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What are Jonquils?

Mary McMahon
By
Updated May 21, 2024
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Jonquils are flowering bulbs in the Amaryllis family. They are closely related to daffodils, and in some parts of the world, people may refer generically to all daffodils as jonquils, although this usage is not appreciated by professional horticultural organizations. Many people are fond of jonquils because they are typically among the first flowers to bloom in the spring, and they have a rich aroma which can enhance a garden. These sprightly flowers also have a simple but beautiful appearance which makes them quite versatile for use in all kinds of gardens.

Specifically, a jonquil is any cultivar of Narcissus jonquilla. These plants are characterized by very long, narrow leaves and small flowers which appear in clusters of two to eight on long, tubular stems. The flowers themselves have central tubes surrounded by a small ruffle of petals. They can be white, yellow, creamy, red, peach, or orange in color, and some jonquils actually combine multiple colors for a very distinctive look.

The aroma of jonquils is difficult to describe. It is quite strong, but not usually overwhelming, and it makes it very easy to identify these flowers in the garden, even when a planting is relatively small. Some people also like to use jonquils as cut flowers in the home, while perfume manufacturers extract essential oils from them for the purpose of making rich floral scents. Many plants in the Narcissus genus possess this distinctive odor to some degree.

If you want to grow jonquils in your garden, you should be able to purchase bulbs from your local garden store. You may be able to find bulbs in an assortment of colors if you want to liven up your flower beds, or you can stick with a single block of color. One popular jonquil cultivar is the paperwhite, a snow white, distinguished looking flower. Plant bulbs in late October or November, and then forget about them until the spring, when they will emerge and burst into flower.

It is also possible to force jonquils to flower indoors. Many garden shops sell potted jonquils which are designed to be grown indoors, and you can also purchase bulbs; look for cultivars which are marked as good for forcing indoors. Plant the bulbs in a clay pot with good drainage, in soil which is amended with pebbles and moss to promote drainage away from the bulbs. Put the bulbs in a cool, dark place for around three months to trick the bulbs into thinking that it is wintertime, keeping them moist during this process, and then bring them out into the warmth and light of the house; within a few weeks, they will be blooming and filling the house with their heady aroma.

Frequently Asked Questions

What exactly are jonquils?

Jonquils are a type of daffodil, characterized by their clusters of fragrant, yellow or white flowers and narrow, reed-like leaves. They belong to the genus Narcissus and are often confused with other daffodil varieties. Jonquils specifically refer to the species Narcissus jonquilla and its hybrids, which are known for their strong scent and multiple flowers per stem.

How can you distinguish jonquils from other daffodils?

Jonquils can be distinguished from other daffodils by their rounded foliage, which is often described as rush-like, and the fact that they typically bear multiple flowers per stem. Their blossoms have a small cup or corona and are usually bright yellow. Additionally, jonquils have a distinct, sweet fragrance that sets them apart from other Narcissus species.

When do jonquils typically bloom?

Jonquils generally bloom in early to mid-spring. Their flowering time can vary depending on the climate and weather conditions, but they are often one of the first signs of spring in many regions. In some areas, jonquils can bloom as early as late winter, heralding the coming change of seasons.

Are jonquils easy to grow and care for?

Yes, jonquils are considered easy to grow and are quite hardy. They prefer well-drained soil and full to partial sunlight. Once planted, jonquils require minimal care, making them a popular choice for gardeners. They are also resistant to most pests and diseases, and they can naturalize, spreading and blooming year after year with little intervention.

Can jonquils be grown in containers?

Jonquils are well-suited for container gardening. When planting in containers, ensure there is adequate drainage and use a high-quality potting mix. It's important to keep the soil moist but not waterlogged. Container-grown jonquils may need more frequent watering than those in the ground and should be placed in a location that receives sufficient sunlight.

Are jonquils toxic to pets?

Yes, jonquils, like all members of the Narcissus family, are toxic to pets if ingested. They contain a compound called lycorine, which can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and other symptoms of toxicity in animals. Pet owners should be cautious and keep jonquils out of reach to prevent accidental ingestion.

AllThingsNature is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a AllThingsNature researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
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