Melinda Myers offers advice for forcing paperwhites.
Plant low maintenance paperwhites today and enjoy fragrant blooms in just three to four weeks. The bright white flowers and fragrance will lift your spirits and brighten those gray winter days.
Paperwhites are a type of daffodil (Narcissus) that does not need a chill to initiate bloom. This makes them quick and easy to force indoors; but not hardy enough to survive our cold winters.
Plant them in stones or a well-drained potting mix. Either way you can successfully create an attractive display.
Start by filling a shallow watertight container with a 2” layer of sterile pea gravel, pebbles or marbles. Add just enough water to reach the top of the stones. Place 5 or more bulbs, pointed side up, close together on the gravel. Secure by covering the bottom half of the bulbs with more pebbles. Maintain the water level just below the bottom of the bulbs.
Or use a shallow container with drainage holes. Cover the bottom of the pot with a several inches of quality potting mix. Set the bulbs close together on top of the potting mix. Add enough soil so just the top one third of the bulb is exposed. Water thoroughly and often enough to keep the soil slightly moist.
Place the planted containers in a cool location, 50 to 60 degrees, for several weeks to develop roots. Move to a cool sunny location as soon as leaves appear.
Growing the bulbs in brighter light and cool temperatures helps reduce floppiness. Or try this technique tested by Cornell University. Once the leaves are 2 inches tall replace the plain water with a mixture of one cup 80 proof clear liquor in 7 cups of water.
Stake tall plants if a bit of support is needed. Use a few twigs or bamboo for a natural look or decorative stake for added interest.
Make several plantings 4 to 6 weeks apart to have fragrant flowers all winter long. Just store extra bulbs in a ventilated plastic bag set in a cool dark place until it is time to plant.
AT A GLANCE
Name: Paperwhites (Narcissus)
Size: 12-15" tall
Light: Bright location
Water: Keep top of water level in pebbles just below the bottom of the bulbs. Or, water potting mix thoroughly when soil starts to dry.
Soil: Quality potting mix or decorative stones
Written by, gardening expert, Melinda Myers. Each month Melinda will feature a low maintenance plant perfect for beginning and experienced gardeners looking for attractive easy care plants. Melinda Myers is a nationally recognized gardening expert with more than 30 years of horticulture experience. She is a wealth of knowledge and we are pleased to share Melinda’s Low Maintenance Plant of the Month with you!