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