Not all daffodils are alike, and in fact, among the hybrids we can find over 32,000 cultivars. But Narcissus bulbocodium is unlike more commonly sold daffodils, primarily because it has not been hybridized into oblivion and still retains its full scientific name. In other words, it is unique among many despite a few cultivars of its own. Known as the hoop-petticoat daffodil (where's Miss Scarlet when you need her?), the species is considered a dwarf variety sporting inconsequential petals framing an oversized corona. The corona or trumpet gives us the common name as a reflection of a Southern hoop skirt from long ago. Or perhaps the common name dates back much further, where Stephen Harris of Oxford University references their popularity in 17th century England and their later escape into the wilds.
B. bulbocodium might lend itself to naturalization for a slightly different reason than its larger and more common sibling hybrids. "Naturalizing" here is a reference to how bulbs are planted by grabbing a handful and tossing them into a grassy field then planting wherever they lay. The standard cultivars grow taller than the adjacent meadow grasses, which can be an attractive addition to a meadow aesthetic. However, I make the case for planting our little petticoats instead, because their leaves are also grass-like, shorter, and can offer a blended look instead of standing out. An aesthetic choice for certain.
I planted a small container of B. bulbocodium in our garden back in 2014, and since then they reemerge every year and bloom a little later than the other species, extending the spring season. The mass is still small but is continuing to spread at a slow rate, creating a mini meadow, acting as spring filler when other plants have not yet come to life.
Narcissus has a bonus of being drought tolerant and gopher resistant, so consider planting it where the underground rodents are a problem. I posted about this challenge before, combining daffodils with other species as a line of defense. So far, so good!
'Golden Bells': Slightly taller than the species with deep yellow flowers.
'Kenellis': Under 13" with white segments with light yellow cup.
'Mary Poppins': 4"-6" tall with creamy yellow flowers.
'White Petticoat': About 6" to 8" tall with pure white flowers.
Botanical Name: Narcissus bulbicodium
Narcissus: Greek mythology for the hunter by the same name
Bulbocodium: Having a wooly bulb
Common Name: Hoop petticoat daffodil
Family Name: Amaryllidaceae
Origin: Southern France, Spain, Portugal
Positioning: Foreground, drifts
Garden Themes: Mediterranean/dry, cottage, woodland, rock, container, courtyard/patio, pool, meadow, cutting
Uses: Border, mass, accent, specimen, floral display
Form: Clump, spreading, erect (when in bloom)
Size: Typically 6" and spreading (see cultivars for variations)
Outstanding Feature(s): Flower
Leaf: Enters dormancy after spring rains stop.
Shape: Linear, strap-like
Color: Dark green
Surface: Glabrous, fleshy
Flower: Late spring. Dominate cup-shaped corona, yellow, with yellow petals (tepals). Cultivars vary
Fruit: Summer. Capsule
cultural requirements, tolerances & problems
Sunset Zones: A2, A3, 1-24
USDA Zones: 3-24
WUCOLS SF Bay Area Hydro Zone: Very low
Texture: Sand, clay, loam, chalk
Moisture Retention: Well-drained
pH: Slightly acidic to neutral
Tolerances: Drought, deer, rabbit, gophers
Problems: Medium toxicity
Branch Strength: N/A
Insects: Not recorded at time of posting.
citations & attributions
Bayton, R. (2019). The Royal Horticultural Society's the Gardener's Botanical: An Encyclopedia of Latin Plant Names. London: Mitchell Beazley.
Daffseek. "Kenellis." American Daffodil Society. Accessed on September 30, 2023, from https://daffseek.org/detail-page/?cultivar=Kenellis.
Harris, Stephen: Oxford Plants 400. "Plant 124: Narcissus bulbocodium L. (Amaryllidaceae)." University of Oxford. Accessed on September 30, 2023, from https://herbaria.plants.ox.ac.uk/bol/plants400/Profiles/MN/Narc_bulb.
Norris Brenzel, K. (Ed.). (2012). The New Sunset Western Garden Book. New York: Time Home Entertainment, Inc.
Plants of the World Online. "Narcissus bulbocodium L." Royal Botanic Gardens Kew. Accessed on September 30, 2023, from https://powo.science.kew.org/taxon/urn:lsid:ipni.org:names:65939-1.
RHS. "Narcissus bulbocodium (13)." Royal Horticulture Society. Accessed on September 30, 2023, from https://www.rhs.org.uk/plants/11348/narcissus-bulbocodium-(13)/details.
Water Use Classification of Landscape Species. "WUCOLS IV Plant List." University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Davis. Accessed on September 30, 2023, from https://ccuh.ucdavis.edu/wucols-db.
All other photos by TELCS.