November 24th, 2012

Holiday Project: Paperwhites

Are you eager to start your Christmas decorating but feel it’s a bit too early to put up the tree? Here is a project you really must do right now. The timing is perfect to plant some paperwhites. If you get this project completed within the next couple of days, you should have lovely, fragrant flowers blooming for Christmas.

You will need:
Paperwhite bulbs (Narcissus Papyraceus) – Look for fat bulbs with no soft spots or mildew. Try to find loose or bagged bulbs so you can see what you’re buying. Avoid bulb kits which include a container, bulbs and soil. Check a good garden center.

A large glass hurricane vase

River rock gravel (available in pet stores for aquariums or at hardware stores)

Live moss (optional) I harvested mine from my yard. If you have a stone or brick wall in your garden, you probably have moss. Just peel some off. You can also use dried moss available at craft stores.

Add gravel to your hurricane to make a depth of 2 – 3”. Set bulbs, pointed end up, into the rocks. Don’t be afraid to crowd them a little. Add a few more pebbles or larger rocks to secure the bulbs, but don’t bury them.

Add small bits of moss, if desired, for contrast. Just tuck lightly between some of the rocks. Don’t cover the rocks completely, and try to avoid too much contact with the bulbs, as this may cause rot.

Now add water. Dampen the moss as you do so. Watch the level carefully. You want the water to just barely touch the bottoms of the bulbs. Now place in a sunny spot and watch the magic! You will need to add water, perhaps daily, to maintain the proper level. Growth will start almost immediately and flowers can be expected in about 4 weeks, depending on the health of the bulbs and the available sunlight.

Paperwhites can be grown in almost any water-tight container. But, because the bulbs are not buried deeply into the soil, the flowers and foliage can be expected to fall over without support. That’s why I’ve chosen to plant my paperwhites in glass hurricanes this year. The plan is that the sides of the vase will hold up the plants. We’ll see…I will post a picture once they bloom.

This project is great to do with children. They can help with the planting and will be amazed to see how quickly the plants grow. Since these are planted in clear glass containers, the roots are visible, too. It’s fascinating to see how quickly they fill in between the rocks.

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