Paperwhite Narcissus: A Thoughtful Gift for Anyone Who Loves Flowers
Paperwhites are the easiest of all bulbs to force for holiday blooms. Plant them in soil or on a bed of pebbles with water and you'll have flowers blooming in just 4-6 weeks. Paperwhite narcissus bulbs do not need to be pre-chilled in order to bloom indoors. Simply plant the bulbs and grow them in a cool room with bright, indirect light.
Growing paperwhites for your own enjoyment is a must, but these winter-blooming indoor bulbs are also a wonderful gift for friends, family, neighbors, teachers and anyone who enjoys flowers. The easiest gift is a bag of bulbs, but why not get creative and try one of these festive ways to gift paperwhite narcissus?
Kokedama is a traditional Japanese art form that displays plants in a bundle of soil and moss wrapped with twine. This is an easy way to create a striking, nature-inspired paperwhite gift. If you are new to kokedama, start small and wrap just a single bulb. To do this project, all you'll need are bulbs, growing mix, sheet moss and natural jute twine.
Making kokedama paperwhites works best if you start the bulbs ahead of time in a shallow tray or 6-pak seedling cell. Push each bulb into a little moistened growing mix and keep the soil moist while the bulbs begin to take root.
After about two weeks, the bulbs will have roots and be ready to turn into kokedama! Wet one cup of growing mix until it holds together when pressed in your hand. Remove a paperwhite bulb from the cell and use the wet potting mix to form a ball around the root system. Wrap this soil ball in dampened sphagnum sheet moss and secure it by wrapping twine around the ball in all directions.
Leave long tails of twine so the kokedama paperwhites can be hung in a window. Or trim off the twine and display them in festive holiday dishes with pinecones, fresh greens, or Christmas ornaments. To water kokedamas, soak the moss ball in water for 1-2 minutes about once a week (or whenever the ball feels light). Let excess water drain onto a towel before returning them to the display.
Paperwhite Terrariums in Soil or Water
For this project you will need a tall, clear glass vase, some paperwhite bulbs, a small amount of activated charcoal (available at pet stores for controlling odors) and either growing mix or decorative stones/glass beads.
If you want to grow the paperwhites in water rather than soil, put ½ tsp of activated charcoal and 3-5 inches of pebbles or stones in the bottom of the glass vessel. Nestle the paperwhite bulbs into the bed of stones leaving the top half of the bulb exposed. Add water until it almost but not quite touches the base of the bulbs. Paperwhites have an amazing ability to sense and seek out water, and roots will begin to emerge within just a few days. As the bulbs grow, add water as needed, but keep the bulbs dry to avoid rot. The tall jar will act as a natural staking system and help the stems stay upright.
To create a paperwhite terrarium using soil, put ½ tsp of activated charcoal and 3-5" of moistened growing mix in the bottom of the glass vessel. Plant the bulbs, leaving the top half exposed. Top-dress with stones, moss, pinecones, or whatever your creative heart desires! A turkey baster is a handy tool for watering terrariums since it allows you to accurately direct the flow of water within a confined space.
Bonus Tip: Large glass vases can be quite expensive, even at hobby stores. Instead of breaking the bank, grab a few friends and make a day of thrifting for glassware! There’s usually no shortage of vases at consignment and thrift stores for a fraction of the cost you would pay for new.
Illuminated Paperwhite Garden
Use a watertight decorative lantern or tall glass cylinder to make a garden that will bloom and glow! Use the same steps described above for the soil terrarium, and then add a strand of battery-operated fairy lights around the interior of the lantern. Viola! An illuminated garden that’s perfect for the holiday season.
Paperwhites in Up-Cycled Kitchenware
Do you have a glass fruit bowl, heirloom serving dish, or glass candy jar collecting dust? These are great containers for forcing paperwhites! Get creative and look around your home for any watertight container that's tall enough for a bulb and at least 3 inches of root growth. A bread pan, mint julip cup, or punch bowl will do the trick. Not only will your gift bring joy as the paperwhites grow and bloom, but once the flowers fade the dishes can be used for their intended purposes. Paperwhites today, cinnamon swirl bread tomorrow!
Paperwhites in a Snowy Mason Jar with Lid
Create a “snow” scene in a mason jar that’s easy to gift and simple to construct. Fill a pint mason jar with a thick layer of white pebbles and nestle one paperwhite bulb into the pebbles leaving half of the bulb exposed. Do NOT fill the jar with water. Close the lid and decorate the jar with ribbon, greens, and berries. Add a care card to the jar, telling the recipient to add water to just below the base of the bulb whenever they want it to start growing.
Deluxe Paperwhite Garden
Create an over-the-top floral display by planting 8-10 paperwhite bulbs in an urn, large pot, or long planter. Fill the vessel with lightly-moistened growing mix and plant the bulbs, leaving the neck of the bulbs exposed. Top-dress the bulb garden with moss, pinecones, dried flowers, river rocks, or crushed seashells. You can even plant grass seed around the bulbs, or add stems of fresh greens and berries to the display by sticking them right into the potting soil around the bulbs! The more the merrier when it comes to the number of bulbs for these extravagant gardens. A beautiful satin ribbon tied around the vessel makes a picture-perfect present that anyone would be thrilled to receive.
Choose Varieties Your Gift Recipients Will Enjoy
Some people find the scent of paperwhites overpowering, while others can’t get enough of their heady perfume. Choose a paperwhite variety that is well-suited to the intended recipient. Ziva is the standard variety of paperwhites and it carries a strong fragrance. The bulbs are reliable and quick to force, producing tall stems and big flower clusters.
Nir is a cousin of Ziva, with slightly larger blooms and a somewhat lighter fragrance. Inbal is the best choice for anyone who dislikes the classic paperwhite fragrance. It has the same lush look as Ziva with half the perfume. Erlicheer is a great choice for flower lovers who will appreciate this variety’s unusual flower clusters and sophisticated fragrance. This variety takes a bit longer to grow and bloom than the others, but the double ivory petals with pale yellow centers are worth the wait.
Plan Ahead and Set Them Up for Success
Warm temperatures can cause paperwhites to grow too fast and topple over. If you have at least a week before distributing your gifts, give the bulbs a head start by putting them into a cool, dark room. This time in the dark will encourage the bulbs focus all their energy on roots rather than shoots. Don’t worry if time does not allow for this step. But doing so will result in stronger plants that stay more upright.
Gifting paperwhites in creative ways turns a simple bulb into a loving, thoughtful, homemade present. The possibilities for vessels, top dressings, and added holiday flare are endless. Let your creativity soar and the bulbs will do the rest!