Home > Great Big Greenhouse Blog > November 2014 > BONNIE'S GARDEN--Growing Paperwhite Naricssus

BONNIE'S GARDEN--Growing Paperwhite Naricssus

Every year at this time I have two or three bowls of paperwhite narcissus at various stages—one just about ready to open, one that will be ready right around Thanksgiving, and one just planted to bloom some time by mid-December.  I also have the bulbs for a fourth bowl—to be planted in a couple of weeks to have close to Christmas.  I love having flowers indoors and these will hold me over until my amaryllis come out of dormancy and begin to bloom.

Narcissus papyraceus—paperwhites—are native to the western Mediterranean from Greece to Portugal to Morocco.  They are daffodil relatives.  This means they are winter-hardy—if you live in Florida.  They are not winter hardy here in Virginia, however they will bloom easily in a sunny window.  Paperwhites are readily available from September through December.

Some people love the strong spicy fragrance of the traditional paperwhite (Narcissus papyraceus “Ziva”); some people don’t.  If you find it a bit strong, there are alternatives.  There are several “news kids” on the block that are worth trying.  I love “Winter Sun”.  It’s a pure white flower with a bright yellow cup and has a much lighter fragrance than the traditional Ziva.  This one can be grown in water and pebbles or in potting soil just like the regular paperwhite.

“Inbal” is a pure-white flower, much like the traditional “Ziva” but has a lighter sweeter scent.  It forces easily, but is best planted in potting soil—not water and rocks.

When will Paperwhites bloom?  Well, Paperwhites started in September can take six to eight weeks to bloom.  Paperwhites started mid-October will usually take 4 weeks to bloom.  Paperwhites started around Thanksgiving will take around three weeks to bloom.  I don’t ever try to get mine to bloom by a certain date; I just enjoy them whenever they bloom.  If you do want to try to hit a target date, then I’d recommend planting two or three bowls about a week apart.

To plant the bulbs in pebbles, choose a watertight container.  Place a layer of rocks, marble chips or gravel in the bottom and arrange bulbs, points up, on top.  Fill in between the bulbs with more pebbles--but do not cover the tips of the bulbs.  Add water and place in a sunny window.  To plant in soil, choose any container with drainage and use potting soil, again leaving the tips of the bulbs exposed.  

To keep flower stems sturdy and avoid the “flops,” keep sprouted bulbs in a sunny window.  Cool temperatures will help a little, too.  You can also add an alcohol and water solution to your water when growing in water and rocks.  The solution is one part vodka or gin to seven parts water.  Start bulbs in plain water and add the alcohol solution once the top shoots are a couple of inches high.  You can also use one part isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol to ten parts of water.  Do not use beer or wine or other spirits as they contain sugars which can cause mold to grow instead.

Paperwhites and Amaryllis both are easy to grow indoors and easier yet to give as gifts. To give as a gift, I usually give the bulbs, a bag of marble chips and a container as a “kit.”  Or I’ll pot them up the day before.  After all, part of the fun is watching them grow.
Posted: 11/17/2014 by Bonnie Pega | with 0 comment(s)
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