Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Dirt on...


Like, Amaryllis, Paperwhites (Narcissus papyraceous, a sub-section of Narcissus tazetta) are popular indoor plants for winter and the holiday season.  Unlike other narcissus, paperwhites do not require a chilling period, so forcing them is as easy as putting the bulbs in water and watching them grow.  The fragrant flower blooms within three to four weeks of planting (may be somewhat longer during winter months).

While paperwhites can be planted in soil, more commonly they are grown in decorative pots, tall glass vases (perfect for supporting the tall stalks, baskets and unusual and/or vintage containers.  Be creative.  The container should be 4 to 5 inches deep and watertight. 

Paperwhite bulbs should feel firm and heavy in the hand, with no bruising nor nicks.  And, with bulbs, bigger is better!
  • Select watertight container
  • Spread an inch or two of decorative stone, coloured marbles, or even gravel on container bottom
  • Position your paperwhite bulbs, pointy side up, onto the stone, marbles, etc.  Wiggle them in.  They not only look better in a large group, the tight fit will help keep them from toppling over
  • Continue to layer more of your decorative material until the bulb is nestled securely in up to its neck
  • Add water until water level just meets the base of the bulb.  This should stimulate growth.  Do not submerse the bulb completely or the bulb will rot
  • At this point the bulbs do not need light
  • Keep bulbs on the cool side - about 65 degrees F or 18 degrees C
  • Once roots have established, provide the paperwhites with light
  • Once the bulbs have flowered, they will last longer if removed from direct sunlight
  • Start pots of paperwhites every couple of weeks for continued pleasure
Although problems with paperwhites are rare, the tendency to topple over does exist.  The researchers at Cornell University Flower Bulb Research Centre discovered that feeding paperwhites a solution of diluted alcohol you could restrict the stalk and leaf size thus minimizing the 'topple problem.'  For the exact procedure, please click here.  

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