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!

(Fall Bulb Planting & Care)

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Tip toe through the Tulips, dilly-dally in the Daffodils, fraternize with the Fritillarias, take a hiatus in the hyacinths, snooze in the snowdrops, cruise through the crocus, be at peace in the Alliums…hmmm…I know I forgot one…oh, and idle in the Iris. Doesn’t all of that sound so nice and relaxing?! A little corny, I know, but nonetheless, relaxing. In the spring, this could be you but only if you do some work now. Yes, folks, you need to get your hands a little dirty this fall for lots of enjoyment this spring.

We have a bevy of beautiful bulb choices and we are so close to perfect bulb planting weather. Typically when nighttime temperatures dip down consistently between 40 and 50 degrees, it is bulb planting time. Let’s get going!

*Pick out your favorite bulbs. One of each, right?! It is just so hard to choose.

*It is still a little warm so tuck your bulbs into the refrigerator for a couple of weeks. Yes folks, the refrigerator. Not right next to the fruit. Fruit releases rotting gasses. Ew. The cold refrigerator will help the bulbs harden off and withstand winter better.

*When night temperatures dip into the 40’s now it’s time to plant. Yay!

*Get a good bag of soil like Van Wilgen’s Premium Planting Mix or some compost. Most bulbs like the soil rich. Alliums might be the exception.

*Mix Bulb-Tone or Bone Meal into each planting hole. Use an inorganic fertilizer like Van Wilgen’s Slow Release, if animals digging up your bulbs is an issue.

*Dig a hole that is 3X’s deeper than the height of the bulb. i.e. If the bulb is 2 inches high, dig a hole that is 6 inches deep. This will ensure that the soil is loose enough for healthy root development.

*Plant bulbs 2X’s deeper than the height of the bulb. i.e. If the bulb is 2 inches high, plant it 4 inches deep.

*If squirrels, voles, and chipmunks are an issue, add some deterrents. Perma-Till/Volebloc is a course material that permanently discourages these critters. I Must Garden’s Mole & Vole Repellent is really helpful mixed into the soil with the bulbs.

*Water. One time a week is usually sufficient for bulbs.

*Take a winter’s nap.

*Be patient.

In the spring you will be excited to see the beautiful metamorphosis of your bulbs into beautiful flowers! For now, happy fall planting.

Come see us at Van Wilgen’s. We would love to help!

For as long as I can remember, there was a thin line between winter weather and spring weather. A question often asked is, “what’ll happen to my bulbs that have popped?”
Good question. Most spring bulbs, with the exception of tulips, are very hardy and very reliable. Most come from mountain climates where the weather is extreme. Connecticut is slightly more hospitable than the mountains of Tibet, Turkey, and the Swiss Alps. Not to worry, my suggestion is to let nature take its course. When the weather dips in temperature, many bulbs shrink back into the soil.
Tulips are a different matter. Should the temperature dramatically, cover the emerged foliage with burlap or towels for the night. If blooms or buds are facing cold temps, just cover clumps with a five-gallon bucket secured with a brick. Tulip flowers are delicate. Be sure to remove the covers in the morning to keep flowers from bolting.