Planting paperwhites inside is a wonderful way to get acquainted with bulbs…plus they smell amazing! “Forcing” means growing bulbs inside and out of season to enjoy their blooms. Paperwhites are a perfect choice for this because they don’t require chilling to flower. Now is the time to plant, so in six weeks (right about Christmas time) they’ll be at the height of their beauty. Paperwhites will thrive in any planting medium. I grow mine in a 4″-deep china bowl filled with water. A bowl that is 12″-wide and 3″-deep will easily accommodate twenty or more bulbs, as I have pictured here. Fill the bowl halfway with pebbles, and arrange the bulbs on the surface, pointed tips up. Add enough water to reach the base of the bulbs. Spread more gravel around and between the bulbs to anchor them, then let them sit a few days in a non-sunny area. When they look like they’ve taken root, bring the bowl to a sunny spot near a window and water twice weekly – you should never let them dry out.
Paperwhites can quickly attain 18″ or more in height, and then collapse in a miserable heap just as the flowers open. The cure for such exuberance? A bottle of gin! After the bulbs have grown in a sunny window for one week, pour the water off, and replace it with this solution: one part gin to five parts water. As evaporation occurs, top off with the same cocktail. So inebriated, the plants grow to only half their normal size, but with flowers just as large and fragrant as usual!
At the end of their cycle, when the flowers start to die, cut them off, but allow the plants to remain in an east or west window. I keep them watered and fed until their yellowed foliage signals dormancy. At this time, I remove the bulbs from their container, and save them in paper bags filled with sawdust. There they stay until the fall, when I give them a permanent position in the outdoor garden. In two year’s time they will bloom again, as if they had never known the inside of my house!
Available at My Favorite Things and www.ShopMFT.com: Large Ceramic Serving Bowl: “Country Estate – Kite Fliers” by Juliska ~ Paperwhite Bulbs from Esposito’s Garden Center, Tallahassee, Florida.