It’s the time of year for Paperwhite Narcissus, so here’s what you need to know. Paperwhites are members of the Amaryllidaceae family. This makes them related to amaryllis, snowdrops, daffodils, etc.
Facts About Paperwhites
They are native to the warmer regions of the Mediterranean, from Greece to Portugal. This means that we cannot grow them in our yards, but unlike their cousins, daffodils, they do not need a cold winter, so they bloom easily indoors. All you need is a watertight container and something to anchor the bulbs because they can be a bit top-heavy when they bloom.
Paperwhites Make Great Gifts
You can get inventive and use almost any container capable of holding water—even a coffee mug or a pretty glass bowl. A ceramic coffee mug with a paperwhite blooming can make a pretty and inexpensive gift. You can anchor them in the container using marble chips, decorative rocks (like from a craft store), or even colored aquarium gravel.
How to Grow Paperwhites Successfully
Choose a watertight container at least three inches deep to grow paperwhites successfully. Add a layer of marble chips or rocks to the bottom and arrange the bulbs on top. Fill in around the bulbs with more gravel—do not cover over the tops of the bulbs. Add water till it’s just BENEATH the bottom of the bulbs. The root tissue of the bulbs can sense water and grow towards it. If the bulb sits in water, it may rot.
A sunny window during the day will give you sturdier flower stems. To keep them even shorter and sturdier, after ten days of growing, you can replace the water in the container with a water and alcohol solution—one part water to seven parts gin! Do not use beer or wine, as the sugars may rot the bulbs.
Let’s Make Growing Paperwhites a Family Fun Project
Now, part of the fun of getting a gift of paperwhites is watching them grow, so I usually pot them up a day or two ahead of when I give them. Sometimes (kids love this), I give them the bulbs, a container, and the gravel and let them pot them themselves.
After you finish potting them up, pot up another container—for YOU. Who deserves it more?