When it is in the dead of winter and bitter cold outside, my thoughts are driven to spring and being in the garden. It is a little early to be starting seeds for the garden, but it is the perfect time to play with Mother Nature and plant some bulbs such as paperwhites.
Why Choose Paperwhites?
Paperwhites (Narcissus pappyraceus) are a great choice to start indoors, as they don’t require a special chilling or rest period to sprout and as soon as you plant them, with a little water and a bright window, they will start growing.
Paperwhites are native to the Mediterranean region, from Greece to Portugal, plus Morocco and Algeria. They are considered naturalized in the Azores, Corsica as well as in Texas, California and Louisiana. They are a small member of the Narcissus family with Daffodils and Jonquils are the larger species of that family. What Paperwhites lack in size, they make up for in fragrance and charm. They are easy to grow and one of the world’s most popular indoor bulbs second to Amaryllis.
How to Grow Paperwhites indoors
The process of growing paperwhites is a blend of flower arranging and indoor gardening. Forced paperwhites spend all their energy in growth and bloom, and can be discarded when the blossoms fade and die.
Choose a container without drainage holes, such as a traditional bulb pan, clay pot or a tall glass vase which will help support the paperwhites’ tall stems. You will also need clean pebbles or decorative glass stones, and 3 to 7 large firm paperwhite bulbs (depending on the container size).
Fill the container with a couple of inches of the pebbles. Add water until it is just below the top of the pebbles. Set the bulbs (pointy side up) on the pebbles, crowding them together so they almost touch. Add more pebbles, covering the bottom third of the bulbs.
Ensure the bulbs themselves are not touching water, or they may grow mould and rot. Maintain the water level described above and leave the bulbs in a cool location with little or no light to encourage root growth.
Caring for Paperwhites
After a week of two, gently tug on the bulbs from time to time to test for root development. Once they feel rooted, move them to a bright spot without direct sunlight. They should flower in three to five weeks.
Paperwhites will grow slowly and last longer when indoor temperatures are cooler, no warmer than 65F or 19C. If it’s too warm, they’ll grow quickly, becoming floppy and leggy.
To keep your paperwhites standing tall, you can support them with a decorative plant ring or a circle of stakes and twine.
Paperwhites make great gifts for a friend or just a little treat for yourself to enjoy on these cold winter days!