This time of year is when paperwhites are routinely sold in stores. Many bulbs are easy to grow indoors for seasonal display and beauty. Common examples are Amaryllis and paperwhite narcissus.
Of all the types of narcissus, the paperwhite narcissus is the one most commonly sold for forcing indoors. This is because it doesn’t need an extended cold treatment to induce flowers.
Boxed bulb kits often include a pre-cooled bulb that is all ready to bloom indoors. Simply pot up and water thoroughly to get it started.
You also can start your own indoor bulb garden. Almost any bulb will work. Plant the bulbs in pots or bowls, using an indoor soil mix.
Place the bulb tips at or slightly above the soil surface. Water thoroughly.
Keep planted bulbs dark and cool – 35 to 40 degrees — for about eight weeks. Most people put them in the refrigerator or a cool garage.
Whichever method you use, once the bulb starts to grow, keep it in a warm, bright location. Do not fertilize. Continue to water as needed.
After flowering, either throw away or you can try to keep it for re-blooming. Unfortunately, pre-cooled bulbs from kits often are difficult to get to re-bloom.
Be prepared if you try the paperwhite. Paperwhites have a distinctive smell that most people do not find pleasant.
It doesn’t bother everyone, but some people really don’t like the odor. Still, it is a beautiful flower and worth trying.
By the way, there always is confusion over the names of this flower. They are called narcissus, daffodil and jonquil, and many people think all three are synonymous.
Actually, narcissus is the scientific genus name, but it is also used as a common name. Daffodil is a common name that was brought here by the English.
Jonquil, however, refers to a particular flower type, N. jonquilla, that has a reedlike leaf and sweet-smelling flowers.
Narcissus is a classical Greek name. According to Greek mythology, Narcissus was a beautiful youth who became so entranced with his own reflection that the gods turned him into a flower.
More information on growing bulbs is available at the University of Illinois Extension Website Bulbs and More at http://extension.illinois.edu/bulbs/planting.cfm.