Beautiful, fresh, longlasting and versatile, paperwhites create a beautiful display for the holidays and the perfect distraction from winter. Each bulb produces at least three stems of gorgeous star-like flowerettes creating a wonderful show. They have become very popular in centrepieces, mantel displays or simply in the kitchen window.
It is very rewarding and extremely easy to grow paperwhites indoors and they are the perfect gift. Simply package a few bulbs with a small bag of stones and you have an interesting, attractive, and inexpensive gift option. Children can have fun with this and learn at the same time. The whole experience takes six to eight weeks and it’s all very rewarding and a wonderful connection to nature.
Paperwhites (Narcissus tazetta) are a variety of daffodil that are only grown indoors in our climate. The bright white flowers work as well for holiday decorating as they do through the winter to brighten your indoors.
As the snow starts to fly or in the depth of winter, the experience of growing these beautiful flowers from bulb is really lovely at every stage.
There is a great deal of creativity offered in potting them up as they only require moisture and some medium to grow in. The medium can be potting soil but paperwhites are more commonly grown in stones, glass beads, sea shells, marbles or aquarium gravel. The different “stones” offer a fun way to work in your style or colour choice — a natural look or red aquarium gravel for holiday mantel, you choose.
Part of the fun of growing your own is selecting the container you pot them up in. It can be trendy, classic or chosen to suit your decor and can be made of anything that will hold water. If your container is opaque you only need decorative stones on the top, underneath can be less expensive pea stones. If you are using glass containers the transparency allows an appreciation for the growing roots and the featured stones or growing medium. Growing in glass is also the easiest way to monitor the water level. Tall glass vase designs like a “hurricane” make a great choice as they offer support for the flowers.
Arrangements are best made with a minimum of three bulbs, and with seven or more it becomes quite stunning. It is recommended to plant using odd numbers for a single display, although a symmetrical arrangement using an even number of bulbs and containers provides a great effect.
How to Grow Paperwhites
Selecting the bulbs: As when choosing a quality vegetable, the bulb should be checked before purchasing. The bulb should be firm, and the larger the better for bigger flowering. Kits are available but most include smaller bulbs, and it is recommended you open and check the bulbs before purchasing. Buying loose bulbs allows for easy inspection and often these bulbs are larger. Paperwhites are available at garden shops from October through December.
Choose a container: Select waterproof containers to create your look. It is recommended that you always test the container first, as even glazed pottery can allow water to seep through.
Potting up the bulbs: Fill the container to a minimum depth of two to three inches, with the medium of your choice. Place the bulbs, pointed end up, on the surface of this medium. Water to the top of the medium (so that it is just below the bulb). This moisture will stimulate the root development.
Maintain the water level as the plant grows. The bulb should not touch the water, or you risk rot. Next, continue to add more medium to anchor the bulbs up to the widest part of the bulb. If you are using potting soil, it is recommended to fill with soil to near the top of the bulb. At this point you may use a more decorative stone or material and/or fresh moss, which will also give a nice finishing touch.
Care: The arrangement should be placed in a dark place for two weeks to allow the roots to grow. If it is cooler, that would benefit the growth. From planting to flowering the time frame is four to six weeks. The flowers can last for another two to three weeks or longer in a cool location away from direct sunlight.
A great way to help enjoy the indoors, paperwhites are a very cheery display any time before we see any sign of Spring! Pot some up!
Rick Weingarden and Allan Watts own Anything Grows SEED Co. (www.anythinggrows.com). They can be found at the Western Fair Farmers’ & Artisans’ Market on Saturdays, and at various gardening events around the region.