Forcing Paperwhite Narcissus indoors can bring a touch of spring in the middle of winter. These are also one of the easiest flower bulbs to force.
They can be grown in a sunny window at room temperature and a succession of pots can provide flowers from late fall to early spring.
Begin to pot the bulbs any time after the first of October. If you have purchased them before this, store them in a dry airy place at around 38-40 degrees to keep the bulbs from sprouting before you are ready for them. You may plant them either in potting soil or in water with small stones.
Planting in soil
If you plan on using potting soil, you may want to purchase one from your local garden center. Paperwhites do not require a rich soil, but need a medium that is well drained and one that allows ample root growth.
A clay pot is an excellent choice for forcing bulbs. Decorative containers such as plastic, metal or ceramic pots may be used as well, but must have drainage holes when soil is used.
Fill the container with potting soil so that about 1/3 of the top of each bulb when planted will be above the top of the pot. This leaves room for the roots to develop. The bulbs should be about one inch apart. Fill in around the bulbs with soil and gently firm the medium around the bulbs. A six inch pot with four or five bulbs makes a good display. After potting the bulbs, water thoroughly from the bottom by standing the pot in a pan of water.
Planting in stones
You may also plant your bulbs in another medium. You can use any type of small pebble or stone, even marbles. (Be sure to wash and drain the anchoring material before using it.) This type of forcing is especially rewarding to share with children because it shows how the bulb is developing.
Begin by selecting a low wide container 3 to 5 inches deep with no drainage holes in the bottom. Fill the container about ½ to ¾ full of pebbles. Gently place the bulbs on this bed, placing them close together so they almost touch. Anchor the bulbs by heaping pebbles or gravel around them.
Gently pour water at the side of the container. Be careful to keep the water level from touching the base of the bulbs.
Do not immerse the bulbs in water, only the roots should be in water to prevent the bulb from rotting.
You may now place your pots in a cool, lighted window at room temperature. For better results (shorter leaves and flower stalks), place it in a cool (50-60 degrees), dark area for about two weeks before moving it into a warmer, sunny location. Check regularly to make sure the medium remains moist. To have a succession of Paperwhites in bloom through the winter, plant a container every 10 days or so. After the flowers have faded, cut and enjoy the greenery until it turns yellow. Then discard, as bulbs will not bloom again.