GENERAL INFORMATION: Paperwhites (Narcissus papyraceus) will bloom five to seven weeks after planting and do not require special ‘forcing’ treatment.
POTS (WITH DRAINAGE), SOIL & PLANTING: Use any kind of pot with drainage holes for growing, though wider-than-tall bulb pots and bulb pans are ideal. The pot must be about one and a half times as tall as the bulb to allow adequate space for the roots. Plant the bulbs in a soil mixture composed of regular potting soil to which is added ¼ volume of sand and one tablespoon of bulb fertilizer (5-10-5) per six-inch pot. Use five or six paper white bulbs in each six- inch pot. Fill the pot loosely, so that the bulbs are barely covered. The soil level should be about one-half inch below the top of the pot. Water to settle the mix but do not compact the soil; thereafter, water occasionally to keep the soil moist.
POTS (WITHOUT DRAINAGE), SOIL & PLANTING: Bulbs may also be grown in a container without drainage. Use gravel, pebbles, stone chips, coarse sand or marbles as the planting medium. Anchor the bulbs by heaping the pebbles or other material all around them, leaving only the top one-half inch or so of the bulb exposed. Add water until the level reaches just above the base of the bulbs. Move the pot and bulbs into a cool, well-lit spot and water when the soil surface dries. Several universities have found that by watering the bulbs with a 4% to 5% alcohol solution, they will have shorter, heavier stems. To get this solution, use one part gin or vodka (80 proof equals 40%) to eight parts of water. Beer, wine, bourbon or other colored alcohols won’t work. They will kill the plants.
LOCATION: Place the planted bulbs in a cool, well-lit spot (50-60 degrees). This could be outdoors on the north or east side of the house or under a tree which permits filtered light to pass through.
When the flower buds begin to show, move the pot to a warmer (65-70 degrees), brighter area. This might be a sunny porch or patio. Avoid a place where the plants will be beaten down by heavy rain. If temperatures are colder than 65-70 degrees the bulbs’ bloom may be delayed. Do not bring the pots inside as this will cause the leaves and stems to get very long and floppy. When the buds are almost ready to open, the pots may be brought indoors. The flowers will bloom in any location but will last longest in a cool, bright room.
LONGER BLOOMING: Store extra bulbs in the refrigerator crisper away from any kind of fruit and repeat the process described above every two weeks to get prolonged bloom. You may start the process as early as the beginning of October and continue until early December.
AFTER BLOOMING: When the flowers have finished blooming, they can be planted in the garden if they have been grown in a soil mixture. If the bulbs have been in a non-soil, they must be discarded.
When the bloomed-out plants are planted in the garden DO NOT BRAID, remove or trim the foliage. The plant needs maximum foliage to make next year’s bulb. Plant the bloomed out plant in a sunny area that gets little or no summer water. Dig a hole a bit deeper than the soil in the pot, knock the soil ball out of the pot and drop it in the hole. Fill with remaining soil – NO COMPOST—water the hole until it stops bubbling. It’s OK to trim foliage after it turns brown and is completely dry.