Narcissus vs Daffodil: Is There a Difference? 

Written by August Croft
Published: August 30, 2022
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You may have heard of these two flower varieties, but do you know all of the true differences between a narcissus vs daffodil? While they are technically the same plants in a number of ways, it is important to distinguish between the subtle differences of these two flowers. But what might some of those differences be, and which narcissus variety works best in your own backyard

In this article, we will address whether or not daffodils and narcissus flowers are the same plants. We will go over what they look like physically as well as what they are typically used for, and how these flowers prefer to grow. Finally, we will address the names of these two plants, as they are typically named in a similar fashion. Let’s get started now! 

Comparing Narcissus vs Daffodil

Narcissus vs Daffodil
Narcissus refers to the plant species as a whole, while daffodil is a common name for this particular species.
NarcissusDaffodil
Plant ClassificationNarcissusNarcissus
DescriptionBulb-growing perennial flower that reaches up to 30 inches tall. Sprouts single hollow stems from its bulbs, and flowers grow in a variety of colors. Some varieties look very different from the traditional daffodil.Bulb-growing perennial flower that reaches up to 30 inches tall. Sprouts single hollow stems from its bulbs, and flowers grow in a variety of colors. Most commonly found in yellow and white, with distinct trumpets in the center of multiple petals.
UsesPopular in gardens, but also has a number of medicinal uses as well. Essential oil use is also high, given its light scentPopular in gardens, particularly as a deer repellant. Easy to grow and heralds the beginning of spring, making it great for any garden
Origin and Growing PreferencesNative to Europe, Africa, and the Mediterranean; prefers part shade to full sun, depending on the variety Native to Europe, Africa, and the Mediterranean; prefers part shade to full sun, depending on the variety, and make sure to not flood the bulbs! 
Name OriginNamed after either the myth of Narcissus, or the numbing properties associated with the plant!Originally named ‘asphodel’, but a D was added to the pronunciation at some point!

Key Differences Between Narcissus vs Daffodil

Narcissus vs Daffodil

The typical appearance of a daffodil differs from some other varieties or subspecies of narcissus plant.

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There are very few differences between narcissus and daffodils, given the fact that they are technically the same plant. However, narcissus refers to the plant species as a whole, while daffodil is a common name for this particular species. In addition, the typical appearance of a daffodil differs from some other varieties or subspecies of narcissus plant.

Let’s talk about these flowers in more detail now!

Narcissus vs Daffodil: Classification

Narcissus flowers and daffodil flowers have technically the same classification as one another. Looking at them in more detail however, narcissus is technically the genus for daffodil and jonquil plants, while daffodils are a particular type of narcissus plant. You won’t technically be wrong if you call your beautiful blooms either narcissus or daffodil, but just know that narcissus is a more scientifically correct name compared to daffodil.

Narcissus vs Daffodil: Description

Narcissus vs Daffodil

Depending on the varieties you are comparing, some narcissus flowers appear unrelated to the trumpeting daffodil that we know and love!

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Given that narcissus and daffodil plants are technically the same, their descriptions are strikingly similar to each other. They are both perennial bulbs that sprout in the springtime, growing single stems with gray-green leaves. However, daffodils typically have a set appearance compared to other flowers found under the narcissus genus. Let’s talk about these blooms in more detail.

You may recognize daffodils as yellow flowers with large, centralized trumpets protruding from single stems, but some varieties of narcissus flowers do not have trumpets at all. While daffodils are commonly white or yellow, some narcissus flowers are green. Depending on the varieties you are comparing, some narcissus flowers appear unrelated to the trumpeting daffodil that we know and love!

Narcissus vs Daffodil: Uses

Narcissus vs Daffodil

While daffodils are commonly white or yellow, some narcissus flowers are green.

©iStock.com/ouchi_iro

Narcissus flowers and daffodil flowers are used for a number of similar things, given their related nature. For example, both flowers look beautiful in just about any garden, heralding the beginning of spring. Plus, both narcissus and daffodil plants work well to deter deer from the average backyard, so consider planting them if you have a deer problem!

But the plants found under the narcissus genus aren’t just backyard beauties. Narcissus plants are often used medically for their numbing properties and sedative components, and they have been utilized since ancient times. While both daffodils and narcissus flowers are useful in this capacity, it is important to note that these plants are poisonous and risky when used without medicinal advice. 

Narcissus vs Daffodil: Origin and How to Grow

Narcissus vs Daffodil

Both narcissus and daffodil plants work well to deter deer from the average backyard, so consider planting them if you have a deer problem!

©Elena Sherengovskaya/Shutterstock.com

Narcissus and daffodil plants originated in a number of places, but the most common daffodil varieties are fairly easy to grow. Prolific throughout Europe, the Mediterranean, and Africa, narcissus flowers and daffodils prefer partial shade to full sun. They begin sprouting in spring, with ample water, but make sure not to drown the bulbs when you first plant them! Also, some varieties of narcissus flower may grow very differently from the simple daffodil, so keep this in mind.

Narcissus vs Daffodil: Name Origin

Narcissus vs Daffodil

Prolific throughout Europe, the Mediterranean, and Africa, narcissus flowers and daffodils prefer partial shade to full sun.

©Province_photo/Shutterstock.com

The primary difference between narcissus flowers and daffodil flowers is the name, but where did these two essentially-identical plants get their names from in the first place? The narcissus plant got its name from a few potential places, including the ancient Greek myth of Narcissus. However, it may also be called this given the name origin of the plant itself. The root of the word narcissus refers to the numbing capacities of the plant genus.

The name daffodil is equally interesting in its origin, and it is widely unknown how the name came to be. However, many people speculate that the common name of daffodil was originally derived from the Greek word asphodel, and daffodils were originally called affodils, earning a D to its name at some point in history!

The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/ouchi_iro


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About the Author

August Croft is a writer at A-Z Animals where their primary focus is on astrology, symbolism, and gardening. August has been writing a variety of content for over 4 years and holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Theater from Southern Oregon University, which they earned in 2014. They are currently working toward a professional certification in astrology and chart reading. A resident of Oregon, August enjoys playwriting, craft beer, and cooking seasonal recipes for their friends and high school sweetheart.

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Sources
  1. Floral Display in Narcissus: Variation in Flower Size and Number at the Species, Population, and Individual Levels, Available here: https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/abs/10.1086/314225
  2. Phylogenetic selection of Narcissus species for drug discovery, Available here: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0305197808000033