Forcing Paperwhites

Paperwhites ready to plant

Paperwhites ready to plant

Add water only where it touches the base of the bulb

Add water only where it touches the base of the bulb

Ready to grow in a sunny cool place

Ready to grow in a sunny cool place

At good garden centers all over Birmingham, paperwhite narcissus are ready to be purchased and forced. There are several things that will assure you have successful blooms and not tall stalks falling over when they bloom. It is important to buy big firm bulbs. They generally run around a $1.50 each for big fat bulbs. Also make sure the tips where the leaves and flowers come out are not bruised or broken. Since the procedure we are using to grow them is in water, find a container you like and fill it with gravel, marbles, or even rocks. It is important that the bulbs are firmly inserted into the rocks because you do not want the plants to fall over once they start growing . Once the bulbs are secure, add water making sure the water only touches the bottom (basal plate) of the bulbs, as that is where the root will grow from. Once planted, for best results I place mine outside in a part to full sunny location. Make sure water is added as needed, and bring them indoors when temperatures fall below 35 degrees. In a few weeks the fragrant blooms will appear with the leaves. If your plants are getting too tall, they are not getting enough sunlight. The flowers are very fragrant, so you might want to limit the number of bulbs per pot to five or six. P.S. these make great holiday gifts.

John Floyd

John Floyd has been gardening--and learning about Birmingham area gardening--for more than 30 years. In addition to his day-to-day experience, John has degrees in horticulture from Auburn and Clemson Universities and was Editor-in-Chief of Southern Living.

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