Growing Paperwhites in your home which flower over winter
Paperwhites are a beautifully scented, early flowering narcissus which love growing indoors as they are not hardy. Paperwhites can be planted traditionally in well-drained compost or grown hydroponically. They are lovely to have in your home over Christmas and scent an entire room.
To plant in water
To plant your bulbs, begin by carefully placing a layer of stones or pebbles to a depth of about 10cm in the vase.
Next place a layer of Paperwhite bulbs close to each other, roots facing down. Put a few stones or pebbles around and between the bulbs to anchor them in the vase. Leave the tops of the bulbs exposed.
Add water until the level reaches just below the base of the bulbs, but no higher (if the bases of the bulbs sit in water, they will rot).
Next place twigs in the vase so that the growing leaves have some scaffolding to hold them from falling over when they start flowering.
Set your container or vase in a cool place away from direct sunlight. Check the bulbs frequently and much sure the water level is never more than 2cm below the bulb.
Once a week, tug gently on the bulbs to see if they have begun to product roots. When your tug meets with firm resistance (usually about 3 weeks after potting) move the container to a sunny window.
To plant in soil
Narcissus bulbs are large, with an extensive root structure, so deep pots are ideal. Plant the bulbs just below the soil surface, about 2.5cm apart, into a soil-based compost lightened with some grit, with crocks at the bottom of the pot (or use bulb fibre).
Store them somewhere cold, at a temperature below 10ºC. Keep the compost moist, but not dripping wet.
Once the bulbs really start to shoot, with leaves up to 20-25cm, bring them into the warm. Check for watering frequently, as pots tend to dry at far quicker during the winter indoors because of central heating. Make sure the soil – about one inch down – moist – otherwise water, preferably with rainwater if you can.
The fragrant flowers bloom within about 6 weeks of planting, for almost instant gratification.
Once they have flowered Paperwhites can only be composted unfortunately and will not flower again like many other bulbs can.
Some decorating ideas with Paperwhites
Paperwhites can get quite ‘leggy’ and their leaves and flowers can fall over, so we suggest you cut some pretty lichened Hawthorn branches, Larch, Silver Birch or hazel twigs around the bulbs to prop them up in the pot to provide some ‘scaffolding’ and tie with raffia or ribbon
.Sarah Raven creates a dramatic arrangement of like a tiered wedding cake which makes a spectacular winter table centrepiece.
My old boss Elizabeth Banks use to collect bleached coral in the Bahamas and plant her bulbs in a crystal bowl with the coral and bulbs – so stylish!
When we lived in South Africa, I used polished semi-precious stones like Tigers Eye and amethyst as my pebbles. •
A willow pattern bowl of Paperwhites with any inner plastic pot of flowering Paperwhites dropped in with a covering of moss, is such a classic.
Think of using rattan wicker baskets, zinc buckets and vintage ice buckets for growing your Paperwhites in. As long as they have drainage, they will grow in just about anything!