Paper White Narcissus
There is nothing quite so addicting as having plants blooming in your home during the winter and nothing is easier to bring into bloom than Paperwhite narcissus. Paperwhites belong to the tazetta division of daffodils and are hardy in Zones 9 and 10. In fact, in those warm climates, these are the only daffodils they can grow successfully.
Paperwhites and amaryllis can both be easily forced into bloom without any cold treatment, but unlike amaryllis, paperwhites cannot be saved to bloom again.
There are several types of paperwhites on the market. The most commonly grown and readily available variety is the reliable and inexpensive Ziva. Try a few of the other varieties Bachman’s carries for great bloom and scent.
Potting Your Paper Whites
These easy-to-bloom bulbs can be successfully grown in either soil or gravel. In either case, your container must be at least deeper than the height of the bulbs. (It can be deeper, if you prefer) Space the bulbs as close as possible without touching each other or the sides of the container.
Planting paper whites in soil is a little more work but results in a stronger root system. The disadvantage to using soil is that you need a container with drainage, and that would require a saucer indoors.
To plant the bulbs, place an inch or two of a quality potting soil on the bottom of the container. Space out the bulbs and press them lightly into the soil. Add enough soil to come up to the tip of the bulbs and firm. Paper whites planted in soil can be top-dressed with decorative gravel or moss. After potting, thoroughly moisten the soil.
An alternative to soil is to plant paper whites in gravel (or sand) and water. Choose a container that you are sure is watertight. You will need gravel with small pieces that can easily settle into all the nooks and crannies between the bulbs. Bachman's offers small packages of horticultural stone for this purpose. If you have stone from another source, be sure to rinse it thoroughly before using it with your bulbs.
If you have potted your bulbs in soil, simply keep them evenly moist. If you are growing your paper whites in gravel, keep the water level just below the bottom of the bulbs. When the water is so deep that the basal plate at the bottom of the bulb stays wet, it may rot.
Growing Paper Whites
Paperwhite narcissus like good daylight, but don't want to be in direct sunlight. Temperatures of 60-65 degrees are ideal, but usually our homes are much warmer. If possible, place the growing bulbs in a cool room at night. It takes an average of 3-4 weeks for paperwhites to bloom. When grown warm, the bulbs tend to be taller and weaker, sometimes leaning over. Continue to provide water as needed until the bulbs have finished blooming. Paper white bulbs cannot be saved for another season of bloom, so you can dispose of them once they are not longer blooming or attractive.
Special Tips to Succeed with Paper Whites
Add a handful of activated charcoal to the bottom of the container before planting to keep your water or soil fresh. This is especially helpful with bulbs grown in water and stones.
Water your paper whites with a solution of a capful of rubbing alcohol to a quart of water. This acts as a growth regulator and keeps them a little shorter.
For stronger plants, place your newly planted paper whites somewhere cool and dark for a week immediately after planting to give them a little extra rooting time before growing.
Keep a few extra bulbs in a cool, dark place and you'll be able to plant them every few weeks to have blooms all winter long.
There are several types of paper whites available that warrant your attention. Some of them aren't even white! Other varieties are well worth the effort to locate, if you cannot find them locally
Ziva is a reliable strain that is imported from Israel. It produces clusters of pure white blooms with a strong, spicy fragrance on stems averaging 16-18 inches tall. Ziva takes as little as two weeks to bloom.
Galilee bears pure white blooms with a lighter, musky scent on stems 12- 14 inches tall. It blooms in 3-4 weeks, often having several bloom stems per bulb.
Grand Soleil d'Or offers lemon to gold petals around a yellow-orange cup with a delicate sweet fragrance. It grows 12-14 inches tall and blooms in 4-5 weeks.
Bethlehem has soft yellow petals with a dark yellow cup and has a musky scent. It grows only 8-10 inches tall and blooms in 3 weeks.
Israel bears creamy yellow petals with a dark yellow cup and has a delicate fragrance. It blooms in 3 weeks on 16-20 inch stems.
Nazareth has soft yellow petals, a bright yellow cup and a moderately musky fragrance. It grows 10-12 inches and blooms in 3 weeks.
Jerusalem offers pure white, large flowers on strong stems with a moderate musky scent. It grows 16-20 inches and blooms in 3 weeks.
Chinese Sacred Lily has blooms that are white with yellow. It isn't as strong as some others and needs support, but the fragrance is wonderful!
Double Paper Whites are a wonderful new development. They have a lovely fragrance, too.
Paper White Bowls
Top Quality Bulbs
Bachman’s Mighty Bloom Potting Soil
Additional Information Sheets
Success With Tulips
Success With Daffodils
Success With Amaryllis
Types of Tulips and Daffodils
Bulb Buying Tips
Minor Bulbs for Spring Blooms
Bulbs in the Landscape