My paperwhite bulbs have blossomed and faded–I plant my bulbs around Thanksgiving–but perhaps you’ve not yet started yours. Here are a few tips for the end stages of these magnificent bulbs that, when forced indoors, add a bit of spring to our winter.
1) To support the paperwhite foliage and flowers once they grow tall and gangly, repurpose a hanger from the dry cleaner’s. Simply take one of the wire hangers with the cardboard tube at the cross-section–the kind of hanger used for slacks–and pull off the cardboard tubing. You’ll be left with the hook portion of the hanger, and two wire ends. Poke the two ends into the potting mixture or stones of your container, then bend the hook end to corral and support the tall leaves and blooms. The wire hanger will all but disappear in the plant while providing a stake.
2) Once your paperwhite blossoms have faded, you can clip them and save them in a pretty vase as dried flowers. No, they’re no longer as fresh and fragrant, but hey, it’s winter, and even dried flowers seem to help pass the cold, dark season.
3) I like the look of the bright green foiliage once it’s cut back: It reminds me of thick grasses. I blunt-cut the long leaves so I’m left with long shoots of green. I keep my paperwhites until the leaves turn yellow, at which point I chuck the entire contents of the containers–soil, bulbs and all–into one of my compost bins. I once had a paperwhite rebloom, but it’s rare and was not worth the trouble. If you do otherwise with your paperwhites in Denver, please let me know.
Some greenhouses and nurseries still have paperwhite bulbs available for purchase. They’re easy to grow, and definitely do add a spark of spring’s scent to indoor air. And if you have school kids growing bored during winter break, growing paperwhites might provide a perfect project.
Colleen Smith’s debut novel Glass Halo, set in Denver, was a finalist for the Santa Fe Literary Prize and was praised in the latest issue of The Bloomsbury Review. The novel is available online and through your favorite bookstore.
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