Green County MGA

Green County Master Gardeners Association, Wisconsin

Forcing Paperwhite Narcissus Bulbs

paperwhite Narcissus

Bring spring into your home to beat the winter blues! Bring a glimpse of spring to your home by forcing paperwhite narcissus bulbs!

The beautiful white blooms set above spring green leaves have a distinctive fragrance so consider whether family members or visitors to your home have sensitivity or potential allergic reactions to perfumes before choosing to force these bulbs. Unlike tulips, hyacinths or other spring bulbs, this member of the daffodil family does not require a period of chilling before planting, in order to bloom indoors. Paperwhites can be brought to bloom in just a short 4 to 6 weeks.

First, choose a container for planting. Paperwhites can be planted with or without soil so a variety of containers might be used. Some examples include: glass jars, wide mouth glass or pottery vases, decorative ceramic pots and even large seashells.

Obtain bulbs from any reputable garden catalog. You can expect to pay approximately $1 a piece for this type of bulb. Some varieties include: Ziva, the most commonly forced with pure white flowers and a very strong fragrance (a variety whose scent was not tolerated in my home); Narcissus Geranium with cream colored petals and an orange cup along with a sweeter scent; Narcissus Jetfire with yellow petals and a red orange cup.

For soil-less planting, place a one half inch layer of washed, natural rocks, similar to those used for aquariums in the bottom of your chosen container. Place the bulbs in the container and add rocks over and around them to hold them in place. Do not cover the bulbs completely. Add water to the container until it covers no more than the bottom quarter to one third of the bulbs. Keep the water at this level as the plant grows and later blooms. Place the container in an area of your home where the temperature is above 60 degrees. A sunny window is a great place to keep the container, however, move the vase or pot our of direct light and into the coolest area of your home once the flowers are in bloom to prolong the display.

To plant narcissus bulbs in soil, select a pot that is at least 4-6 inches deep.  Plant the bulbs in sterilized potting soil just below the rim of the pot with the bulb tips exposed. After planting, water thoroughly and keep the soil moist thereafter.

No fertilization is needed for either type of planting. Planting bulbs at intervals over a period of a month or two will provide flowers until the first day of spring! Discard the bulbs after blooming is complete because typically these bulbs will not over-winter in our growing zone and cannot be forced into bloom a second time.

Submitted by Ann Marie Ott, Master Gardener