Amy Tsuneyoshi
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist

January 22 is the start of the 2023 Lunar New Year, the Year of the Rabbit. During this time, narcissus are displayed as symbols of new beginnings, rebirth and hope. The type of narcissus commonly displayed are “Chinese sacred lily,” which have fragrant flowers with pure white petals and a bright yellow center. The lily is a misnomer because the plant is actually a daffodil, not a lily, and it’s in the genus narcissus and in the amaryllis family (amaryllidaceae). An online search on narcissus or daffodils will lead you down a rabbit hole of the vast varieties and hybrids of narcissus or daffodils. 

“Chinese sacred lily” (Narcissus tazetta orientalis) is grown from a bulb that can be planted in the ground or in a pot with good drainage. Plant the bulbs (pointy side up) about six inches below the soil surface. They can also be forced to sprout indoors and should start to flower a few months after bringing them indoors. Bulbs that are rooted in a dish of water with pebbles should have the water changed at least every couple days to prevent it from smelling. Plants can be grown in full sun to partial shade outside or in bright indirect sunlight indoors. If the plants do not receive enough sunlight, the leaves may flop over and will require staking. The leaves normally are around one-and-a-half feet long.

Just a word of caution, please keep this plant out of reach from pets and children. The bulbs and leaves contain lycorine and other alkaloids that are toxic if eaten.

If you are looking to step up your narcissus display, you can try your hand at carving the bulb. This takes skill and patience as the layers of the bulb are slowly cut away layer by layer to expose the leaves inside. Slicing the growing leaves will result in it growing twisted, which will make the carved bulb a truly unique display. Injuring the inflorescence stalk will also cause the flower stalk to deform and produce flowers near the bulb instead of at the tip of the leaves.  

I wish you a healthy and successful 2023! 

Amy Tsuneyoshi grew up playing in the mud and still finds joy in getting her hands in the soil. She grows a variety of edible and ornamental plants in her urban jungle as well as Native Hawaiian plants. She has a degree in horticulture from the University of Hawai’i at Mänoa and is currently the President of the Friends of Hälawa Xeriscape Garden.


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