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What are Jonquils?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 19 October 2014
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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.

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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.

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