Now is the perfect time to pot up some paperwhite bulbs in order to have some white, bright winter flowers in bloom for the holidays and beyond. It is a super-easy project–here’s how.
- a pretty container–I’ve had best luck with 1 1/2 to 2 gallon-sized pots for paperwhites–I’ve found that a 1-gallon sized container is just not big enough for 4 bulbs to do well–not enough root room
- a grocery bag to line the container
- potting soil
- 4 or more paperwhite bulbs–these were less than $5 from a discount department store
- a drain tray to put under the container
Alright, now I have a lined container. I make sure that the bag handles are folded to the inside of the pot, so they don’t show.
Next, I fill the pot partway with potting soil. I never bother with fancy and expensive potting soils for container planting. The soil in a tiny container like this will give the plant no nutrition–instead, in the indoor growing environment, the plant will depend on you to feed it regularly, so the soil simply acts as a growing medium. At this point, I like to water the potting soil, to give it a chance to settle, then add some more if I need to in order to bring the soil level to the correct height for planting the bulbs. Remember, don’t overwater–you don’t want the soil to be a muddy, sloppy, slurry of a mess–instead, the goal is just enough to moisten the soil down about 8 inches in the pot.
Now it’s time to put the paperwhite bulbs in the pot. They like to be planted around 4-6 inches deep in the container, so you can adjust the soil level to the right height, then put the bulbs in, tips facing up. These plants get tall and floppy, so I like to place my bulbs in the center of the container, which leaves room for corralling all the greenery when they are in bloom later on. Through experimentation, I’ve discovered that a planting goal date of November 7th means they should be in bloom around the Winter Solstice approximately. If you plant them a little later, they’ll just start blooming a little later, that’s all.
You’ll see there is some green and white coming out of the tips already. This is fine–the bulbs are starting to show some life, and that means they are viable and ready to take off when you put them in soil and water them in.
Then fill in the rest of the pot with soil, and water it gently. You can fill it in to about 1/2 inch from the top of the pot. The soil will settle after watering, and that way water won’t run out of the pot each time you water it.
Now, you will want to put the drain tray under the pot, and then take it to a cool and dark place to hang out until the holidays. For me, this place is our unheated garage, which stays above freezing but is still quite cool overnight. I top the container with a piece of newspaper, and then forget about it until the beginning of December or so. The bulbs need darkness and cold at this point to begin the process of growth, thus the deep planting level and the newspaper. You probably will not have to water the pot again until you check it in December–at least, here in the rainy Pacific Northwest, it tends to retain plenty of moisture while in the cool environment.
Eventually in December, you will see green shoots poking out of the top of the soil. Take the newspaper off at this point. When those shoots are 2-3 inches tall, you can then bring your pot of paperwhites up into your home to let them finish the growth process and set flowers. I place my container in a south-facing window that gets bright daytime light–they do well in bright light, but slightly cooler temperature by the window pane. If you’d like to hide the edge of the bag that is showing at the soil line, feel free to add some sphagnum moss over the soil to cover it, but leave the crown of the plants bare so you can water it easily. I fertilize the bulbs with Miracle Gro fertilizer twice a month once they come upstairs and while they bloom, but you can use your favorite fertilizer for blooming plants.
These bulbs get tall and floppy when they are in bloom. One solution is to get some chop sticks, or other tallish and narrow stakes, put them around the outer edges of the pot, and then run some twine or a decorative ribbon around the sticks to help hold the stems and greenery upright.
Note: Paperwhites do have a very strong fragrance while blooming indoors. If you have allergies or don’t care for strong fragrance, this may not be the plant for you.
Now you can have lovely flowers for the winter holidays! Mine usually bloom from the end of December well into January.
Next week I’ll feature another way to have some pretty flowers over the winter months, so stay tuned!
PS–For those in the Pacific Northwest, we may have our first killing frost on Friday night. Drain and bring in your garden hoses, any decorative garden objects that can’t handle the cold, as well as any plants that could be damaged by frost.
PPS–It’s Election Day–have you voted yet? I did, and I hope you do, too!
Do you grow paperwhite for the holidays? I’d love to hear all about it in the comments, so stop by for a visit!
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Till next time,
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