How To Force Paperwhite/Narcissus Bulbs Indoors

How To Force Paperwhite/Narcissus Bulbs Indoors

Leah Moss
Feb 18, 2010

OK, before we begin I have to confess that the smell of fully bloomed Paperwhites makes me ill, but nevertheless the beautiful — and easy!— growing process and the bit of life they bring to the dreary winter months keep me growing a constant rotation of them all winter long. And believe me when I say that even those with the blackest of thumbs are guaranteed success.

While researching instructions before I attempted my first set of bulbs (I'm now on my third successful round this season) I found a million different approaches, but the easiest proved to be the most fail-proof.

vase/container/cup (I love seeing the root systems develop so I used a clear cylindrical vase and two scotch glasses)
stones/river rocks (I used Hoffman's Marble Maze River Gravel, which I initially found at Johnson's for another project, but larges smooth black stones would look lovely)
Paperwhite bulbs (almost all florists and garden centers carry them this time of year and they generally range in price from 30 cents to 2 dollars a bulb)

• 1. Arrange a layer of pebbles that is at least 1" deep on the bottom of the vase.
• 2. Place bulbs root side down (you should see a knot where the roots will eventually appear from) into the pebbles so that the bottom centimeter is surrounded.
• 3. Pour water to the top of (but not above) the pebble line (tip: the bulb should not be touching the water or it will rot. Eventually the roots will grow to "find" the water)
• 4. Water every few days as you notice the water line dip below the pebbles.
• 5. Watch roots sprout and shoots grow and flowers bloom!

You should start to notice roots sprouting from below within a few days of planting. Shortly after you will notice the green shoot begin to emerge from the top of the bulb, and within 4-6 weeks you will see your first bloom. During the last two weeks, the stems grow quite rapidly, so if you are using a short container you might want to try staking them with a stick (or chopstick) and a twist tie or thread. However, because of the smell I'm usually about ready to ditch them by the time they get that tall ;)

(Images: Leah Moss)

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