Paperwhites! Growing Narcissus Indoors.

Paperwhites! Growing Narcissus Indoors.

The paperwhite bulbs are in! These are a very satisfying flowering bulb to grow indoors because you don’t have to have a green thumb to have them thrive. Paperwhites can be grown in pebbles and water, and all that’s required is a bright place and keeping their roots moist. Here are six tips for growing paperwhites indoors.

  1. For the best look, crowd a group of five or more bulbs in a vase or bowl. You can use two or three inches of pebbles, small rocks, seashells, or even wine corks can be used at the bottom of your container, although for shallow bowls or dishes heavier pebbles or rocks are helpful to anchor the roots in place. Lighter weight bottom fillings work better in a clear vase. Place the bulbs just slightly into the rocks or pebbles, so that most of the bulb will be held up above the water.
The paperwhite narcissus bulbs are in the store near the register.

2. Fill the dish with water so that it just touches the bottom of the bulbs. Keep that level as the plants absorb water. You’ll need to refill that reservoir more frequently as the plants grow bigger because they will be using more water.

3. If you’ve had problems with the stems flopping in the past, consider putting the bulbs in the bottom of a tall glass vase. You can still enjoy watching them root and sprout, but the vase will hold up the leaves and flower stems as they grow. You might read that adding alcohol to the water keeps them shorter…be aware that this can stunt or brown the flowers, especially if you use slightly too much alcohol. You’ll probably be happier by making other plans for supporting tall stems, and reserving the vodka for the cocktail hour.

A tall clear vase holds up Narcissus stems as they grow.

4. The leaves and flower stems grow taller in warm temperatures. If it’s important to you that your plants not stretch, grow them in a cool place and bring into warmer rooms when they are starting to flower. The only downside of this is that you miss the joy of watching the bulbs sprout and grow.

One of the pleasures of growing paperwhite narcissus is watching them develop. At the time of year when the days are rapidly growing shorter, and plants are going dormant for the winter, you can have a little bit of “springing to life” inside your home.
Clear jars and vases are nice because you can appreciate the beauty of the roots as they grow. This large vase has a layer of wine corks in the bottom.

5. If your paperwhite stems are getting quite tall and you don’t have them supported, you can use bark or foam covered wire to attractively hold them up.

These paperwhite stems are held upright with a spiral of bark-covered wire.

6. Many of our customers wonder if they can save their bulbs or plant them in the ground for the next year. Unfortunately, paperwhite Narcissus aren’t hardy in our area. They are bred to be grown indoors, but once they are finished you’ll want to shake the rocks etc off of their roots and put the finished plants in the compost.

When it comes to growing Narcissus indoors, more is more! If you use a wide vase you can fit several bulbs, packed in together, which will create a living bouquet.

Allow four to six weeks from planting to bloom. Six weeks of growing plant joy!

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