Paperwhite Narcissus, the very fragrant relative of the daffodil and jonquil, is beautiful in decorative containers near your entryway or in a window box to add some curb appeal to your home. But what happens when Mother Nature’s freezing temps don’t allow for it? No fear! Paperwhites are a wonderful bulb to plant indoors during the winter months. This process is called “forcing bulbs,” which essentially means that you’re fooling the bulbs into blooming when and where they wouldn’t normally bloom. Luckily, paperwhites require very little to get started and bloom within just a few weeks after planting. To force indoors, it only takes a few simple steps – and it can even be fun!
1. Select a Container
Paperwhites only need a 3 inch root system to grow successfully, so shallow containers work just as well as deeper containers. Deeper containers will require more filling to help support the bulbs.
2. Select Planting Medium
Paperwhites can grow in various mediums – everything from soil to pebbles. Select your favorite base for the bulbs; items such as pebbles, tumbled beach glass, river rock, glass marbles and terra cotta pellets all work great. The base for the bulbs does not need to provide a nutrient source since most are tossed after they are done blooming. The base is only there as a support system once the bulbs begin to sprout.
3. Plant Bulbs
Plant the bulbs wide bottom down (root end down) with the top inch of each bulb above the base line. For a rich floral display, plant bulbs close together.
Add water up to the bottom of the bulbs to encourage root growth.
5. Keep Cool Until Roots Form
Until the roots start to develop, keep the planter in a cool location away from direct light.
6. Place in Brightly Lit Location
Put the newly planted bulbs in a sunny or brightly lit location. Within a few weeks, you should start to see the top sprouts, followed by fragrant blooms. Once the blooms appear, move the container to a spot with indirect light to keep the blooms around longer. Check the water level regularly to see if more is needed.
Paperwhites are known for their fragrance. Enjoy the wonderful scent and pretty blossoms during the doldrums of winter.
For a video on forcing paperwhites indoors, check out one here and another one from Martha Stewart. To learn more about forcing other flowering bulbs, check out our post on forcing bulbs during the winter here.