Dorothy asks, “What are Paperwhites?”
Paperwhites are a member of the daffodil family. They are bulbs that produce clusters of fragrant white flowers. They are very easy to force into bloom in the house during late fall and winter.
Like with other bulbs, the bigger the bulb the larger the flowers. I have found the inexpensive Paperwhite bulbs often sold in big box and grocery stores are sometimes inferior with smaller flowers. You can get better results from purchasing larger bulbs from plant nurseries or by mail. At a nursery one Paperwhite bulb will cost .79 or .89 cents.
They produce beautiful fragrant white flowers with very little effort. While they can be potted up with soil, they do just as well in a vase of marbles or small pebbles. Fill a tall vase about ½ to ¾ full of marbles or pebbles and add water to the top of the stones. Sit the Paperwhite bulbs close together with pointed end up, on top of the stones/marbles. Place them in a sunny window and soon they will begin to produce roots, eventually filling the bottom of the vase. As they grow add water to maintain the level. In a couple of weeks, they will send up flower stalks.
Paperwhites can become leggy, so it helps to put them in a taller vase for support. Some people add about 30% hard liquor (not beer or wine) to the water which stunts the growth of the leaves. Too much liquor can hurt the foliage. After they bloom it is best to toss the bulbs and replace them with new ones for another round of flowers.
The most popular Paperwhite has been ‘Ziva’ which have a very strong fragrance. My father hated the smell of Paperwhites, but many enjoy the sweet smell of spring on cold snowy days. Often the variety, ‘Inbal’ paperwhites are sold in nurseries with a more delicate scent.
A few weeks ago, I ordered 50 Paperwhites from a mail order company to help me get through the winter. Before winter is over, I might be driving to my favorite nursery to buy more!
Born and raised in Ohio Rick presently lives in an old house in a small central Ohio town, famous for its giant gourds. Rick comes from a family of avid gardeners. Now retired, he had the privilege to work with people with disabilities for over thirty years. His tiny city garden is crammed with an assortment or a collection of plants. During the long cold Ohio winters he continues gardening in the house and in his small backyard greenhouse. He is passionate about plants and writing. In his youth he traveled the world. The diversity of plants around the world is amazing! He especially enjoyed my time teaching in a bush school in Africa and spending a summer with the legendary Masai Tribe on the Serengeti Plain. For years, he has enjoyed the study of the ancient uses for plants and herbs. Many cultures today still believe in the magical qualities of plants. Grow a tomato, a tree, or plant some tulip bulbs, or grow some herbs in your kitchen window. It will make you feel good and you will be making our world a better place!