Daffodils thrill us with cheery yellow, white, or bicolor flowers in February, or even January. They often do naturalize in our region, coming back to bloom again year after year.
If they are growing in pots they are unlikely to bloom the following year, and are probably best discarded after you enjoy the flowers. If the daffodils are growing, instead, in your garden, you have a good chance of getting them to naturalize.
Your first post-bloom task is to remove any stems that bore flowers. This keeps the plant from wasting energy on them, especially should the spent flowers form seeds.
Your second task is to care for the post-bloom leaves. They need water and unshaded light until they start to die back, but not fertilizer. (Add fertilizer as you plant the bulbs in fall and work a little into the soil in future autumns.)
Do not tie daffodil leaves in knots. I don’t know how this common practice began, but it limits the plants’ ability to photosynthesize, so they can’t make good bulbs to bloom the following spring.
Finally, keep the soil where daffodils are planted relatively dry in summer. Daffodil ancestors are from summer-dry Mediterranean regions. The bulbs may decay in wet summer soil.
Gardeners experience two problems in following this advice. They are: 1. unsightly leaves after bloom and 2. Finding a place where daffodils will not be too wet in the summer.
If these problems seem insurmountable, you could treat the bulbs as annuals. Just dig them out, as you would non-naturalizing tulip plants, discard them, and buy new ones in fall.
To hide the leaves as they decline, you can use companion plants. Good choices include many small flowering annual plants, including nigella, viola, sweet alyssum, or, my favorite, the pink and lavender-flowered Virginia stock (Malcolmia maritima). Taller plants, such as California poppy or nasturtium, must be managed so they don’t over-shade the daffodils.
While daffodils can take some summer water, don’t try to naturalize them in a bed you will be watering amply in summer. Make sure nearby plants are somewhat drought-tolerant, and if you use drip irrigation, make sure you don’t have an emitter right next to a daffodil. You can put daffodil bulbs among other summer-dry plants, such as succulents, for a fresh and attractive combination.
I took this photo in the wonderful garden of Harland Hand, in on a west-facing hillside in El Cerrito, some years ago, when he was alive and tending his own garden. It changed the way I understood daffodils. They are well adapted to a climate with wet winters and dry summers. So are the Babiana bulbs blooming in the lower right. The succulents in this small bit of garden are adapted to low moisture in general, but can tolerate our winter rain if the soil is well-drained.