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A Guide to Narcissus - December’s Birth Flower

December 28, 2022

Close up of a December birth flower bouquet

Birth month flowers are traditionally appropriate for the season and time of the year. The December birth flower is the narcissus, especially the popular paperwhite variety with delicate white petals that match the snow on the ground outside.

Narcissus flowers have a long history, and their origins are tied to Greek myths. Let’s take a look at these flowers, their meanings, history, and much more.

A Guide to Narcissus - December’s Birth Flower

  1. A History of Narcissus
  2. The Meaning of Narcissus
  3. How to Decorate With Narcissus
  4. How to Plant and Grow Narcissus

A History of Narcissus

Narcissus plants originated in the Mediterranean region but are now found around the world in Asia, North Africa, Europe, and North America. The plant derives its name from an ancient Greek myth about a handsome young hunter called Narcissus, who spent all his time admiring his own reflection in a pool of water. This left him no time for the nymph Echo, who loved him and died of unrequited love. To avenge her death, the goddess Nemesis turned Narcissus into a flower that grows beside pools and lakes.

Another derivation for the name, according to Plutarch, is from the Greek narkissos due to the plant’s narcotic properties. Various parts of the plant have been used for medicinal purposes around the world, especially in the Mediterranean world and Europe. Narcissus flowers are also widely used in the perfume industry.

Narcissus flowers are sometimes confused with daffodils and jonquils, which is understandable since they all belong to the Amaryllis family or Amaryllidaceae. These are all perennial plants that grow from bulbs and flowers in the spring. The long-stemmed flowers have a distinctive six-petalled shape with a cup-like corolla.

The flowers are white with a yellow corona, though some varieties have yellow, pink, and orange petals too. In some varieties, the petals and corona are the same color. Paperwhites are one of the oldest and most widespread varieties, loved for their ability to bloom in the middle of winter.

Another popular variety is the Narcissus poeticus or Poet’s Narcissus, known as nargis in Persian. Most varieties bloom in the early spring, and all flowers have a delicate, lasting fragrance that can fill a room.

The Meaning of Narcissus

Flowers have many different meanings in cultures around the world, and the Greek origin myth led to the name Narcissus being associated with beauty and self-absorption. In Chinese culture, the flower has a much more positive connotation and is a symbol of the Chinese New Year since it is among the first flowers to bloom in the spring. Further, it is associated with wealth and good fortune. In Persian culture, narcissus is a metaphor for beautiful eyes.

In the Victorian language of flowers, a narcissus symbolized the one and only true love. And as the birth month flower for December, narcissus stands for purity, sweetness, and simplicity. It also stands for respect, faithfulness, and unconditional love.

When giving narcissus flowers or plants as gifts, keep in mind that the meaning varies by the color of the flowers.

  • White narcissus flowers stand for innocence and purity. They’re a good birthday gift for the December-born and also for newborn babies and their mothers.
  • The cheerful yellow narcissus flowers stand for happiness and positive energy. They make a great gift when you want to cheer someone up.
  • Orange narcissus flowers symbolize friendship and positivity. They are a good gift to accompany your congratulations on some important event like buying a house or getting a new job.

How to Gift Narcissus

You can buy narcissus as cut flowers or as live potted plants. For friends who are enthusiastic gardeners, you can gift narcissus bulbs as well. True gardeners can never have too many bulbs, and they love the massed display of narcissus flowers nodding in the spring breeze.

Narcissus flowers are appropriate as gifts for all occasions, such as birthdays, housewarmings, congratulations, and holidays. They are especially meaningful gifts around Christmas, as they are the December birth month flower.

Handy plant care items like plant shears and attractively-designed misters also make good gifts for your plant- and garden-loving friends and family.

How to Plant and Grow Narcissus

Outdoors

As with all bulbs, the best time to plant narcissus outdoors is in the fall. They can be mixed with other bulbs for a vivid display and need room to spread out. They do best in full sunlight but can tolerate morning- or evening-only sun as well. In general, they do not need watering and are highly drought-tolerant.

Narcissus displays can be used for beds, ground cover, rock gardens, borders, and in cottage gardens. They can be grown for cut flowers as well.

Depending on the variety, flowers bloom between December and May, and they put on a stunning display for two to three weeks. You can cut back the foliage when it begins to show yellow. Bulbs propagate themselves, and they will follow the sun. So be sure to leave plenty of room on the sunny side for your narcissus plants to expand.

Indoors

Paperwhites are one of the best varieties to grow indoors, and they bloom easily, even in the middle of winter. The bulbs must be planted in a well-drained pot full of potting mixture, preferably without soil. You can also put the bulbs in a dish with shallow water, with rocks to hold them upright.

Leave the pot in a cool and dark location for a few weeks to strengthen the bulbs, and then move it into the sunlight so the stems can grow. When the flowers appear, you can prolong their life by moving the plant to a place with more filtered light.

December’s birth month flower, the narcissus, has an interesting history and a beautiful and fragrant presence. Flowering in late winter and early spring, it brings color and life into the holiday season. It makes a great gift for all kinds of occasions in the form of fresh flowers or live plants.

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