Forcing Paperwhites/ Narcissus Bulbs

    Paperwhites or narcissus are named after the mythological character Narcissus. There a few different versions of the myth of Narcissus (some including the nymph Echo & a curse) but most end with the haughty handsome boy falling in love with his own reflection in a pond and staying there loving himself until the day he dies. (hence the term "narcissist.")

    A narcissus flower is said to have bloomed in the spot after his death.

    Every Winter I think about forcing paperwhite bulbs. I just love the idea of having fresh flowers all winter & of course the small is insanely good. (I tried it one year but they don't do very well when you don't water them.) But THIS year, I'm doing it. I want that smell and I want those beautiful little white fowers all over my house. A neighbor of mine forces amaryllis & other bulbs as Christmas gifts & I think it's just a perfect idea. She times them so they're in bloom when she gives them.
    I'm going to give them to all of the people in my life who love themselves too much as a hint for them to change their narcissistic attitudes- it's about time! (hahahah no, totally kidding... I'll give them to the people I love too much ;)
    If you're anything like me & often a little short on time (and you're giving it to someone who you think might enjoy a mini-project & the waiting & watching for blooming bulbs) then you could also make them a pretty bulb-forcing kit with all of the ingredients needed: beautiful container, stones/gravel/etc., a bulb, and directions. How perfect are these paperwhites in julep cups (real simple mag) below?!
    I'm loving them on this Christmas mantle (below, Martha Stewart):
    And look at this huge trough on a kitchen island from here :
    And pretty much anything in an urn is gorgeous to me (image below from
    I'm loving the wild-vintage look in the photo below (from the Netherlands Flower Bulb Information center). Clear glass vases are easy to come by (in fact, pilsner glasses from a place like Ikea would be really beautiful & affordable) and I love seeing the root systems. A very raw/ natural look:
    There are so many different options for planting. One of my favorites (and I cannot find the photo I'm looking for- arg!!) is to use vintage tea cups. Oney teacups are so inexpensive at flea markets & thrift stores and would make a beautiful gift. Check out this gorgeous metal (can't tell if it's copper or something else from the pic, pot below:
    And they look perfectly simple in even just a plain white pot (
    Here's a quick How-To for forcing paperwhites:
    ( I got the information from an article on with photos by Kerry Michaels)

    1. Pick your container: If it's tall, you won't need to stake the paperwhites when they eventually bloom, but if it isn't, be prepared to have stakes, chopsticks, etc.

    2. Add 2-4 inches of stones, pebbles, gravel, anything non-porous to your container. (This keeps the bulbs in place & out of the water.. you just want the roots in the water.)

    3. Add the bulbs. If you're doing multiple bulbs , make sure they're all at the same level & nestled into place so you can keep the roots (not bulbs under water- bulbs will rot)
    4. Water & Alcohol:
    ***UPDATE*** I've gotten lots of great emails & comments from readers who've grown narcissus themselves and they mention adding alcohol to the water to keep the plants from becoming too leggy. They say to just use water until the first sign of a green shoot arrives and then use approx 1 part alcohol to 10 parts water or 4-6% from that point on. (There are lots of different ratios floating around out there for how much alcohol to use & the article I read said no more than 10%.)

    4. They do best in a cool spot out of direct sunlight for a couple of weeks. After they root, put them in a bright warm spot to speed up flowering. (The author of the article says she just keeps them on her kitchen countr the whole time.) Once they bloom (4-6 weeks after planting) you might need to stake them with something to keep them from falling over.

    Here are a few inexpensive sources I found & thought I'd share with you:

    For a vase similar to the one in the image above, try here (2 for $8.98)

    Buy (already started/ forced?- It was hard to tell) bulbs here: $16.95 for $25

    And here there's a deal with 30 for $19.95 and 15 for $10.95

    I'd also heard that Walmart has them but don't have one near me...

    SO, I'm going to give it a go this year & of course I'll take pics & show you how it goes when they bloom. I'm very impatient with these sorts of things but I'm going to try my best to water the bulbs this time!! (Image below from Country Living) I want these flowers!!!



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