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The sweet scented jonquil is the most indestructible and easy to grow of all garden bulbs, often surviving in abandoned gardens. In China the jonquil is a New Year good luck symbol. The Chinese grow them in a dish filled with water and create extraordinary figures, such as birds or a teapot, by carving the bulbs with a scalpel.

Common name: Jonquil

Botanic name: Narcissus tazetta. The species name tazetta, an Italian word meaning little cup, refers to the cup at the centre of the flower.

Climate: Suitable for most parts of Australia except the tropical north.

Description: The delicate jonquil flower consists of 6 pointed petals with a small cup at the centre. Jonquils come in a range of flowers including white, cream and bright yellow.

Good points:

  • Attractive perfume
  • Huge range of varieties
  • Reliable flowering each year
  • Survive the harshest conditions of neglect
  • Wide climatic tolerance

Bad points

  • Look untidy after flowering


  • Full sun or semi-shade under deciduous trees
  • Most soil types


High soil temperatures; in cool climates plant bulbs 40-60mm (1.5-2″) deep, in warm coastal climates plant 100-140mm (4-5.5″) deep and in hot climates 150-180mm (6-7″) deep. Note: Sandy soils need deep planting. Don’t remove the foliage or tie it in a knot after flowering. Leave alone for at least 6 weeks after flowering.

Getting started: Jonquils don’t need lifting for years but to increase bulb numbers, dig and divide as soon as the leaves have died down.

Bulbs should be planted in February when bulbs are freely available in nurseries. Choose bulbs that are plump and firm and bury (pointy side up/roots down) as per guidelines above.

Availability: Spring flowering bulbs, such as jonquils, are available at most nurseries, chain-stores or supermarkets from late summer to autumn. Many nurseries also have bulk bulbs for sale. Prices range from 45c to 70c per bulb depending on variety.