Like its sister, Spring Cheer, Summer cheer is a diminutive daffodil that grows to only around a foot in height. It also produces a crop of small, double white flowers, each approximately two inches, that form a pom-pom like head of creamy rosettes at the top of a single stem. It is generally not as prolific as Spring Cheer, though, producing around a half dozen flowers per stem.
That’s not the only difference, though. Summer Cheer is slightly less hardy, being happy from zones four to nine rather than three to eight. It also prefers full sun, even in the warmer climates, and of course it blooms later in the year. In fact, it is just about waking up when the earliest daffodils are going dormant, as it flowers in late May and into June.
Like most narcissus, it may take a few years to naturalize and fully mature, and in the early years you may be disappointed by the number of flower heads each stem produces, but with time, and a little feeding at the right time, you are sure to have a stunner in your garden year after year.
Although they like a sandy, chalky or loamy moist but well-drained soil, like most daffodils, they will cope with almost any soil provided it is not boggy or waterlogged. They are not such a great candidate for naturalizing under trees and bushes, which will have leafed out by the time Summer Cheer starts to show, and as such are ideal candidates for a border, as it’s quite a showy specimen.
Make sure the bulbs are firm and fleshy. If they are dry and peeling like onions, or have air pockets and feel squashy between your fingers, discard them. Also reject any with signs of rot, mold or mildew, or with white spots.
The bulbs should be planted at three times their depth, so for Summer Cheer that should be around six inches, and they will need a similar amount of space between them, as they are naturally clump forming. If you plant the bulbs in a heavy or clay soil, dig in a little organic matter and surround each bulb with a layer of compost. You may also want to plant them at around four inches and make up the difference with mulch to give them more ideal growing conditions.
Summer Cheer is more likely to need watering than the earlier varieties, as the weather dries, but the bulbs still need the moisture to flower. If you cut them for the vase, remember they will produce a milky white sap that is poisonous to most other spring flowers, so either display them on their own or use a daffodil neutralizing feed in the water. Fortunately, these make ideal single flower displays. The sap, and indeed all parts of the daffodil are mildly toxic, so always wash your hands after handling them.
Don’t cut or tie the leaves after flowering. Instead, deadhead the flowers, as they are either sterile or produce seeds that don’t grow true to form, and will only continue to draw energy from the bulb unnecessarily. Allow the leaves to die back naturally, and apply a liquid or granular fertilizer formulated for bulbs during the six weeks or so after flowering, as this is when the bulb is actively storing energy for the following year. They will also need watering if the weather is dry.
Throughout the hotter summer months the bulbs are dormant and need less water, but their root system becomes active again in the fall, when you should ensure the ground doesn’t dry out around them, even through the winter.
Daffodils don’t like to be continually dug up and are happier if left in one spot to mature, but they will need lifting and dividing as the clumps they form get too big and they begin to compete for food, generally every three years or so.