Friday, November 1, 2019 at 8:34 AM
Paperwhite Narcissus can't tolerate cold temperatures. They won't survive our cold, Boulder winter freezes so don't try to plant them outside with your daffodils and tulips, but do force them indoors for blossoms and a touch of spring all winter long. Paperwhites, Narcissus papyraceus, are native to the more temperate regions of the Mediterranean. They produce 2 to 20 small, very fragrant, white flowers on each flowering stalk. They are one of the easiest bulbs to force and give you blossoms within four to eight weeks of planting. Forcing paperwhites is a great project to do with kids. They are fast and easy and economical. Kids love to watch them sprout, and once your paperwhites get started they'll grow an inch or two every day. And they make great teacher appreciation gifts for the holidays.
Getting paperwhites to bloom couldn't be simpler. All you need to do is supply water, sunlight and a little time and patience. You can plant the bulbs in a pot with a good drain hole and soil, or you can start them in more decorative shallow pots with no drainage in gravel or marbles. You can even put them in a bulb vase with water alone and they'll still bloom happily. The blossoms should last for two to three weeks. Placing them in a cold room should help lengthen the blossoming time. If they are grown in a warm spot they have a tendency to become leggy and the leaves will flop over. A bright red, satin ribbon for the holidays tied around the stems will help hold the leaves upright if they begin to droop.
If you are using a decorative pot without a drain hole make sure that it is at least 3 to 4 inches deep. Spread an inch or 2 of stones, gravel or marbles over the bottom of the container. Place your paperwhite bulbs with the pointed end up on top of the layer of stones. You can put your bulbs in shoulder to shoulder. They look better in a group and a tight fit will keep them from falling over. Add another layer of stones in and around the bulbs, but make sure the tips of the bulbs are still showing above the stones. Add water to the base of the bulbs and put them in a cool place until the roots start to develop. Check the bulbs daily to make sure they always have water up to the base. As soon as they start to sprout move them into a sunny location and watch them take off.
If you are planting your paperwhites in soil, you'll need to use a pot with a good drain hole. Fill the pot with soil leaving aproximately three inches to the rim. Place the bulbs in the soil so that they are nearly touching each other with the pointed end up. Add enough potting soil to cover the bottom half of the bulbs. The top half should remain exposed. Water them well and place them in a cool spot until they start to sprout. After sprouting move them into a sunnier location making sure that you water them as the soil dries to the touch.
Plant new paperwhite every 2 to 3 weeks for continuous blossoms all winter long. After the bulbs are finished flowering, they should be discarded as forced paperwhites won't bloom again.