paperwhites on the rocks

buddha-wpaperwhitesI AM REMINDED BY MY ANNUAL EMAIL from a venerable gardener in Rhode Island that paperwhites are lushes, and need a stiff drink their first two waterings to stay compact and less tipsy than they would otherwise. Depending on the “proof” of the alcohol you use, the mixture can be about 1:8 alcohol:water; her recommendations for serving them on the rocks are on this old post, and a fact sheet from Cornell can be had here. We are, of course, talking about serving them on the rocks, as in pebbles. Cheers!

  1. Debbie Moyes says:

    I LOVE the smell of paperwhites and couldn’t get through the winter without them or my amaryllis, which are still napping in the basement. I do not recommend the alcohol (for the plant!) though. I have found it to make the flowers very thin and papery….
    Oh- and the birds (robins) have eaten all the berries in the yard except for the one winterberry I put netting around! I did want a few branches for Christmas arrangements and then the birds can have them!

  2. Fred from Loudonville, NY says:

    I have had FUN forced paperwhites, since receiving three bulbs in a plastic starter kit, as a Christmas gift, years ago. I think the problem people have with paperwhites, is that the force TO MANY at one time, and that makes for TO MUCH smell. I think a person should force THREE, FOUR tops at any given planting. Just because you see a large planting in some shelter magazine, or a SO CALLED garden expert plants many at once, that does not mean that will be right for you! I only like having paperwhites around for the three months, following Christmas. After Christmas, and the New Year, I am ready for spring to come again. I have a collection of tall glass vases, that I put two to three inches of crushed stone in. Then I kind of nest the bulbs in the stones. I full the containers with water, JUST to, or below the bottoms of the bulbs. The bulbs are NOT submerged, in any way in the water. After about three or four days, the bulbs show signs of growth. As the roots grow a bit, they push themselves out of the crushed stones a little, that is OK. As soon as I plant, and water the paperwhites, I place them on my kitchen counter in front of the windows, where they stay all through their growth period. I do three forcings through out the winter months, ALONG with hyacinth, amaryllis, and crocus, that I buy in the super market. The hyacinth is as SMELLY as the paperwhite, so I only get the ones that are ONE to a pot. I love looking through the INDOOR winter garden, of blooming spring bulbs, as it is desolate, and snowing outdoors. ALSO, in past years, after the paperwhites have finished blooming, I have taken a pair of scissors to them, cutting all of their foliage back by half. For a week, or two, it looks like I am growing some kind or ornamental grass. As for the leaves flopping, put a small bambo stick in the back of the planting, and tie a but of jute string around the greenery.

  3. Johanna says:

    Fred– My point exactly! I love the look of a whole galvanized tub of paperwhites, but I would never ever be able to live with them! Just a few alongside the amaryllis and poinsettia (I know, some people don’t like poinsettia but I need them at Christmas!) and the holiday season is complete for me. Oh — not to mention the Christmas cactus, mine is just starting to bloom now!

  4. Prairiecactus says:

    I want to do paperwhites this year…just a few, and I am in search of a new Christmas cactus. I want a vibrant fire red orange one (mostly red) to place in my living room…any recs?
    I have low light issues in my house and have to juggle things around some to get the blooms I want and crave in the winter.
    Thank you for such a lovely blog.

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Prairiecactus. I often look in the listings at Logee’s to see what they recommend but basically if you want a good-sized plant you have to buy locally, and so I just scout around the nurseries here that sell houseplants for something just in bud or thereabouts. Hope you find a beauty!

  5. I can’t imagine thinking that paperwhites smell TOO much! I can’t get enough. My daughter, now 25, says that if somelthing ever happened to me (untimely!) she would long for the scent of my paperwhites more than anything else… I’ve always loved that thought!

  6. Gloria says:

    I can not handle the smell of paper whites, love the blossoms! My meditation area needed the vibration raised with blossoms. I feel in love at Wegman’s Grocery Store! Where the Vintage Hydrangea stole my heart. What beauty, what color, what a feast for the eyes.
    No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
    No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds – November! ~Thomas Hood

  7. teaorwine says:

    Though strong and unpleasant to many, I love the pungent odor emitted by paperwhites. It is unique to the holidays for me.

    I am told that paperwhites are especially fond of gin.

  8. Deana says:

    I was given a paperwhite as a gift… and to my suprised black thumb it bloomed very quickly. I didn’t know anything about how to take care of it other than watering so I never used the alcohol to stunt the growth. One of the stems is at least 1 1/2 ft tall and is laying over…. Is it OK to cut off the stems to make them shorter? It has the prettiest bloom!! Will it bloom again? I am not the biggest fan of the smell so I couldn’t have several in my home, but love the one I have and will definitely plant them each year now!!

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Deana. No, it will not bloom again; you can cut the flower stems to a desired length and put them as cut flowers in a shorter vase if you prefer at this point, like a bouquet instead of a plant, and toss the rest (or leave it all as is and toss all when bloom is finished. I hate the smell myself, though some people love it. See you soon again, I hope.

  9. Joolz says:

    Grew the paperwhites in the drink, and they were lovely. However, I like Fred’s idea of 3-4 at a time. I put them all in the pot (6-7) at once. I could have had two, and staggered them, for longer loveliness. Next year. Meanwhile I tried some hyacinths in water, and some in soil. The ones in water are growing more quickly.

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Joolz. I have never done well with hyacinths, though supposedly they are easy. Good luck with them, and if your local garden center has any left, you can still do more batches of paperwhites this year; plenty of time, if you can get the bulbs. See you soon again!

  10. Edie says:

    I have a pot of paperwhites going right now. I don’t mess with pebbles or glass bits anymore. I just re-use the potting mix my summer plants grew in and stake the plants. The first flowers opened this week, and I’m already wishing I had ordered bulbs instead of buying the generic paperwhites locally. The different varieties of paperwhite carry different scents, so it’s worth trying several to find a fragrance you enjoy. I prefer the brightly colored versions, but I’ve only been able to get them via mail-order.

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Edie. Yes, some of the more colorful ones are fun, and I think smell better (less overpowering) as I recall. Thanks for your suggestion of recycling potting soil, and hope to see you soon again.

  11. mindy arbo says:

    the alcohol treatment can also be used on amaryllis. The % is supposed to be less than 10% . I use the least expensive of all alcohol, isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol )at 10 parts water to 1 part alcohol. After plumping my amaryllis bulb roots in warm water overnight, i plant them in a very free draining potting mix w/ 2/3 of he bulb sticking up above the soil surface. I place the potted bulb on a saucer , water it once with warm water and place that on one of our old fashioned forced hot water radiators- to more quickly stimulate root and stem growth. When the soil is dry, i water w/ the alcohol solution.After the flower stems emerge and reach a height of 4″ above the bulb, I begin watering with the alcohol mixture. Here is a link to a great time lapse video illustrating the alcohol effects, and an article about the topic.

  12. maria says:

    do you mean that once the paperwhites bloom in the vase of water they are finished, meant to be thrown away? I thought maybe I could plant the bulbs in a pot of dirt now? The roots are still so healty!

    1. Margaret says:

      Hi, Maria. Narcissus bulbs that are “forced” into bloom this way tend to get exhausted and be one-season plants, but yes, you can try if you like. But remember they need a chill period (a fake winter) before they will bloom again next year and that’s hard to simulate in a pot in your house. So typically they are grown like our summer garden annuals — mostly tossed after use. If they are hardy in the ground in your zone (they are not here) you could add them to the garden and see if that brings them back to a vigorous state.

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