Yard and Garden: Forcing Paperwhite Narcissus

October 31, 2018, 2:57 pm | Richard Jauron, Willy Klein

AMES, Iowa — Narcissus is a popular flowering bulb typically grown indoors over the winter months. Paperwhite narcissus is a type of narcissus flowering bulb that makes for great home decoration during the holidays. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach horticulturists share information on paperwhite narcissus to help brighten homes this winter. 

paperwhite narcissus blooms.How do I force paperwhite narcissus?  

Paperwhite narcissus bulbs can be forced in clear, shallow bowls (no drainage holes) or pots.  

When forcing paperwhite narcissus in bowls, partially fill the container with washed gravel or stones. Place the bulbs on the gravel or stones. Then place additional gravel or stones around the bulbs, leaving the tips (noses) of the bulbs exposed. Add water to the bowl until it touches the bottoms of the bulbs. Maintain the water at this level throughout the forcing period.  

When forcing paperwhites in pots, partially fill the container with potting soil. Place the bulbs on the soil surface. Then add additional potting soil. When potted, the tips of the bulbs should stick above the potting soil. For ease of watering, the level of the potting mix should be .5 to 1 inch below the rim of the container. Water the potting soil thoroughly. Keep the potting soil moist throughout the forcing period.  

Place the planted bulbs in a cool (50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit), dark location for one to two weeks to encourage root growth. When the shoots reach a height of 3 inches, move the plants to a sunny window with a temperature of 60 to 70 F. As the plants continue to grow, staking is often necessary as the plants tend to be rather floppy. Flowering typically occurs three to six weeks after potting. When the paperwhites begin to flower, move the plants from direct sunlight to prolong their bloom period.  

What are some paperwhite narcissus varieties?  

Paperwhite narcissus cultivars include ‘Ariel’ (white flowers, mild fragrance), ‘Bethlehem’ (creamy white petals, yellow cup, mild musky fragrance), ‘Chinese Sacred Lily’ (white petals, yellow cup, citrus-like fragrance), ‘Galilee’ (pure white flowers, moderate musky fragrance), ‘Grand Soleil d’Or’ (yellow petals, orange cup, sweet fruity fragrance), ‘Inbal’ (white flowers, mild pleasant fragrance), ‘Wintersun’ (white petals, yellow cup, sweet fragrance), and ‘Ziva’ (pure white flowers, strong musky fragrance).  

What should I do with paperwhite narcissus bulbs after they have been forced indoors?  

Paperwhite narcissus bulbs should be discarded after flowering. Paperwhites cannot be successfully forced again and are not winter hardy outdoors.


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