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One of my favorite flowers this time of year is the Paperwhite Narcissus, the fast and easy indoor bloomer.
Narcissus papyraceus—paperwhites—are native to the Mediterranean from Greece to Morocco. They are daffodil relatives. They are not winter hardy here in Virginia, however, they will bloom easily indoors in a sunny window. Paperwhite bulbs are readily available from September through December.
Paperwhites started now will take around three to four weeks to bloom. I don’t ever try to get mine to bloom by a certain date; I just enjoy them whenever they bloom. If you do want to try to hit a target date, then I’d recommend planting two or three bowls about a week apart.
The easiest way to grow paperwhites is in water and rocks. Choose a watertight container at least three inches deep. Add a layer of rocks to the bottom and arrange the bulbs, pointed side up, on top. Fill in around the bulbs with more rocks, but do not cover the tips. Add water to the container.
To keep flower stems sturdy and avoid the “flops,” keep planted bulbs in a sunny window. You can also add an alcohol and water solution to your water when growing in water and rocks. The solution is one part vodka or gin to seven parts of water. This solution will “stunt” their growth by as much as one third.
Start bulbs in plain water and add the alcohol solution once the top shoots are a couple of inches high. You can also use one part isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol to ten parts of water. Do not use beer or wine as they contain sugars which can cause mold to grow instead. Do not exceed the alcohol solution either as it may damage the bulbs.
Paperwhites are easy to grow indoors and easier yet to give as gifts. To give as a gift, I usually give the bulbs, a bag of marble chips and a container as a “kit.” Or I’ll pot them up the day before. After all, part of the fun is watching them grow.
We have a great selection of paperwhites right now and they are raring to grow and decorate your house!