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Recommendations for Maintaining Postharvest Quality

Michael S. Reid

Department of Plant Sciences, University of California, Davis

Maturity & Quality


Narcissus cvs. Daffodils, symbols of spring and known for their bright yellow, orange, red, pink, and white colors, are garden favorites world-wide. Unfortunately, these flowers have relatively short vase lives that cannot as yet be increased substantially with standard postharvest treatments. Narcissus is a classical Latin name, from the Greek; perhaps as the origin suggests, an allusion to narcotic properties. It is not clear whether it was named after the youth Narcissus in mythology.

Quality Indices

Daffodils are normally harvested at the "goose-neck" stage. Jonquils are often harvested at the "one bell" stage, when only one flower is open on the spike. Harvesting is normally done by simply cutting the flower from the foliage and bulb, although the whole plant may be removed and the bulb and leaves then cut from the flower spike. Flowers should be purchased in the pencil to gooseneck stages. These terms refer to the flower position relative to the stem; pencil being straight up and gooseneck bent downwards to about a 45 degree angle.

Grading and Bunching

As with a number of other "spike"-type flowers, narcissus will bend upwards away from gravity if laid down flat. For this reason flowers should be kept vertical when they are not cooled to the proper storage temperature. Although there are no formal grade standards for these flowers, the most important quality attributes are maturity, uniformity of color, and freedom from damage or disease. The flowers are normally bunched in groups of 10 or 25, tied with twist’ems and sleeved in paper or plastic.

Ethylene Sensitivity

Senescence of these flowers is accelerated by exposure to ethylene, although their natural senescence does not involve ethylene. Pretreatment with 1-MCP or STS may extend flower life where flowers are handled in ethylene-polluted environments such as mass market outlets.


Pretreatment with 1-MCP or STS can help extend vase life of flowers that are likely to be exposed to ethylene.

Storage Conditions

Store daffodils and jonquils at 0-1°C. Store upright as these flowers will bend upwards from gravity. Narcissus can be stored at 1°C and 90% relative humidity for up to 2 weeks with only slight reduction in their vase life. They may also be stored for several weeks in an atmosphere of 100% nitrogen. Narcissus stored in this way have as long a vase life as fresh cut flowers and nearly double the vase life of air-stored flowers. The flowers are best stored upright and dry, in containers that permit rapid cooling of the flowers (e.g. in fiberboard boxes).


Because of their sensitivity to gravity daffodils are often packed in hampers, although they may be packed in horizontal fiberboard boxes if they are properly pre-cooled and maintained at the correct storage temperature.

Special Considerations

Daffodils exude a gelatinous (slimy) substance that, when transferred through a common holding solution to other flowers like tulips and anemone, can result in premature death for the other species. Therefore, place freshly cut or re-cut flowers into a separate holding bucket for a few hours. Later they can be placed with other flowers and used (even re-cut if required) in arrangements without affecting the life of the other flowers.


October 2004

Use of Materials

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Except for these specified uses, no part of the textual materials available on the UC Postharvest Technology Center Web site may be copied, downloaded, stored in a retrieval system, further transmitted or otherwise reproduced, stored, disseminated, transferred or used, in any form or by any means, except as permitted herein or with the University of California's prior written agreement. Request permission from UC Postharvest Technology Center. Distribution for commercial purposes is prohibited.

The information in this fact sheet represents our best understanding of the current state of knowledge at the time of the latest update, and does not represent an exhaustive review of all research results. Links to any of these UC Postharvest Technology Center pages are permitted, but no endorsement of the linking site or products mentioned in the linking page is intended or implied by such a link.

How to Cite

Author(s) names. Initial publication or update date (located at the top). Title. Link to the specific Produce Fact Sheet webpage (Accessed date)

Example: Cantwell, M. and T. Suslow. 2002. Lettuce, Crisphead: Recommendations for Maintaining Postharvest Quality. (Accessed January 18, 2014).

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