People sometimes use the terms daffodil, jonquil, and buttercup interchangeably to refer to the bright yellow blooms gracing the fields and gardens of early spring. However, these popular perennials aren’t the same.
This article will go over the qualities of daffodils, jonquils, and buttercups that give each flower a title of its own. By the time you finish reading, you’ll be able to call each bloom out of a lineup by its correct scientific and common name.
|Daffodils vs. Jonquils
|Both flowers are part of the genus narcissus.
All jonquils are daffodils.
They are easy to grow and adaptable.
Have a corona or cup-shaped center.
|Not all daffodils are jonquils.
Jonquils are a specific division of the daffodil family.
|Daffodils vs. Buttercups
|Yellow perennial flowers.
Easy to grow and adaptable.
Toxic to humans and animals.
|Not the same family/genus of flower.
Before discovering the difference between daffodils and jonquils, you need to familiarize yourself with the flowers’ families.
Narcissus is a genus of flowering bulbs that bloom from March through May. These perennial flowers are easy to grow and return year after year, making them excellent for novice gardeners.
The narcissus is the parent plant of over 50 flower species. Within those species are thousands of flowers.
According to the American Daffodil Society, “narcissus is the Latin botanical name for all daffodils.” The terms narcissus and daffodil are often used interchangeably, with daffodil as the non-scientific name.
In this sense, daffodils and narcissi are the same. However, if you hear someone purposefully use “narcissus” instead of “daffodil,” they probably refer to the Mediterranean paperwhite narcissus. This popular holiday flower can be grown indoors in the fall and winter months.
Some people refer to daffodils as trumpet narcissi because of the flower’s long tube-like bloom. While all members of the narcissus genus are daffodils, the most common daffodil variety is the trumpet-shaped plant popping up at the beginning of spring.
Daffodils proliferate from bulbs and are adaptable to various environments. The flowers are so popular because of their versatility and ability to stave off hungry animals. Daffodil bulbs are poisonous, so rabbits, deer, and squirrels won’t snack on them.
Types of Daffodils
There are 13 divisions of daffodils used to characterize these spring beauties. The species are divided based on cup shape, petal length, and bloom count.
|One bloom per stem
Corona is longer than the petals
|Cup measures more than one-third of the length of petals
One flower per stem
|Cup smaller than one-third of the petals’ measurements
One bloom per stem
|Bloom is a cluster of cups and petals
Can be multiple flowers per stem
|Blooms that hang down like bells
Two or more blooms per stem
|Bloom has a windblown appearance with petals swept backward
One bloom per stem
1-3 small, flat-petaled blooms per stem
|Cluster of three or more florets to a stem
Thick leaves and stemFragrant blooms
|Bright, white flowers with small, crinkled cup
Green center with yellow and red rim
One bloom per stem
|Small petals with “hoop petticoat” cup
|Cups are split to resemble a second layer of petals
|Qualities don’t fit into other 11 divisions
|Wild, naturally growing daffodil variants
Jonquils, scientifically referred to as Narcissus jonquilla, belong to Division 7 of the narcissus family. A rule of thumb to remember is that all jonquils are daffodils, but not all daffodils are jonquils.
Some people refer to yellow daffodils as jonquils, but this isn’t always correct.
Jonquils are typically characterized by a robust perfumey smell, multiple flowers, and rush-like leaves. In fact, jonquils get their name from the genus Juncaceae, which includes plants called rushes that have grass-like leaf blades.
You should plant jonquils in the fall to bloom by late spring. Like other daffodil varieties, jonquils are relatively easy to grow and will come back each year in the right conditions.
Like the other daffodil divisions, the jonquil has a number of cultivars that have developed over time through selective breeding.
While each cultivar’s characteristics vary in some way, they’ve all inherited some or all of the following common jonquil traits:
- Between 8-18 inches tall
- Multiple blooms per stem
- Short cup with ray florets
- Dark green, rush-like leaves
- Strong fragrance
Here are some popular jonquils you might see throughout springtime:
|Light yellow fragrant blooms
2-3 flowers per stem
White petals with a light yellow cup
|Bold yellow blooms
Can grow to over a foot tall
Fragrant early bloomer
|Deep, bronzey blooms
2-4 flowers per stem
|White petals with a pale yellow cup
|Fragrant, yellow petals with a pale white cup
2-3 blooms per stem
|Miniature daffodil variety
2-3 blooms per stemIvory petals with a pale pink or yellow cup
|Miniature daffodil variety
Fragrant, late-season jonquil
Deep yellow blooms
The buttercup is a flowering plant member of the Ranunculus genus. Buttercups are sometimes confused with daffodils because of their bright blooms, but they’re different flowers.
The buttercup is a herbaceous perennial flower with five separate petals. Buttercups take root during the winter months and blossom in spring, filling fields with lovely, vivid blooms.
While some gardeners don’t mind these wildflowers popping up in their plant beds, farmers and livestock owners consider the buttercup a pesky, harmful weed. Like daffodils, the buttercup is toxic to animals and can cause internal blisters, diarrhea, and vomiting if consumed.
Buttercups come in many varieties and cultivars, all with different defining characteristics. The blooms are most commonly yellow but can also be orange, pink, red, white, or green, depending on the species.
The Ranunculus genus has about 300 species of buttercups, so we won’t list them all. However, we’ve listed some common varieties to illustrate how different types of buttercups look and grow.
|Vivid yellow blooms with five petals
Bloom from May to October
|Used in gardens as perennials
Wide range of bloom colors, including gold, red, pink, white, and purple
|Considered a common weed
Yellow blooms with five petals
|Deep yellow flowers with a glossy sheen
|Yellow, five-petaled blooms
Grow in ponds, swamps, and ditches
Large scalloped leaves
|Most common and familiar form of buttercup
Bloom between May and August
Yellow flowers that bloom from long, running stems
|Grow in freshwater habitats
Yellow blooms and spear-like leaves
Daffodil flowers are excellent for homeowners seeking to brighten up their natural areas with little to no effort.
Daffodils are often naturalized in garden settings. To naturalize a plant means to place the flower bulbs in an informal pattern that appears to have grown naturally. You could start your daffodil patch by throwing a handful of bulbs and planting them where they fall.
Daffodils are suitable for naturalizing because they come back year after year with little landscaping effort from the gardener. Not only will daffodils return, but their bulbs will split and produce more flowers each spring.
Plant bulbs in an area with nutritious, well-draining soil and full sun exposure to give them the best chance of naturalization. Then, stand back and watch these harbingers of spring flourish.
Buttercups are a less popular choice for home gardens because they’re often considered pernicious weeds. According to this weed identification guide, the creeping buttercup variety “depletes potassium in the soil” and “can have a detrimental effect on surrounding plants.”
However, some buttercup varieties fare well in gardens and bouquets.
The Persian buttercup is a garden variety known for its wide range of brilliant colors. These flowers grow well in pots and flower beds with good drainage and a sunny yet cool surrounding climate.
If you’re unsure if daffodils, jonquils, and buttercups will thrive in your garden, you can determine your region’s suitability using the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map.
This resource helps “gardeners and growers determine which plants are most likely to thrive at a location.” It’s handy for homeowners who have moved to a new region or are trying to expand the diversity of their gardens.
Now that you know the difference between daffodils, jonquils, and buttercups, you can plan your perfect spring garden.
You can brighten your kitchen table with a vase of daffodils, which make lovely, long-lasting cut flowers. You can also mix different narcissus bulbs in your natural area and see which beautiful varieties pop up.
No matter which perennials you like best, you’ll now be able to point them out in any roadside plot, home garden, or rolling meadow.