Forcing paperwhite narcissus blubs in the midst of winter to produce snow-white blooms for the holidays is a favored activity for children and adults alike. Typically available in kits during the winter holidays, paperwhite blubs bloom in 4 to 6 weeks after forcing. What you may not know is that you can purchase paperwhite narcissus bulbs from a florist or seed catalog and force them to bloom at the desired time for birthdays and special events.
Purchasing Paperwhite Narcissus Bulbs
Purchase bulbs that are plump, white and firm. Soft or discolored bulbs will not produce well and should be discarded. You will need 4 to 6 bulbs per planting.
Determine the Desired Bloom Time of Your Paperwhite Narcissus
Determine when you would like your narcissus to bloom. Blooms appear 4 to 6 weeks after forcing and last for two weeks or more. Of giving the narcissus blooms for a gift, aim for 4 weeks. If you wish to have the narcissus bulbs in full bloom on the projected date, 6 weeks is safer.
Prepare Your Paperwhite’s Container
Select a short fat vase or container. Although it’s not necessary, many prefer to use clear glass containers to allow the developing roots to show. If you prefer not to see the roots, an opaque container will work as well.
Place a layer of pebbles in the bottom of the container. You can use regular pebbles from outside, but using colored glass nuggets, polished stones or other decorative items enhances the overall appearance of the narcissus bulbs. The object of the pebbles is to hold the bulbs securely while allowing roots to reach below the rocks into the water.
Planting Your Paperwhite Narcissus Bulbs
Position the narcissus bulbs in the vase so that they are tightly packed. Bulbs should touch both each other and the sides of the vase. This provides support for the growing narcissus plant and creates a compact arrangement.
Add water to cover the stones, but do not cover the bulbs. Water that barely touches the bottom of the bulb will prompt the narcissus bulb to send out roots. Roots will seek the water among the rocks.
Place Paperwhite Narcissus in a Cool Dark Area
Place the vase and the narcissus bulbs in a cool dark area with temperatures between 50 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit until green shoots appear. Shoots typically appear within two weeks. Check often and keep the water level so that it barely touches the base of the bulbs.
Move Paperwhites to a Sunny Location
Move the paperwhite narcissus bulbs to a brightly lit window where household temperatures remain between 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Monitor the growth of your paperwhite narcissus. If growth becomes tall and spindly, move to more light.
Prolonging Your Paperwhite Narcissus Blooms
Once your paperwhite narcissus blooms, move it to a cool location out of direct sunlight to prolong the blooms.
University of Vermont Extension: Paperwhites for Winter Bloom
Purdue University Horticulture: Paperwhite Narcissus