One of my favourite fall projects is planting containers of paperwhite narcissus bulbs. Known for their exquisite beauty and incredible fragrance, popular paperwhites are especially loved as an indoor flowering plant during the winter months.
What is most impressive about this traditional plant is the sweet-smelling scent that springs forth from the most delicate miniature blossoms.
The well-loved holiday narcissus bulb produces clusters of tiny brilliant-white flowers on top of lengthy green stems. Each bulb often produces two stocks of flowers. The flower itself usually has six tiny vesica-shaped petals radiating from a central yellow centre. The flowers often resemble miniature daffodils.
Though many shops sell potted paperwhites, I prefer to grow my own, in planters, using a variety of my favourite vases and containers.
Paperwhite bulbs can be easily forced to flower indoors by following these steps:
1- Start with a collection of fresh narcissus bulbs from a local nursery or florist.
2- Choose a collection of waterproof vessels. Arrange a layer of gravel or decorative rock, along the bottom of the container.
3- Place the bulbs securely into the gravel, with the growing tip pointing upward. For a mass of blooms, place several bulbs together with a finger space between each of the bulbs.
4- Once potted, fill the containers with water, just below the base of the bulb. Place the planters in a cool, dark room for up to two weeks.
5- When the root system has begun to take hold and the plant has sprung from the bulb, move the planter into a brightly lit location. As the stems grow longer, you can support them with decorative twigs and ribbon.
6- fter blooming, cut back the flower and stem while allowing the foliage to die back naturally. Move the plant to a cold, dark location for a three-month winter dormancy period.
Paperwhites can be re-potted, using the same planting technique, later in the spring.
To enjoy pots of fresh paperwhites all season long, try planting your containers in succession. Leave the bulbs wrapped in paper in a cold, dry location, such as the refrigerator, prior to planting.
Paperwhites also make a great gift for family and friends. Try making your own kits. Simply bundle together everything you need to give and to grow: a waterproof vessel, decorative pebbles and bulbs. Even a simple glass vase showing a single bulb is a beautiful and elegant gift. Tie it all together with hand-written planting instructions.
Growing narcissus paperwhite bulbs is a great pre-holiday tradition that I look forward to every year. This holiday season, why not try planting a few containers of bulbs in your home?
Within weeks of planting, you will enjoy pristine white blossoms emanating a superbly sweet-smelling fragrance. The simple art of growing and forcing bulbs indoors is a fun holiday tradition the whole family will enjoy.
Shari Morash is a gardening enthusiast and an accredited designer. Contact her at [email protected]