Winter can become dreary, especially for gardeners who cannot play outside due to the cold weather. So, why not bring some Spring indoors by forcing paperwhite narcissus bulbs to bloom early?
Forcing a bulb means to make it flower by other than naturally occurring conditions. The process can be fun and rewarding for gardeners and children, too. Many spring-flowering bulbs can be forced indoors, including daffodils, tulips and hyacinths.
One of the easiest bulbs to force is the paperwhite narcissus, a type of daffodil. This bulb does not require a cold treatment to induce flowering.
The paperwhite, along with many other spring-flowering bulbs, originated in the Mediterranean region. The flowers are usually white, although some cultivars have yellow or pinkish cups.
Here’s a fun activity for a gloomy winter day. Place 1 to 2 inches of washed gravel or stone in the bottom of a container. The container needs to be 3 to 4 inches deep and have no holes.
Next, carefully place paperwhite bulbs, pointed side up, on the bed of rock you just prepared. Then, place more gravel or stones around the bulbs to keep them in place.
You will need to add water to your pot. Add only enough water to bring the level to the base of the bulbs – you want the bulbs to sit on the water, not drown in it! Maintain the water at this height.
Place your pot in a cool location – 60 to 65 degrees Farenheit – in the house preferably in a window with a southern exposure. When the plants begin to bloom, move them out of the sun and into a cool location to help prolong bloom time.
Once the flowers have all finished, you will need to compost the bulbs. Paperwhites are not reliably hardy in our area and will mostly likely die in our cold weather.
Forced paperwhites add a little spring when the air is cold and the scenery is bleak. They make a fun learning project for children and are a nice gift for friends.
For more information on forcing bulbs, go to www.caes.uga.edu, click “Publications” at the top of the page, then type Flowering Bulbs for Georgia Gardens into the Search Publications line.
Randy Drinkard is a retired technical writer for The UGA Center for Urban Agriculture and ANR Agent for Troup Cooperative Extension. The Troup County Extension office is located at 114 Church St. in LaGrange and may be reached at 706-883-1675, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.