PAPERWHITES
Flowers great for holiday, springtime blooms

November 19, 2010

by Suzann Herricks, Victoria County Master Gardener

edited by Charla Borchers Leon,
Victoria County Master Gardener
Gardeners' Dirt

VICTORIA COUNTY
MASTER GARDENER ASSOCIATION
PHOTO BY CHARLA BORCHERS LEON/VICTORIA COUNTY MASTER GARDENER
Forced paperwhites should remain in bloom for 3-4 weeks. Once the blooms are spent, trim the stalks, leaving the foliage and plant the bulbs in the ground for next year's blooms in your garden.
PHOTO BY SUZANN HERRICKS/VICTORIA COUNTY MASTER GARDENER
Paperwhites will take longer to bloom in soil in a container than those in a bowl or tray with pebbles. With good drainage and sunlight, they will bloom, go dormant and return next year
Decorating your home with paperwhites (Narcissus papyraceus) is one of the prettiest and easiest ways to brighten your surroundings for the holiday season. Planting them outside will provide your landscape with a charming herald of spring. For anyone just getting started in gardening, paperwhites are an excellent first project.

The Narcissus family, which also includes the daffodil and jonquil, was named after the mythical Greek "youth" whose name was Narcissus and who was so handsome, he couldn't stop looking at himself. While the story may be a myth, the ease of planting and the beauty of these blooms are real.

Two popular paperwhites are 'Grand Primo' (
Narcissus tazetta) and 'Double Roman' (Narcissus tazetta orientalis). Other tazetta hybrids are also available and all have beautiful bunches of white blooms and wonderful fragrance. The paperwhite 'Ziva' bulb is available in local nurseries with a very fragrant bloom that can likely be found for sale closer to the holidays. No chilling time is required and they grow well in our coastal area.

PLANT OUTSIDE FOR SPRINGTIME BLOOM


November is the perfect month to plant spring-flowering bulbs. Plant paperwhites where you can really enjoy their sign of winter's end. Mine are planted so they will be visible from my back window. Combining them with early-blooming annuals offers contrast and heightens the effect. For a natural look, place in small clumps of five to seven, or plant in drifts in the lawn and allow them to naturalize and multiply. Don't mow the grass until after the foliage withers since it provides food for the next bloom period.

Sun and good drainage are essential. If you don't have good drainage, plant in containers or raised beds. Sandy soil or soil with plenty organic matter will maximize their health. Sometimes, it is hard to tell which end of the bulb is up. It is pointed on top and flatter on the bottom. Often the remains of last year's roots are visible. Plant three times the depth of the bulb. Add compost to the bottom of the hole or incorporate some high-phosphorus, low-nitrogen fertilizer.

GROW THEM INSIDE FOR HOLIDAY CHEER

If you don't want to garden outside, paperwhites are perfect for growing indoors. Find a shallow container with good drainage and fill with a good potting soil. Tuck the bulb 2-3 inches into the soil, planting them close together, but not touching. Roots will begin to sprout in a few days. Most will bloom in five or six weeks. To plant in pebbles or glass marbles, plant so that the top inch of each bulb sits above the pebble line and water within -inch of the top of the pebbles. This keeps the base of the bulb moist without soaking it. Place them in a bright location, and watch the daily progress. It's that easy. After they bloom, let the foliage wither, and then plant the bulbs in your garden rather than toss them out. It will take one or two years for them to regain their vigor, but then they should give you years of additional pleasure.

Bulbs are available by mid-September and are relatively inexpensive at area garden centers. Squeeze to make sure they are not mushy, and check for visible signs of insects or mildew.

MAIL ORDER BULBS

Mail order bulbs may offer a wider selection. One of the best mail sources for purchasing bulbs for the Texas area is The Southern Bulb Company,
www.southernbulbs.com, a company established by Chris Wiesinger, a Texas A&M graduate who focuses his stock on heirloom bulbs that are often found on old home places throughout the South.

Other bulbs that will naturalize in this area include the following: oxblood lily, amaryllis, grape hyacinth, crinum lily, daffodil, oxalis and snowflake. One website that provides additional information about bulbs is
www.bulb.com.

Plan to enjoy the holiday season and to welcome the spring season by planting paperwhites inside or outside of your home.
PHOTOS BY CHARLA BORCHERS LEON/VICTORIA COUNTY MASTER GARDENER
These paperwhite bulbs are planted in the tray in pebbles. The top inch of each bulb should sit above the pebble line with water within -inch of the top of the pebbles. This keeps the base of the bulb moist without soaking it. Place the tray first in a cool, dark location to force their growth. Once they sprout, they will fully bloom in a bright location in 4-6 weeks.
The 'Ziva' paperwhite bulb can be found in local nurseries at this time of year. Planting the bulbs now for indoor forcing will provide beautiful, fragrant blooms for the holidays.
PREFERRED PAPERWHITES
'Grand Primo' - White flowers with a golden-yellow center cup.
'Double Roman' - Highly-sweet fragrance. Ruffles on the inner flower that fill the bloom are a creamy mixture of whites and oranges, surrounded by more white petals.
'Ziva' - Pure white flowers with a tight yellow center. With a sweet, musky fragrance, this variety is a favorite bulb for indoor forcing.

OTHER SPRING-BLOOMING BULBS

Oxblood Lily - Red flowers
Amaryllis - Single and double flowers with shades from white to red
Grape Hyacinth - Grape-like blue flowers
Crinum Lily - White, pink, rose to purple-colored flowers
Daffodil - Typically yellow, but numerous colors available
Oxalis - Various shades of pink blossoms
Snowflake - Shades of white blossoms

VCMGA COOKBOOKS AVAILABLE--End of November
Order your books by calling:

Charlie Boren, 361-582-0421
Barbara Schmidt, 361-573-3806
Doris Martinak, 361-575-4953
Linda Denker, 361-575-7203
Cost: $15; by parcel post: $18.25
The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas AgriLife Extension - Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or vcmga@vicad.com, or comment on this column at www.VictoriaAdvocate.com.