Home & Garden

Grow perfect paperwhites

Author: Canadian Living

Home & Garden

Grow perfect paperwhites

This story was originally titled "Perfect Paperwhites" in the January 2009 issue. Subscribe to Canadian Living today and never miss an issue!

Act now and you can enjoy the beauty and perfume of blooming paperwhites by Valentine's Day (hint: they make a great romantic gift!). And it couldn't be easier – just add water!

First off, look for undamaged, firm, fat bulbs (bigger is better), then choose a container. Anything watertight will work, but one that's heavy and 10 to 12.5 centimetres (4 to 5 inches) deep is good so the growing plants won't tip it over, while a clear container lets you see the water level.

Fill your container with 5 to 7.5 centimetres (2 to 3 inches) of an anchoring medium such as gravel, smooth pebbles, colourful aquarium stones, or glass beads or marbles. Place the bulbs on the surface, tips up and shoulder to shoulder, then add more medium up to their shoulders.

Pour in water, filling to about 3 millimetres (1/8 inch) below the base of the bulbs (this way the roots will grow into the water, while the bulbs stay dry so they don't rot). Set the container in a cool, sunny window, maintain the water level and wait for the flowers.

Tip: To prevent floppy paperwhites, recent research from Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., suggests, wait until the shoots are about 10 centimetres (4 inches) high, then replace the water with a mix of seven parts water to one part liquor (not beer or wine) to stunt the stems and make them sturdy. Of course if you're like me and want happy paperwhites, but don't want to share your vodka, simply tie up floppy stems with ribbon or raffia.

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