Thursday, November 5, 2009
Tis the Season for Paperwhites
Purchse Paperwhite Bulbs. This time of year they are available most anywhere garden plants or bulbs are sold. Unlike most flowering bulbs, paper whites do not need a "cooling period"--they're ready to "force", or grow, right out of the package. It's fun to stagger the plantings so that you have a new "crop" of blooming paperwhite flowers every few weeks.
Determine the best container for how many bulbs you'd like to grow. Containers can be anything that will hold your bulbs and about 2-3 inches of pebbles. I like to use clear glass vases and jars because it's neat to see the roots growing under the bulbs. Glass also makes it easy to see how much water is in your container. You can plant as few as one bulb, or as many as will fit in your particular container.
Most any type of decorative pebbles or gravel will work best for paperwhite bulbs. Place your pebbles or glass rocks/beads in the container(s). Arrange your bulbs with the flat bottom down onto the pebbles. The bulbs do best if they're crowded--almost, but not completely touching each other. Push down on each bulb just a bit until it has sunk into the pebbles about a half inch--this will help stabilize the paperwhite bulb once the roots start growing.
Add water to the container so that it's just barely below the bottom of the bulbs. Try to pour the water on the edge of the container, not directly on top of a bulb--its best to keep the tops and sides of the bulbs dry. You want the water to be really close, but not touching the bottom of the bulbs. The roots will "sense" the water and seek for it if it's right below the bulb. If the bulbs are sitting in water they stand a good chance of rotting instead of sprouting.
Place the container(s) with bulbs in a cool, dark place--like a closet shelf or a corner in the garage. Check on the bulbs each day and add water to the level right below the bulb bottoms as necessary. You'll start to see roots growing already on the second or third day, and the tops will start to pop up soon after!
After the roots start, keep the bulbs in the dark place for a week to ensure good strong root growth. Continue to water from now on, keeping the water at the same level discussed earlier.
Once the roots are well established, bring the containers out to a bright place, like a window sill or kitchen table. The paperwhites will sprout up and the leaves will turn green in no time, with blossoms appearing about a week after the bulbs were brought into the light.
To keep the blossoms going strong, display the Paperwhite flowers in a cool (~65deg F) area that is free of drafts. You'll have about a week of fragrant and beautiful white blossoms to enjoy!