Paperwhites: Easy Handmade Holiday Gifts


Photo by John Scheepers (NYT)

It may be a bit of a stretch labeling the gift of blooming paperwhites as "handmade." But hey, go with me on this one. It does take a little love and effort to force paperwhites into bloom, and they do make for a nice holiday gift.

Lucky for us, CafeMom GardenPrincess offered to share her own step-by-step Paperwhites 101 so we can all learn "how to" force some paperwhites into great holiday gifts.


Paperwhites 101 from GardenPrincess

Paperwhites, Narcissus tazetta, are bulbs that you can force easily indoors. These bulbs resemble daffodil bulbs as they are from the same genus. There are several divisions of narcissus that, while they may resemble one another in colour and shape, do differ in appearance in species and hybrid types.

Paperwhites are a fun way to try forcing bulbs as they are almost failproof. If planted every two weeks starting in November; you can have paperwhite blooms into the New Year. They don't have to be fertilized and are meant to be used once (discarding the bulb and all after they die off).

These bulbs don't need stratification (cold period) or darkness to grow and bloom. Fertilizing is not really necessary as the bulbs are not ‘planted' in a soil medium. Rather, they are planted atop small decorative garden gravel.

Paperwhites usually take about six weeks to bloom, give or take, and they can be a particularly lovely addition during the holidays.

Step 1: So to begin, these bulbs can be found in your local garden centers or home improvement and discount stores. Buy about eight paperwhite bulbs and a small bag of decorative gravel.

Step 2: I also recommend purchasing a shallow planter or dish, round or square, that is no more than two or three inches in height. A dish that is about eight to ten inches in diameter should be sufficient for the eight bulbs. If you want to plant more bulbs, purchase a larger, but not deeper dish.

Make sure the dish is clean. Add enough of the gravel to bring it to the near top of the dish.

Step 3: Carefully place the bulbs in an array about ¾ - 1 inch from each other.

TIP: Always plant your bulbs, whether forcing or planting in soil or water, with their ‘noses' up. The narrow end of the bulb faces upward, and the bunched end with the roots or little fibers are planted down.

Step 4: Gently, pour water over the stones. Moisten just to the point that the water barely touches the bottom area of the bulb.

Continue to water as the water evaporates or is taken up by the plant. Remember, water should only touch the bottom of the bulb.

Step 5: Place your dish in a sunny area. I find a north-facing window works well.

Don't forget, you can add new bulbs every two weeks for continuous blooms into the New Year. The paperwhites do have a ‘fragrance.' I find it smells like the paste we used in kindergarten.
Most of all, enjoy the result...lovely, elegant, tall, white blooms to last into 2009.

Thanks, GardenPrincess!

Once you've prepped your paperwhites, add a bow to your dish, and you can give a gift that will bloom into something extra special in the weeks to come. Nice!

GardenPrincess has been a professional horticulturalist for many years. She is a Master Gardener and a landscape designer who has taught landscape gardening, given lectures and seminars, and written gardening articles for a local newspaper. She lives in the northeast but has done landscape designs for the southwestern area too. GardenPrincess has four wonderful children and three awesome and beautiful grandchildren that forever keep her young at heart. Right now, besides gardening, she scrapbooks like crazy, only wishing she started that sooner. She also does geocache and researches genealogy, having linked her family lineage to about 1240 AD.

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