Paperwhites are one of the easiest bulbs to force. Their pure white flowers, long strappy foliage, and fragrance (some like it, some don’t) are a perfect living addition to interior holiday decorations. In the Lowcountry, paperwhites are also reliable, easy-to-grow bulbs in landscape beds and outdoor containers.
Paperwhite bulbs can be forced in water in crystal bowls or vases for an elegant look. They can also be planted in a soilless mix within a basket or terra cotta container for a down-to-earth look or within a brightly colored bucket (with holes) or pot for a colorful holiday display.
To plant in a container of water:
1. use a 3”-4” deep container that does not have drainage holes
2. Place 1 ½” – 2 ½” inches of washed gravel, stones, marbles or glass beads in the bottom of the container to create base to hold the bulbs in place
3. Gently push or nestle the bulbs in to the base material to hold them in place
4. Add additional support material (gravel, stones, marbles or glass beads) around the base of the bulb to hold it in place. This support material is especially important as the plant begins to grow and flower.
5. Add just enough water to bring it to base of the bulbs. Check the bulbs often and be sure to maintain the water at this level. Do not immerse the bulbs in water, only the roots should be in water.
To plant in a container:
1. Choose a container 3”- 4”deep. Any width can be used, it depends on the number of bulbs to be forced.
2. Use a soilless planting medium.
3. Plant the bulbs with the noses sticking above the soil.
4. After planting, water the medium thoroughly. Then, keep it moist!
After planting, place the container in a 60-65 degree location in your home. Paperwhites will flower in most light conditions. However, for best results, place the container in a window area with a southern exposure. When the plants begin to flower, remove them from direct sunlight and place plants in coolest area of the home. This helps to prolong the flowering of the plants.
To plant in the ground:
In zone 8-10 (at least), paperwhites can be planted in gardens or in outdoor containers. They will take longer to flower that those that are forced indoors. In your garden find a sunny location where the soil drains well. Plant bulbs in the soil 3” below the soils surface. After planting, water the soil. This will help the soil to settle in around the bulbs. You can expect to see flowers in late winter or early spring.