Home > Great Big Greenhouse Blog > November 2016 > BONNIE'S GARDEN--Tis the Season for Paperwhites

BONNIE'S GARDEN--Tis the Season for Paperwhites

I love paperwhites.  They are easy and quick to bloom.  What’s more, they are inexpensive and beautiful.

Narcissus papyraceus—paperwhites—are native to the western Mediterranean.  They are daffodil relatives but they are not winter hardy here; however they will bloom easily in a sunny window.  Paperwhites are readily available from September through December.

Paperwhites have a strong spicy fragrance. If you find it a bit overwhelming, there are alternatives.  There are other varieties of paperwhites that are worth trying.  I like Chinese Sacred Lily.  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 regular paperwhites.  It may take a week or so longer to bloom.

Paperwhites started around Thanksgiving will take around two to three weeks to bloom.  I don’t ever try to get mine to bloom by a certain date though; 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 night 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 or I’ll pot them up the day before.  After all, part of the fun is watching them grow.
 
Because paperwhites are so inexpensive, I usually get a few extra to enjoy even in January or February.  To store paperwhite bulbs, keep them at average room temperature—DO NOT chill like you might to keep tulips or daffodils.  Paperwhites actually hold better when kept at 65 to 75 degrees.  Keep them dry and well-ventilated.  Bulbs purchased in November/December should keep for six or either weeks.
 
Posted: 11/28/2016 by Bonnie Pega | with 0 comment(s)
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