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Choosing a Container For Forcing Paperwhite Bulbs

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Paperwhite Bulbs - Choosing a Container
Choosing a Container For Forcing Paperwhite Bulbs

Paperwhite Bulbs in Large Glass Columnar Vase

Photo © Kerry Michaels

Let me start by saying that there are two basic ways to grow paperwhite bulbs--in soil or in water. I grow them in water. They are one of the easiest things you can grow and I love the smell. That said, for some people, the smell makes them want to run screaming from the room. Luckily for me, I live in a household where we all love the sweet, intoxicating scent that, once we have enough bulbs blooming, wafts through the entire house.

Paperwhite bulbs can fit any style--from incredibly formal to totally casual--depending on how you plant them. A simple simple glass tube, with one bulb can give a great modern look, while great urns crammed with paperwhites, amaryllis and other winter blooming plants can be stunning traditional display. A simple coffee mug or glass cup can also look just great on a teacher's desk. Whichever way you go, figure out which look fits your taste and style and then consider your budget.

If you are growing your paperwhite bulbs in soil, you will need a container with drainage and one that is deep enough so that the bulb can be partially buried and the roots can extend. While the container can be shallow, I wouldn't try anything less than three or four inches deep.

If you are growing your paperwhites in water, you can use just about any watertight container. I have planted them in coffee mugs for teachers gifts, in metal buckes, or in large vases. However, there are certain things you should be aware of, no matter what container you choose.

Paperwhites are notorious floppers. The tall stalks with heavy blooms on top often simply flop over, bending the stalk in half and making your arrangement look totally disheveled. There are a number of things you can do to avoid this, including creating a boozy cocktail to water your bulbs with. This makes the stalks shorter and more sturdy, without effecting the blossoms. However, even drunken paperwhites can still flop.

One of the best ways to manage floppage is to plant your paperwhites on a layer of stones, in the bottom of a tall vase or bucket. You want to make sure that the bucket is short enough so that your blooms will stick out of the top, otherwise you won't be able to see them.

If you use a clear vase, the bottom, where the roots grow can look kind of funky. The white roots snake around the rocks and often don't look very tidy. If you are going for a very polished look, one way to deal with this is to use a columnar vase and put a ceramic or metal dish in the bottom and plant your bulbs in that. This will disguise the roots, but allow you to see the green stalks.

If you use a metal bucket, you can get a great country casual look.

The other way to deal with flopping paperwhites is to corral them. You can do this with anything from chopsticks to sticks you collect from outside. You can even use small branching sticks, inserted into the stones or soil at the bottom of your container to prop up the stalks.

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