Narcissus, Daffodils, and Jonquils: What are The Differences?

a mass of daffodils growing in a park
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Narcissus, Daffodils, and Jonquils: What are The Differences?

Narcissus Covers Thousands of Hybrids of Both Daffodils and Jonquils

Often used interchangeably, daffodils and jonquils do have unique characteristics.  All daffodils fall under the botanical name Narcissus, but a jonquil indicates just one type of Narcissus, Narcissus jonquilla and its hybrids. Daffodils and jonquils are spring blooming perennial bulbs best planted in fall as soil begins to cool.

white jonquil flowerswhite jonquil flowers

The Differences 

Narcissus covers thousands of hybrids of both daffodils and jonquils. While regionally jonquils may be called daffodils, this is botanically inaccurate.

Here are a few differences between daffodils and jonquils:

  • Daffodil flowers are typically lightly scented while jonquils are highly perfumed.
  • Jonquils are predominant and hardier in warmer southern regions, USDA Zones 8 and higher.
  • Daffodils prefer the colder winter temperatures in Zones 3 to 8 before blooming in spring.
  • A jonquil will feature 1-5 golden yellow, fragrant flowers per stem. Each flower’s petals are spread around a small center cup.
  • Daffodils, usually with one flower per stem, have distinct trumpets surrounded by six petals with slim-tipped, sword-like foliage. Colors range from bicolored to white, pink, yellow, and orange.
  • Golden yellow jonquils display slender leaves that are dark green with rounded tips.

No matter how you refer to them or which variety you grow and enjoy, spring flowers and bulbs are a welcome indication of spring’s arrival and even more stunning when planted in mass groupings. Plus, bulbs are so easy to plant we like to call them nature’s easiest plants.

Etymology: How These Flowers Got Thier Names

Narcissus: In Greek mythology, Narcissus was a young man of unparalleled beauty. He was so entranced by his own reflection that he wasted away gazing lovingly on his own form.  Where he sat on the shore, a flower of similar beauty, the narcissus, grew, leaning lightly, as if to gaze into the water. 

Daffodil: This flower’s name is believed to have originated from the Asphodel flower, commonly planted near graves in ancient Greece.  The Asphodel Meadows, a section of the mythological Greek underworld, are thought to be endless plains of these flowers.  The “d” in “daffodil” most likely came from the Dutch article “de,” which would have been placed before the name “De Asphodel,” more commonly pronounced “De Affodil”. 

Jonquil: The name jonquil comes from the Spanish diminutive form of junco, a type of reed.  Jonquil refers only to types of Narcissus’ related to the species Narcissus jonquilla, which has reed like leaves.  The use of jonquil to generally refer to narcissus is becoming less common, and it is technically incorrect. 

Because it's our goal to support your successful gardening endeavors, spring bulbs may only be available for purchase in our fall collection.