Fake force your Paperwhite bulbs

paperwhites Narcissus papyraceus garden drama
Paperwhites, Narcissus papyraceus, are a wonderful bulb to coax into bloom at this time of year. The fragrance is strong and not to everyone's liking.

Paperwhites (Narcissus papyraceus) are cousins of daffodils and are a common bulb to force in the Christmas season. Actually, forcing bulbs has always seemed so violent a term to me. How about if we say coaxing bulbs?

Well, I purchased my paperwhites already potted, with the little buds already heading north. This is a wonderful way to go, if you are the impatient sort of gardener, and the already started bulbs are readily available at this time of year. But do yourself a favor, and at least get them out of the plastic sleeve they often come in and make them a bit more homemade in appearance.

Paperwhites will grow nicely in a light weight potting mix, heavy in peat moss, which is what mine came in, but they also grow wonderfully in just pebbles and water, which is a dramatic effect.

Paperwhites Narcissus papyraceus Garden drama
Anchor your bulbs in a pretty container with rocks and physics.

I took my potted bulbs out of the pot and the peat, and anchored them in an antique-ish casserole/serving dish with pebbles and physics. They take up a surprising amount of water, err on the side of overwatering.

If you are a fan of the movie The Devil Wears Prada, you may recall when Miranda chides Andy for smelling freesia in a bouquet at a fru-fru fashion event in Paris. This makes me think of Paperwhites, which emit a fragrance that is potent and potentially off-putting. But embrace it … like you do your Grandma’s perfume.

paperwhites Narcissus papyraceus garden drama
Paperwhites, Narcissus papyraceus, cheery, up close and personal.

You can prolong the somewhat fleeting blooms by keeping them out of direct sunlight and slightly cool, somewhere in the 60s.


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