I love to decorate for the holidays as naturally as possible. And finding just the right mix of planted and cut foliage and flowers is my well-balanced decorating solution. Every year, one of my absolute favorites is the Narcissus Papyraceus – a part of the Daffodil family, also commonly known as Paperwhites. They grow to be 12-18 inches tall and produce beautifully delicate bunches of very fragrant white flowers. They are very much like a Casablanca or Rubrum Lily – you either love the fragrance or don’t. I have to admit it – I love it.
Now (November and December) is the time to keep my eyes peeled for loose bulbs that are sold in garden centers, and fill up a bag with a dozen or so as often as I can find them (usually by the new year they’re harder to find and sold out). I stock pile the bagged bulbs in a cool spot (like my cellar), and spread out my plantings – never planting them all at once – so we continuously enjoy white papery blooms throughout the winter.
The container makes all the difference. I have a big old basket that has a galvanized metal liner, and this has become my main Paperwhite planting container. Its’ generous scale holds about 40-50 bulbs, and makes quite the gorgeous statement when in full bloom – which takes about 2-3 weeks. I also plant up smaller, and more shallow clay pots with single or clusters of bulbs that are so pretty and more impactful when grouped together. Whether using a large or small container, I fill the bottom inch with crushed stone, shells, rocks, or shards of broken clay pots. Then I fill with potting soil about 1 inch from the top. I place each bulb, pointed side up, about 1/3 into the soil (2/3 of bulb should be above soil line). I like really full arrangements, so I plant the bulbs pretty snuggly together, and water well. I place the pots on a big copper tray and position them in a sunny spot. As they start growing, they will literally push themselves out of the soil. No worries – just push them back in, and keep the soil moist. And if I want to slow down their growth, I put them in the dark for a couple of days, and then return them to their sunny spot. Once they’re in bloom, and to keep them blooming longer, I move them to a cooler spot (between 55-65 degrees F) with indirect light.
Like the Amaryllis, these plants are beautiful in their process of growing, and I just love making them a part of my holiday decor from the moment they’re planted.