On Monday I talked about forcing hyacinths. That’s not something a lot of people think about, necessarily.
Amaryllis and paperwhites (which are a form of non-hardy narcissus, a type of daffodil) are the bulbs people think of forcing in the winter. I do both of those too–because of course, why wouldn’t I? With all the plants in my house, what’s a few more?
We’ll talk paperwhites first, because those are definite “grow and then compost” bulbs. That is, if you grow them at all. They are highly scented and some people just can’t stand the smell.
If you “google” paperwhite smell, you’ll find that their chemical fragrance is actually related to gardenias, jasmine and citrus (all of which are also very strong smelling florals!).
You will also find that there are other varieties of paperwhites–and they are usually yellow, sold in bulb catalogs and quickly sold out–that do not have a strong fragrance as the white one pictured above. That one is known as ‘Ziva,’ and it is the most commonly known and sold (and perhaps the one most commonly associated with the smell that some find so offensive).
Personally, I don’t mind the smell–and I have a house with plenty of spaces where I can grow them and not be on top of them. I think, perhaps, it also helps that my house is cold and I don’t think the fragrance is a strong in the cold.
So how do you grow paperwhites? It’s simple. You set 3 or 4 or more in a bowl with some stones (you can see that I have used marbles to make it slightly more decorative), add water (just like in the hyacinth example I gave Monday, try to only add water up to the base of the bulbs so you are not rotting them) and wait. These bulbs are quick. In 2-3 weeks you’ll have flowers.
I have seen all sorts of articles about adding alcohol to the water to keep the plants from getting too tall and keeling over. It’s not much of a problem for me. Perhaps it’s my cooler house. If they tend to get a little leggy, a get a pretty ribbon to tie around the clump. Problem solved.
Once all the bulbs have bloomed, they go in the compost heap, if I can get there, or the trash if it’s too snowy. They cannot be re-bloomed. This is entirely different for amaryllis, which I will discuss on Monday.