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BONNIE’S GARDEN – Paperwhites

By Bonnie Pega
Bonnie's Garden

I love paperwhites. They are easy to bloom—and fast! What’s more, they are inexpensive and beautiful.

Narcissus papyraceus—paperwhites—are native to the western Mediterranean from Greece to Portugal to Morocco. They are a variety of daffodil. Even though they are a daffodil, they are not winter hardy here in Virginia. They will bloom easily in a sunny window, however. They are readily available from October through December.

When Will Paperwhites Bloom?

Paperwhites started now will take around three to four weeks to bloom. I don’t usually 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.

How to Grow Paperwhites

To plant in soil, plant with the tips of the bulbs at the soil surface. To grow in water and pebbles, plant with all but the tops of the bulbs covered with pebbles. Add water to just touch the bottom of the bulbs but try to avoid submerging most of the bulb.

To avoid floppy flower stems, keep planted bulbs in a sunny window. Slightly cool temperatures (50 to 60 degrees) will also help.

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 water. 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 water. Do not use beer or wine as they contain sugars which can encourage mold to grow.

Enjoy Them!

Because paperwhites are so inexpensive, I usually get a few extra to enjoy in January or February. To store paperwhite bulbs, keep them at average room temperature—DO NOT refrigerate like you would tulips or daffodils. Paperwhites actually hold better when kept at 65 to 75 degrees. Keep them dry and well-ventilated.  Bulbs purchased in November/December should keep for six or eight weeks.

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. If I pot them up, I’ll do it the day before I give them. After all, part of the fun is watching them grow.

Get your Paperwhites now at the Great Big Greenhouse and enjoy them during the holidays and beyond.

2 thoughts on “BONNIE’S GARDEN – Paperwhites

  1. Once Paperwhites have bloomed can the bulbs be saved to bloom again and if so when should they be replanted.

  2. Lois, the bulbs can be saved, however, if you plan on doing that, you must pot them in soil–not water and pebbles. After they finish blooming, you must feed them and keep them in a sunny window until they die back on their own. Once the foliage dies back on its own, cut it off and store the bulbs in a closet or drawer until next fall. Personally, I don’t have enough sunny windows that I can spare enough space for pots of paperwhites (I save any extra space for my amaryllis!). Because paperwhites are so inexpensive, I just buy more.

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