Home Improvement Expert Danny Lipford

What’s the Difference Between Daffodils, Jonquils, and Buttercups?

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Common daffodils have single blossoms and flat, strappy leaves.

Throughout my life, I’ve heard those yellow spring bulbs referred to as daffodils, jonquils, narcissus, and buttercups. Is there a difference, or are they all names for the same plant?” -Shelley

In different regions, you will hear all four terms – sometimes incorrectly – used to refer to the happy yellow flowers that lead the way for spring. There are some differences, though. Here’s a guide to help you name your plants correctly:


            Paperwhite Narcissus

  • Narcissus: The term narcissus (Narcissus sp.) refers to a genus of bulbs that includes hundreds of species and literally tens of thousands of cultivars! The Narcissus genus includes daffodils, jonquils, and paperwhites, among many others, so when in doubt, this is the term to use. However, when someone says “Narcissus,” they’re usually referring to the miniature white holiday blooms of Narcissus tazetta papyraceous, known as paperwhites.


                 Daffodil

  • Daffodil: This is the official common name for ANY of the plants that fall into the genus Narcissus. So, if the plant is considered a Narcissus, it is also considered a daffodil as well. However, most people use the term “daffodil” when referring to the large, trumpet-shaped flowers of the Narcissus pseudonarcissus. These are those big, showy, familiar bulbs that bloom in spring that we all know and love.


                   Jonquil

  • Jonquil: This term actually refers to a specific type of daffodil known as Narcissus jonquilla, although the name is often used as a more general term for daffodils in certain parts of the country. They are most easily identified by their dark green, tube-shaped leaves as compared to other types of daffodils which have flat leaves. Jonquils also tend to have clusters of several flowers, instead of just one bloom, along with a strong scent.


                   Buttercup

  • Buttercup: This is actually an incorrect term when referring to daffodils or Narcissus bulbs of any kind. Buttercups are a totally different flower (Ranunculus sp.) that consist of an herbaceous perennial (that can also be an annual) that has small yellow or white flowers with five separate petals. Buttercups also flower in the spring, though they may continue to bloom throughout the summer.

Further Information

For more information, go to the American Daffodil Society website.

Individual profiles of each type of plant can be found on the U.S. Department of Agriculture website:

Julie



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10 Comments on “What’s the Difference Between Daffodils, Jonquils, and Buttercups?”

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  1. Annette Henderson Says:
    March 25th, 2011 at 5:59 pm

    Have always wondered what the difference between the jonquil and daffodil was, thanks, now I know, and can pass it on to others who want to know.

  2. sheryl grant Says:
    August 29th, 2011 at 1:32 am

    Julie
    How can you tell the difference between a jonquil and a daffodil bulb when there is no foliage?
    Sheryl

  3. Peggi Says:
    March 7th, 2012 at 1:54 pm

    This is the best explanation I’ve seen about the differences between DAFFODILS and JONQUILS. Thank you.

  4. Peggy Marks Says:
    March 10th, 2012 at 4:01 pm

    Thank you for your thorough explanation with photos. I have been calling my little flower out front jonquils when they came up this year, but I decided to look for a sure answer. You answer did it — and they ARE jonquils. They are not daffodils!! Now I know for sure!!

  5. Julie Says:
    March 15th, 2012 at 1:35 pm

    Thank you! This was very helpful in a debate. Many Tennessee folks refer to jonquil as buttercups and I (former Michigander) was sure they were daffodil. I take a small comfort in knowing at least I was within the species!

  6. Robin Says:
    March 17th, 2012 at 5:21 pm

    Thanks.

  7. Mike Says:
    April 8th, 2012 at 9:53 pm

    My daffodils did not bloom this year. What do I do?
    Mike

  8. jack Says:
    April 24th, 2012 at 8:10 am

    this is probably the fifth or sixth time over the past few years that i tried to learn the difference and it the first time i have been satisfied with the results

    thanks!

  9. Marcia Shuffett Says:
    May 6th, 2012 at 1:07 pm

    Hi, I was wondering why my Buttercups didn’t bloom this year. Even in the past few years they haven’t bloomed very well. Also, I was wondering if it is a good idea to plant Hyacinths and Gladiolus together? And if it is,is there a planting arrangement you could give me. I am a first-timer in the gardening business and I need help. lol

    Marcia

  10. Dale Humphries Says:
    March 27th, 2013 at 9:52 am

    I have been calling daffodils jonquils for the longest time. I never knew that a single flower was the daffodil and multi-flowers is a jonquil. Hope I got that right. Thanks for the information!!!!!

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