sad and squishy many are in the packs) and so starting this year I have been obtaining my bulbs direct from growers. I also lucked out and had some bulbs very generously donated to me by other enthusiastic growers once they heard how keen I was to start showing daffodil bulbs! 

Preparing my Planting Area for Daffodils

Previously I would have just planted bulbs in whatever patch of garden I found easiest to put them in, but this year I have set aside one of my raised garden beds for the show bulbs. Even if you don’t have a raised garden bed, having a section of garden that gets good sun, has well-drained soil, and is protected from wind (or can be setup to be protected from the wind) is important.

To make sure the soil was ready to go, I added some Dalton’s Bulb Food mix before planting, along with some pumice for additional drainage.

Pest Control & the Weather

One of the biggest challenges for show bulbs is keeping them looking pristine. And earwigs are the enemy! The only foolproof way I’ve found to manage these pests is to set traps to entice them in and then clear them out each morning. Once you’ve gotten rid of most of them, this gets much easier.

And wind becomes a menace when the flowers start opening – make sure you’ve got some gentle staking to keep your blooms upright and to prevent them bouncing off each other and damaging petals. Some folks swear by putting containers over their blooms which I’m going to try as well.

Also watch out for bumblebees – they love to eat through the side of the flower to get at the pollen inside! I’ve sown some decoy flowers to hopefully prevent this destruction.

Care & Maintenance of Daffodil Bulbs

Whilst the bulbs are growing, keep them watered so they don’t dry out. Not that water has been as much of an issue lately with how wet Christchurch has been! I have had to watch out for the opposite issue of too much water (although the addition of the pumice for drainage has definitely helped).

I’ve overplanted my bulbs lightly with some violas and pansies – firstly to provide some colour whilst the bulbs grow, and secondly to make sure the neighbourhood cats don’t think I’ve just created a giant litter box for them.

Preparing for the Flower Shows

To make sure I know what daffodil divisions I’ll be entering, I’ve been reviewing my daffodil classifications so I’m not mystified by all the codes. I have a lot of Large Cups (e.g. 2W-Y) and Doubles (e.g. 4Y-O) this year it seems.

There’s a small group of daffodil growers getting together each month in the lead up to the shows and at our most recent session we practised staging flowers by “clocking” and cleaning the blooms.

And lastly, whilst I’m excited to see what blooms emerge, I know that nature is still in charge and things could change considerably at the last minute!

This complete daffodil novice has been lucky enough to have several experienced daffodil growers and showers helping her out along the way. To Dave & Leith Adams, Tania Boerlage and Joseph Austin, I say thank you, and I hope you have an amazing crop of show daffodils this year!

If growing and showing daffodils is something you might be interested in, come see us at the Botanical Expo on the 17th & 18th September, or email me at I’d love to chat more about daffodils!

Amy Wilson