The question can daffodils be composted is asked with a degree of regularity.
Largely because all parts of the daffodil plant are toxic.
So naturally, there is a concern about using them in compost in case those toxins have a negative effect on the plants you are growing.
Thankfully the answer is fairly clear cut.
We are going to explore that here and take a closer look at composting in general.
So let’s get started.
Can Daffodils Be Composted?
Yes, daffodils can be composted despite the fact they are toxic. The toxins will be broken down by the bacteria and fungi present in a compost heap and turned into harmless material that can be safely used wherever necessary. The only time you should avoid putting daffodils on a compost heap is if they are diseased.
Are Daffodils Toxic?
Yes all parts of the daffodil plant are toxic, in particular the bulb.
The toxic substance in daffodils is called lycorine. It is more concentrated in the bulb but also found in the leaves and flowers.
Lycorine can cause diarrhea and vomiting.
Theoretically, you could die from eating daffodils, but it is very unlikely as you would need to eat a lot for the toxins in them to be fatal.
The most common problem seems to be people mistaking daffodil bulbs for onions and using them in a meal.
In fact, the BBC carried a news story in 2012 about ten people from a Chinese community in Bristol, England being treated in hospital after doing just that. They all survived.
When researching this article I could only find one confirmed case of someone dying after eating daffodils and that was back in 1999.
And even then the person in question was a partially sighted 88-year-old man, who had underlying health conditions.
But the fact daffodils are toxic does explain why some people might be hesitant to use them in their compost.
So Can Daffodils Go In Compost?
Yes absolutely daffodils can be composted. Daffodil leaves in particular make good compost.
The toxic substance in daffodils – lycorine – is just another plant alkaloid and it will be broken down in the compost bin.
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Like anything else, these toxins will just be food to the bacteria and fungi present in your compost.
There is absolutely nothing that will be hard to decompose and the aforementioned bacteria and fungi will happily break down your daffodil into harmless material.
Then you are free to use the resulting compost on your vegetable beds without worry.
In fact, as they are largely water, I have found daffodil stems and foliage compost pretty quickly.
When You Should Avoid Putting Your Daffodils on the Compost
The only time you should avoid composting your daffodils is if they show signs of disease.
If you notice your daffs appear to be growing disproportionately and may look distorted or stunted, they could be suffering from Narcissus eelworm.
Dig them up, cut in half and inspect for brown rings. If an infection is apparent you need to destroy them, along with any bulbs in a 1m radius and make sure you don’t put them on the compost heap.
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If you notice the leaves of your daffodil seem thin and grass-like, it could be a result of Narcissus bulb fly. Dig them up and check for damage to the bulb and for any larvae. Again if this is the case they must be destroyed and not put on the compost heap.
Basal rot is a fungus that causes the foliage of a daffodil to yellow prematurely, the bulb may also feel slightly soft. It is noticeable by a pinkish-white fungus that may be visible. If this is evident don’t compost or plant new bulbs in an area where previously infected bulbs may have been planted.
Essentially what I am saying is, any healthy daffodil is fine to compost.
What Plants Are Toxic to Compost?
This might surprise you, but in theory, you can compost any healthy plant.
As explained above, the chemical compounds that make up any toxins in a plant will be broken down in the composting process.
So a thorough composting process, with high temperatures that are maintained, will render anything harmless.
If done correctly, regardless of what you put on a compost heap, the output should be of a uniform quality and substance.
The one common plant that people always have queries over when it comes to composting is poison ivy.
Even poison ivy can be used in compost.
The safest way to do so would be to shred it and then leave it in a separate pile until you are certain that it is dead. You can then add it to your main compost heap.
Of course, you should take all necessary precautions when handling it, to avoid risking it getting on your skin.
Even pesticides should be broken down in the same way poisonous plants are during the composting process.
So you can add treated plants to a compost pile as well.
Are There Any Instances When You Should Not Compost a Plant?
As we touched on above when we were talking specifically about daffodils, it is not wise to put a diseased plant on your compost pile.
Diseased plants will compost, but the problem is the airborne pathogens that caused the disease could easily spread to any plants you have near the compost heap.
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Some of these pathogens could also remain in the compost indefinitely unless your compost pile is ‘hot composted’.
Your best bet with any diseased plant is to burn it. The resulting ash will contain beneficial potassium and can be added to your compost.
Because daffodils are toxic there is a natural fear for some people when it comes to using them in compost.
But there shouldn’t be.
A proper composting process removes the toxins from any poisonous plant and renders them harmless.
The only time you shouldn’t put a daffodil on your compost pile is if it is diseased.
So yes you can compost your daffodils, just don’t eat them!