Tazetta talk



Judging from comments left here and at GWI, I’m guessing that not everyone is familiar with the wide range of winter narcissus forcing available for gardeners who, like me, have a touch of cabin fever. Once, I, too, was content with the box or bag of Ziva paperwhites you could pick up anywhere. But a couple things about them are less than satisfactory: their flowers are just a bit measly (though there are many flowering scapes) and seem to decline quickly, and the scent is not for everyone.

I noticed that mail order places like Brent and Becky’s had a lot more ”paperwhites” to offer, and began to experiment. But first it has to be clear that these are all division 8 narcissus; a Ziva paperwhite is just as much a tazetta as the variety you see above. They are hardy in zones 8-10, and I’ve heard grow wild in Southern California. Nomenclature is an issue; you’ll see variants of these called Jerusalem, Nazareth, and other biblical-sounding names (narcissus are native—with exceptions—to the Mediterranean), and the names seem to vary from vendor to vendor. It’s kind of a mess, and I think I need some better reference materials to sort it out, as my Botanica disagrees with Old House Gardens and other usually reliable vendor sources on a number of points.

Basically, the reason I like tazettas is that I can force them indoors and enjoy them in the dead of winter. In fact, I’m liking these now more than I’ve ever liked the early spring daffodils I’ve grown. Late cold spells can destroy them and then the foliage has to be left for months. (They are great en masse in parks and by roadsides, though.)

This year I forced two heirloom varieties: Early Pearl and Grand Primo. The Early Pearl smells exactly like a zone 5 daffodil: very fresh. Old House recommended a 2-week chilling period, which worked out fine. (They look just like what Brent and Becky’s call Nazareth, with no chilling period required. Yet, I have occasionally had bad results with Nazareth.) You see above a variety called Gold Rain (just now opening) from Brent and Becky’s; that and Grand Soleil d’Or are two very pretty yellow/orange varieties.

My sense of these is that the trickier (and cooler-looking ones) should have a brief period in a cold room or root cellar, and that they all need full sun after that. They’ll flop all over the place and produce brown buds, otherwise. Bottom line, now that I can grow singles, doubles, and different colors, I’m having more fun with these than with any of the zone 5-hardy divisions I’ve ever had outside.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regularly radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world,and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at yahoo.com


  1. My experience with the Soleil d’Or is too much dry heat seems to make the buds blast.

    I had good luck with them in a north-facing living room with 10 very drafty windows (which I guess took care of the required chilling) as long as I didn’t move the pots right in front of a radiator.

    This year I refrigerated them for a bit and now they’re under the lights in the basement (averages in the 60s) until I see buds. Hopefully the kitchen bay window will be cool and bright enough to do the rest.

  2. Firefly,

    After a root cellar chilling period, I now force all bulbs in a cold, bright upstairs room that I have supplemented with a humidifier and 3 powerful compact fluorescents. The heating vent is blocked (though this may not be necessary in the Siberia that is our house in winter). Once it seems that blooming is inevitable, I move them around to other areas.

  3. Must try this! I’m too casual about my indoor bulbs, generally only buying them at Lowe’s on a whim. This year, the paperwhites were kind of mingy, and the amaryllis a total bust–only one blooming and that on a short stalk of just a few inches.

  4. Kathy and Michele,

    You should also look at the tazettas sold as zone 8 “daffodils for Southern gardeners” by Old House Gardens. That really kicks the varieties available up a notch.

    But you do have to fuss with them more–

  5. Hey all,

    The fabulous Susan Harris was written up in the Idaho Statesman yesterday, January 22. It was an article titled “Garden Coaches help coax out green thumbs,” by the AP. Written by Dean Fosdick. Nice photo of her in her garden. Great article. You grow girl!

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