Growing Narcissus- Paperwhites

Today I deadheaded my paperwhites that I forced indoors this winter and I thought I would share some knowledge about growing these flowering bulbs with you today as an addition to my Gardening Reference Section on this site.

Paperwhites are part of the Narcissus family as are daffodils. Unlike most daffodils paperwhites are very fragrant and are a popular bulb that is often forced indoors. They take between 4 and 6 weeks to grow and begin blooming.

Paperwhites don’t require much space, can be planted in tight clumps in soil or rocks, don’t like to be over watered and do not require a chilling period to re bloom next growing season. They actually are not a good outdoor bulb if you live in a frosty location and this is why so many love to force them indoors.

If you want to enjoy paperwhites but live in an area that receives snow you can plant them indoors in a pot with soil or you can decoratively position the bulbs in a nice bowl or jar with some rocks. Paperwhites can be planted in tight clusters for a pretty effect. Like I said before they don’t mind crowding.

Most people will want their paperwhites to bloom indoors during the winter which is coincidentally the time when most bulbs recharge and grow roots for the coming growth season. Forcing paperwhite bulbs indoors will take much energy from the bulbs thus making blooming the following year difficult. It often takes two to three years before the forced bulbs will re bloom again and many people will simply toss their paperwhite bulbs after forcing.

Forcing Paperwhites Indoors-

To force your paperwhite bulbs simply plant them so the bulb top is level with the soil or other chosen growing medium, lightly water and then place the planted bulbs in a cool/ dark place (45 to 55 degrees is ideal) for about 2 weeks. This allows the roots time to develop before the rapid leaf and stem growth begins. Water lightly as needed and when you see that the stems and leaves have begun to emerge from the bulb (if you planted the bulb in rocks you will also be able to see that the roots have grown) you can relocate the planted bulb to a bright/ cool room and watch the beauty unfold!

Planting Paperwhites Outdoors-

Paperwhites are winter hardy outdoors ONLY in zones 8-10 (want to find your hardiness zone?), they are not really winter hardy like daffodils and since they don’t require a chilling period the frosty weather will often do much damage to these bulbs.

If you live in a warmer area where you can plant these outdoors you should do so in the fall. Plant your paperwhites in a location that gets full sun for most of the day and plant the bulbs about 3-4inches below the soil surface. When planted outdoors in the fall they will have the winter to develop hardy root systems and will surface in the spring to bloom.

Care during the dormant period-

Deadheading the spent flowers will help the bulb preserve energy for the next growing season but do not clip the leaves. Leaves should be allowed to die back naturally and photosynthesize (this is part of the recharging process of the bulb), when the leaves are all dead (about 6 weeks after flowering) they can only then be clipped or mowed. In poor soils or when in containers a high-phosphate fertilizer applied in the spring will help the bulb recharge for the next growing season.

Growing Paperwhites as Perennials Indoors in colder climates- 
If you want your paperwhites to come back year after year they need to be grown in soil and provided with ample “food”. If you are like me and live in a colder climate consider planting your paperwhites with another bulb or plant. This way you can allow your paperwhites to grow, die back and be undisturbed until they are ready to grow again. I planted mine in a pot with anemonies and added bone meal to the soil for added nutrients.

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