Every paperwhite bulb has all that it needs to sprout a living bouquet

November 11, 2020

It is November and because of the pandemic, our world is turned upside down. Who would have dreamed that my hands would consume more alcohol than my mouth? Now old folks are sneaking out of the house, and their kids keep yelling at them to stay indoors. Even the World Health Organization is in on it when WHO announced that dogs cannot contract COVID-19, so any dogs previously held in quarantine can now be let out. Yes, WHO let the dogs out.

At times like this with the dark wind howling and snow ready to attack, what you really need is a simple, easy to bloom indoor flower, the paperwhites. These bulbs start growing as soon as they are planted, and burst into fragrant bloom in just three to four weeks.

As soon as you get your bulbs, take them out of the packaging so they can breathe. If you can't plant them right away, put them in a dark, dry place where they will keep for a few weeks.

These tender bulbs will happily grow and burst into bloom with nothing more than water.

Every paperwhite bulb has all that it needs to sprout a living bouquet. You can simply set the bulbs in pebbles to hold them upright in a shallow bowl of water, and in just a few weeks they will burst into bloom. Many people pot them up at two- to four-week intervals so they always have some blooming. Your paperwhite bulbs will bloom four to six weeks after planting.

To plant your paperwhite bulbs in water, start by carefully placing a layer of pebbles about two inches deep. Set a layer of paperwhite bulbs very close to each other, with the roots facing down. Place some pebbles around and between the bulbs to hold them down.

Slowly add water until the water level just touches the bottom of the bulbs. Do not cover the bulbs with water or they will rot. Be sure the tops of the bulbs are not under water and are exposed to the air. To grow paperwhites in soil, fill a pot three-quarters full of potting soil. Place the bulbs, pointed end up, on top of the soil and cover with more soil, leaving the necks and tips uncovered. Water the pot thoroughly after planting.

Place the potted paperwhites in a cool spot (50-60°F is best) away from direct sunlight. Add water only if the potting soil is dry an inch beneath the surface. Never water more than once a week until the paperwhites are growing vigorously, or when the water level is more than one inch below the pebbles if you are growing them in water. Actively growing bulbs need plenty of water without being waterlogged.

Three weeks or so after potting, you can move the pots where they will get lots of indirect sunlight.

Your paperwhites might get tall and lanky and fall over, so it is best to hold them up straight and tall with small stakes and twine.

Blooming takes a lot out of a bulb, and once your paperwhites finish blooming, you may want to just toss them out. You can try to nurture them for another year although most forced bulbs simply die after blooming.

Pot up some paperwhites and enjoy nature indoors even during the pandemic. And remember the words of Dire Straights, “If you use your stimulus check to buy baby chicks, then you got the money for nothing and the chicks for free.”

  • Paul Barbano writes about gardening from his home in Rehoboth Beach. Contact him by writing to P. O. Box 213, Lewes, DE 19958.

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