Growing daffodils for show


I’ve never considered entering a flower growing competition before, but this year I’m being egged on to participate in the Royal Caledonian Horticultural Society’s spring show, which will take place on 2-3 April 2016 in Edinburgh.

Not to worry – I’m going to enter the novice section, which I’m assured shouldn’t be “too” fierce. I’ve now been to the garden centre, rifled through the bulbs and carefully chosen a very pretty selection of daffodils, which I’ve decided to show in a 2 litre pot (none of this single stem malarkey).  The next stage is actually getting my head around this very fine but fiercely competitive art….


Here’s some beginners advice (albeit cropped down somewhat) from the Daffodil Society which I’ve so far found incredibly helpful.  Now it’s on with the growing and developing the plunge beds – wish me luck – I think I’m going to need it!


Why grow Daffodils in Pots?

  • Grower has greater control over watering, feeding and choosing the medium in which the daffodils are grown.
  • Flowers in the open ground are still at the mercy of the elements whilst in pots they can be moved about as desired to manipulate flowering time.
  • In addition to producing flowers for the earlier shows one can increase the range of cultivars available for the later shows

Getting started

  • Choose your bulbs carefully to ensure best results. Select good, round, firm single nosed bulbs. Large multi nosed bulbs should be avoided as these will not produce quality flowers and also take up both pots and space.

How to pot

  • The choice of pot – whether clay or plastic – is a matter of personal preference. All pots must be clean and disinfected and well rinsed and allowed to dry before use.
  • The optimum number of bulbs is five for a 25cm(10in) pot, three for a 22cm(9in), and one for a 18cm (8in) pot.
  • Don’t allow bulbs to touch one another or be in contact with the pot. Always ensure that there is compost between them.


  • Standard composts such as John Inns, Levington or Arthur Bowers together with personal “magic” usually work well – avoid the need to mix large quantities from scratch.
  • Plenty of crocks should be placed at the bottom of the pot to ensure good drainage and a handful of well- rotted compost. Fill with compost to within about 10cm(4in) of the top of the pot.
  • make an indentation in the surface 30mm(11/2in) wide and approximately 25mm(1in) deep and fill these with sharp sand or grit. Place the bulbs in then fill the pot with compost to within 25mm(1in) of the rim. It makes no difference if the nose of the bulb is just buried or just visible above the compost.
  • insert the label with the name of the cultivar together with its division and colour codes
  • Put pot in a shady spot and give a good watering

The Plunge Bed

  • Place pots in a plunge bed – bury them in the ground to give a cover of 75-100mm(4in) of soil above the top of the pot, then cover with straw or bracken or insulating material.
  • examine the area regularly for slugs, mice, voles or even hibernating hedgehogs, all of which could cause problems.
  • The best time to remove the pots from the plunge bed will depend upon a number of factors, including location in the country, the dates of the shows which are targeted and the progress of the growth within the bed. In Scotland, try for the end of January.

Removal from the plunge

  • Clean pots as they are removed from the plunge and place in the greenhouse
  • After a few days feed each plant with a level teaspoon of sulphate of potash and water in well.
  • Maximum ventilation is important so leave windows and doors open to create a flow of air.
  • Pots in which the flowers are developing too rapidly may be removed from the greenhouse to a cool shaded area.


  • use of liquid feeds with a high potash content, for example a 10-10-50 powder with added trace elements dissolved in water. Each pot is given half a pint every weekend starting two weeks after housing until flowering at the rate of one level teaspoonful in a two gallon can.

After flowering

  • Any flowers that have not been used should be dead –headed and the pots removed from the greenhouse to the area of the plunge bed.
  • Water and continue feeding with the aim of having a firm and ripe bulb when all growth is completed. Two feeds of sulphate of potash can be applied at the rate of a teaspoonful dissolved in a gallon of water and about half a pint to each pot. The pots should be placed in a shady spot.
  • When all growth is completed then the bulbs can be taken from the pots and treated as the ones from the open ground. Growing on for at least one year in a non-show bed is then recommended at which point they can be once again assessed for pot culture.



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