Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Perky Paperwhites

Paperwhites are a popular forcing bulb, however I prefer to have mine out in the garden. Their flowers have a fragrance that I find overpowering indoors but quite nice outdoors. In addition, here in North Texas they often start putting up their leaves in December and begin blooming before the end of January to let you know that winter won’t last forever. Growing up in North Carolina, this was the job of the crocus. I have not had luck getting crocus to repeat reliably for me in Texas so I was happy to find that I can count on paperwhites to give me the first perky blooms of the season.

This year my paperwhites first started to flower about the last week of January. While a few of the blooms are beginning to fade at the end of this third week of February, most of them are still holding their heads high and bringing welcome cheer to my winter garden. (The photos in this post were taken about a week into February.) As you can see from the photos, I have two different types of these early bulbs. The ones with the longer flower petals that are more star shaped came from an old neglected planting at a home that a friend of mine had just purchased. I don’t remember where I got the other type from but it is what you are likely to get when you buy paperwhites for forcing or if you are just buying the bulbs to plant in your garden.

Paperwhite bulbs are large, so the bottom of the hole for planting should generally be about 6 inches deep. Plant them in well drained soil in full sun to partial shade. If you know someone that will share some bulbs from their clump, wait until after flowering and after the leaves have died back by at least two thirds so that they will have a good chance of storing enough energy to flower for you next year.

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