The first daffodil in the garden is cause for celebration. Even if you're still scraping frost off your windshield, a swath of waving yellow daffodils means spring has arrived.
Daffodils, also known as jonquils and the botanically correct Narcissus, light up landscapes with shades of white, cream, yellow, orange and light pink. Other advantages of these beauties:
—Daffodils are easier to grow than spring's other headliner, tulips.
—Most daffodils are reliably hardy in Midwest gardens, becoming steady perennials with sun and average soil.
—Daffodils offer a range of bloom times (early, midseason and late-blooming).
—Daffodils spread easily, growing into larger clumps.
—Daffodil leaves contain sharp crystals that deter garden grazers such as deer, rabbits and squirrels.
Click ahead for experts' recommendations for gorgeous varieties that excel in Midwest gardens, as well as tips for getting the most from your blooms.
Pictured: 'Oregon Trail' daffodil
A double daffodil! Swirls of bright yellow petals are accented by red-orange centers. 'Tahiti' naturalizes (reblooms and spreads) well and also makes beautiful cut flowers. Grows 14 inches tall. This showy daffodil won the 2003 Wister Award for garden excellence (the highest award from the American Daffodil Society) and the Missouri Botanical Garden's Plants of Merit designation.
Our flowers were photographed at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, which features more than 750 kinds of daffodils in its bulb collection. Visit in mid-April for peak bloom time.
A large-cupped daffodil, 'Fragrant Rose' features one flower per stem. "This is one of my favorites," says Bill Lee, a member of the American Daffodil Society and the Southwestern Ohio Daffodil Society. "It has the slight fragrance of a rose." Waxy white petals surround a long reddish-pink cup. It's a 2005 Wister Award winner.
Enjoy the midspring blooms of 'Fortissimo' outdoors, and then cut a bouquet to bring indoors -- this daffodil has strong stems and is long-lasting. The showy flower features yellow crepe-paper petals that surround a large orange cup. It grows 18-20 inches tall.
It's "like little sparks in the garden," says Scott Kunst, owner of Old House Gardens Heirloom Bulbs in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The orange cup is sunproof, staying vibrant day after day. "The orange really holds up to the Midwestern sun," Kunst says. It grows 18-20 inches tall and is sweetly scented. "Enjoy the fragrance by planting a cluster near a doorway," Kunst suggests.
Called a split-corona daffodil, this gorgeous flower features yellow petals that surround a flattened reddish-orange center. 'Mondragon' grows 13-17 inches tall and blooms in midspring.
Thanks to the canary yellow color of this 2007 Wister Award winner, Scott Kunst says it's perfect to "plant in a spot where you need a burst of sunshine." Originally from Cornwall, England, it grows 16-18 inches tall.
This two-tone flower features snow-white petals surrounding a bright yellow stovepipe trumpet. 'Bravoure' blooms from early spring to midspring and grows 12-24 inches tall. This showy daffodil won the 2002 Wister Award for garden excellence.
Pure-white petals surround a bright yellow trumpeted cup, making this showstopper especially visible at dawn and dusk. This daffodil is one of the most popular for planting en masse. Grows 12-16 inches tall and blooms midspring.
This large-cupped daffodil blooms in early spring to midspring and features white petals with a yellow cup that turns creamy white as it matures. It grows 16-18 inches tall and is especially good at perennializing -- developing into larger clusters over the years.
Provide well-drained soil. Too much moisture can cause bulbs to rot. "Daffodils will take more moisture than most bulbs," says Scott Kunst of Michigan's Old House Gardens Heirloom Bulbs. But he recommends adding a handful of sand at the bottom of planting holes to aid drainage.
Site in the sun. Plant in areas that receive full sun to light shade; deep shade inhibits blooming.
Don't trim leaves. After the flowers have faded, keep the leaves. They provide extra growing power needed for next year's blooms.
Divide when flowers get smaller. Over time, one bulb becomes a clump of bulbs with smaller blooms. Divide every four or five years.
Mulch bulbs. Add a layer of shredded bark, straw or pine straw to regulate soil temperature.
Learn from pros. Get more information on growing daffodils from the American Daffodil Society (see link below).
Midwest Living® is making a special Midwest-hardy Trumpeting Daffodil Mix (which includes several varieties in this slideshow) available to readers. To order this unique selection of 100 bulbs for only $49, call 800/420-2852 and specify source codes MLSa1 and M984310.
Pictured: Daffodils in the watering can include 'Mission Impossible', 'Tahiti Mondragon', 'Red Hill', 'Sugarbush', 'Pops Legacy' and 'Pink Silk'.
If you're looking beyond your local garden center for bulb purchases, try one of these:
McClure & Zimmerman, Friesland, WI (800/883-6998).
Oakwood Daffodils, Niles, MI (269/684-3327; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org).
Old House Gardens Heirloom Bulbs, Ann Arbor, MI (734/995-1486; oldhousegardens.com).
John Scheepers, Bantam, CT (860/567-0838).
Colorblends, Bridgeport, CT (888/847-8637).
Pictured: This vase holds 'Mission Impossible', 'Tahiti', 'Mondragon', 'Red Hill', 'Circle of Lemon', 'Pops Legacy' and 'Pink Silk'.
McClure & Zimmerman 
John Scheepers