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Paperwhite Bulbs Add A Unique Twist To Traditional Holiday Hues

Paperwhite Bulbs Add A Unique Twist To Traditional Holiday Hues

If you are looking to add a different twist to the traditional greenery trimmed with red and gold accents this season, you may want to consider forcing paperwhite bulbs to add elegant white flowers to your holiday decor. Paperwhites and amaryllis are the only flowering bulbs that do not require a chilling period in order to flower because they are native to tropical locations. Paperwhites can be planted in soil but can also be grown without soil, in water on top of decorative gravel, stones, or even marbles. 

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Gardening: Paperwhite bulbs add a unique twist to traditional holiday hues

Mike Hogan Special to The Columbus Dispatch

The holiday season will be here quicker than some of us care to acknowledge, and before the turkey leftovers are safely in the refrigerator on Thanksgiving Day, many of us will start to haul out the winter holiday decorations that will spruce up the interior of our homes.

If you are looking to add a different twist to the traditional greenery trimmed with red and gold accents this season, you may want to consider forcing paperwhite bulbs to add elegant white flowers to your holiday decor.

Paperwhites (Narcissus tazetta) are bulbs in the same genus as daffodils, and their delicate and scented white- and yellow-tinged flowers atop long slender stems are the perfect backdrop for most holiday decorations. They provide a color contrast for boughs of holiday greenery with traditional red ribbons and bows. 

“Forcing” is the term used to denote the flowering of a plant outside of its natural season, and most bulbs lend themselves well to forcing. Most flowering bulbs such as tulips, daffodils, hyacinth 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 in order to flower because they are native to tropical locations.


Start now for Christmas flowers

Paperwhites bloom four weeks after planting, so get started now in order to have blooms at the height of the holiday season. Most nurseries and garden centers offer paperwhites for winter planting, with some offering bulbs already planted and growing in decorative pots. Paperwhites can be planted in potting soil but can also be grown without soil, in water on top of decorative gravel, stones, or even marbles. 

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

Once you choose 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). Next, place stones around the sides of the bulbs until just ½ of the bulb is showing above the stones. Then add water to a depth just below the bottom of the bulbs; bulbs should not be sitting directly in the water. The container should be placed in a location with lots of light and water added as needed.


Plant outdoors in spring

After flowers are spent, the bulbs can be planted into potting soil in a container and kept indoors until they can be planted outdoors when the danger of frost has passed. Before planting bulbs into pots, remove spent flowers and stems but allow leaves to remain intact. In the spring, bulbs can be planted in the ground approximately 6 inches deep and four inches apart. The bulbs will not flower again until the following spring.

After the holiday decorations are put away for another season, consider chasing away the winter blues by planting another crop of paperwhites or other flowering bulbs in different containers to provide a continuing show of spectacular flowers long before the first crocus or snowdrops appear outside later this winter.

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