How to grow paper white for holiday decorations

How to grow paper white for holiday decorations

Most gardeners have completed their outdoor gardening tasks for the season by now and are starting to look indoors for gardening projects that will keep their hands in the soil until they return to their gardens in a few months. One indoor gardening project that can be fun is forcing paperwhites or other bulbs into winter bloom.

December and the holiday season will be here sooner than some of us would like to admit, and before the leftover turkey is safely in the refrigerator on Thanksgiving Day, many of us will start pulling out the winter holiday decorations that will adorn the interior of the house. Our homes for the upcoming holiday season. If you’re looking to add a different twist to traditional greenery decorated with red and gold accents this season, you may want to consider forcing white paper lanterns to add elegant white flowers to your holiday decor.

Paperwhites (Narcissus tazetta) are bulbs in the same genus as daffodils, and their delicate white-and-yellow blooms atop long, slender stems are the perfect backdrop for most holiday decorations, providing a color contrast to the branches of holiday evergreens with traditional red ribbons and bows.

Effecting is the term used for a plant flowering outside of its normal season, and most bulbs are well suited to forcing. Most flowering bulbs such as tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and others can be forced to flower indoors during the winter, but these bulbs must go through a chilling period ranging from three weeks for daffodils to 16 weeks for tulips. Paperwhites and amaryllis are the only flowering bulbs that do not require a chilling period to flower because they are native to the tropics.

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Start now with your Christmas flowers

Paperwhite blooms about four weeks after planting, so start now for peak holiday season blooms. Most nurseries and garden centers offer paperbacks for winter planting, and some offer bulbs already planted and growing in decorative pots. Paperwhite can be grown in potting soil, but can also be grown without soil, in water over pebbles, stones or decorative marble.

Part of the fun of forcing paperwhites into holiday decorations is choosing the container in which they will be planted. Bulbs can be planted in holiday-themed containers, vases, teapots, bowls, or almost any container that provides an accent to your holiday decorations. Single bulbs grown in jelly jars make excellent hostess or teacher gifts.

Once you’ve chosen your container, start by adding 1 to 2 inches of gravel or stones to the bottom of the container, then place the bulbs root side down on the stones (pointy side of the bulb up). Then place the stones around the sides of the bulbs until only half of the bulb is visible above the stones. Then add water to a depth just below the bottom of the bulbs. Bulbs should not sit directly in water. The container should be placed in a place with plenty of light and water added as needed.

Varieties and varieties

Many leafy white daffodil cultivars are available to home gardeners. Commonly grown varieties include:

Bethlehem (creamy white petals, yellow cup), Galilee (pure white flowers), Grand Soleil d’Or (yellow petals, orange cup), Israel (creamy yellow petals, sulfur yellow cup), Jerusalem (pure white flowers), Nazareth (petals Soft yellow, bright yellow cup) and Ziva (pure white flowers).

All of these varieties produce musky-scented flowers except Grand Soleil d’Or. This variety takes one to two weeks longer to harden than other white paper. It also does not bloom as dramatically as other varieties. However, Grand Soleil d’Or has a sweet, fruity aroma.

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Plant outdoors in spring

After the flowers have died, the bulbs can be planted in potting soil in a container and kept indoors until they can be planted outside after the danger of frost has passed. Before planting bulbs in pots, remove spent flowers and stems but leave the leaves intact. In spring, bulbs can be planted in the ground about 6 inches deep and four inches apart. The bulbs will not bloom again until the following spring.

After your holiday decorations are stored for another season, consider banishing the winter blues by planting another crop of paperwhites or other flowering bulbs in different containers to provide a continuous display of gorgeous blooms after the holiday decorations are put away, and before the first crocuses or snowdrops appear in the Outdoors later this winter.

Mike Hogan is an agriculture and natural resources extension educator and associate professor at The Ohio State University.

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