Growing Paper Whites is fun, festive, and super easy! An elegant addition to the Thanksgiving table, a charming companion to Poinsettias for the holidays, or just a bright spot of sunshine to liven up those long gray winter days! Narcissus tazetta is a fragrant flowering bulb related to Daffodils that does not require several weeks of cold temperatures to initiate flowering. With staggered planting times, you can grow these cheerful pure white blooms indoors all winter long.
You can plant the bulbs in the traditional way using soil in a shallow container with a drainage hole in the bottom but I like the simple, clean, modern look that uses stone, gravel, colorful pebbles, or even marbles in a leak-proof glass or bowl. Choose whatever vessel you like, a vase, a shallow bowl, a Ball jar, or maybe a tall apothecary glass.
To use the water and stone method, fill the bottom of your container with 4 to 6 inches of pebbles. Place your bulbs flat side down in a slight depression on top of the rock about an inch apart then add a little bit more stone between the bulbs to keep them from falling over. Pour fresh clean water into the gravel stopping just below the base of the bulb. You do not want the bulb itself to sit in the water! If it does, it will rot. Once planted, keep the bulbs in a cool dark room between 50 and 60 degrees for several days to allow for strong root development. Once the bulbs have developed a nice root system move the container to a cool sunny location and in about four to six weeks you will see the tiny blossoms developing on the flower stems.
Paper Whites have tall thick stems and strappy cool green foliage but sometimes they can become overly tall and floppy mostly due to low levels of light or growing temperatures that are too warm. Researchers at Cornell University have discovered that adding 5% alcohol to the water of your growing plants can help to keep the growth more compact. If you would like to try it, you can use rubbing alcohol or clear liquor. Do not use beer or wine these can damage your plant. Most clear liquors are 40% alcohol (80 proof) while rubbing alcohol is about 70% alcohol so the recipe for each mix is different. Be sure to follow the mixing directions closely because too much alcohol will damage the foliage. If you choose to make a cocktail for your bulbs with clear liquor, mix 7 parts water with one part liquor. With rubbing alcohol use a mix of 1 part alcohol with 10 or 11 parts water. Follow the starting directions above until the shoots on the plant are about 2 inches tall. Then pour off the water and add the alcohol mix replacing it periodically as it evaporates with additional mix. If you follow this recipe your plants will be about one-third shorter but the flowering time will remain the same.
Have fun and Happy Gardening!
As the days get shorter, it’s time to start thinking about what we need to do to overwinter our plants. While your plants have enjoyed being outside this summer, most will need to come in before the temperatures dip below 50 degrees consistently. However, something we often get questions about is overwintering citrus and fig trees, and what extra steps we need to take to make sure they’ll get through the winter season.
Citrus, like most houseplants and tropicals, like to be transitioned slowly back inside. You can move them from out in the full sun to under a tree or a covered porch before moving them completely inside. This will give your plant time to acclimate slowly to the changing temperatures and daylight exposure.
Before bringing your citrus inside, there are a few things you should do:
- Trim off any dead or unhealthy-looking branches. This helps the plant to direct its energy to all the parts of the plant that need it most.
- Thoroughly hose down your plant by washing off any unwanted hitch-hikers from coming inside with your plant.
- Apply some mosquito bits or diatomaceous earth to your plant. This will help keep your plant bug-free from the bottom up. We recommend using a spray like a neem oil or safer insect soap for the top part of your plant to kill any bugs you may see. And the mosquito bits and diatomaceous earth for the soil, for bugs you can’t see. (This is especially important in the overwintering.)
- No fertilizing from November to March. You can start fertilizing with Espoma citrus tone starting on March 1st.
- Watering is extremely important! Water the plant as you would as if it was outside. Remember, the roots are at the bottom of that pot so you need to make sure you water the plant enough to ensure the roots can gather up that water. If you only give the plant a little each time it only goes down a few inches in the soil, which is not helping the plant.
- Remember, nothing goes back outside until after the last chance of frost, sometime around the last week or so of May.
Figs require a little different care than most citrus or houseplants. Follow these simple steps to keep your figs happy over winter.
- Let the fig tree get hit by the first frost or two.
- Once the frost has done its job, it’s time to take the remainder of the leaves off and trim up your fig tree. You basically want to make your tree look like a stumpy stick figure by trimming the branches way back.
- Next, wrap it up loosely in some burlap and place it in a cool, dark spot for the winter. Usually, an attached garage, basement, or attic works best.
- Now that your plant is ready for its long winter sleep, you will give it about 1 cup of water every month during this time. It’s enough to keep it alive but not letting it come out of dormancy.
- Sometime around mid-April slowly bring your fig tree out of hibernation. Do this by unwrapping your fig tree and bringing it to a nice cozy sunny location in your house. You can now start to water your fig tree as you would if it was outside. Your fig tree will stay in its new location until it can safely be put back outside for the summer, which will be after the last chance of frost. This is usually around the last week of May. Give or take a week or so either way.
- Once your fig tree returns to its home outside you will start fertilizing again with Espoma 5-10-5 garden food monthly. And don’t forget to add 1 cup of lime just once when you give your plant its first application of garden food. The lime will give your plant the magnesium and calcium it needs for a healthy growing season.
As always, we are here to help! If you have any questions about overwintering your plants feel free to email or call us. Happy gardening!