Paperwhites ~ Easy to grow!

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If you’re one of those who don’t have a green thumb, one who manages to kill even the hardiest of plants, and one who receives silk plants for gifts instead of a potted azalea then have I got a project for you!  Paperwhites!

These bulbs are the easiest things to grow.  They even start growing out of the box on the store shelf if left long enough.  For this project all you need is a container (available at the garden centre), some pebbles, glass beads or soil (all available at the garden centre), a few paperwhite bulbs (also available at the garden centre) and you’re ready for almost instant results!

Paperwhites are part of the Narcissus family (daffodils) but don’t like our cold winters so they are grown strictly indoors.  They don’t require a period of chilly conditions in order to bloom like other bulbs so they’re ready to start growing immediately.

Well, there is one little issue…some people don’t like the scent.   They have a fragrance similar to hyacinths and, I admit, in a small, warm room it can be a little cloying.  However, if you’re one of those who enjoy an odorous flower then go for it.  If you tend to not like a lot of scent try the variety ‘Inbal’, it has little or no scent but everything else is the same.

Start with your paperwhite bowl, small shallow pot, plastic lined basket or other container.  Put in an inch of soil, pebbles, glass beads or other medium that you want to use.  Basically it’s just for holding up the bulb so just about anything will work.  Snuggle the bulbs just into the top of the medium (pointed end up), you don’t need to bury them, just push them in enough that they don’t fall over sideways.  Add water so that it’s barely kissing the base of the bulb or if you’re using soil, moisten it.  You don’t want the bulbs submerged in water otherwise they’ll rot.

Put the container in a bright place and wait.  Ok, so you can go about your daily business but check back every day to add water as the level goes down or to moisten the soil.   In no time you’ll notice bright green shoots appear at the top of the bulb.

In a couple of weeks those shoots will become tall stems with pretty white flowers atop exuding that glorious fragrance.  Success!  You can stick in a few curly branches of Corylus Contorta (Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick) for artsy flair and to help keep them upright (they tend to flop a little sometimes) or tie them in a loose bunch with raffia.  Now you can wow your dinner guests with your green thumb, impress your family with your creativeness and enjoy the looks of awe from your children.

Speaking of which, this makes a perfect project to do with young kids and what a wonderful gift for grandparents or teachers.  If you want your paperwhites to bloom for Christmas then pot up one set four weeks before and then another set a week later and so on.  That way you’ll be sure to have some in bloom through the holiday season.

Paperwhites can be found at Cultivate right now along with Amaryllis which is another popular indoor forcing bulb for winter colour.

Shirley Eppler

November 2013