Planting Paperwhite bulbs in soil easiest method

Although planting in water and decorative pebbles is more popular

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Q. I’ve had disappointing results from planting Paperwhite narcissus bulbs in the past two years. I’ve bought the bulbs in the fall and kept them in the fridge until early December, when I planted them in white stones in glass containers and set them at a sunny window with water kept just up to the bases of the bulbs. In both years only one out of seven bulbs produced flowers. Can you explain why?

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A. Paperwhites don’t require refrigerator type chilling prior to planting. The bulbs need only be kept in open bags, in a dark place with cool room temperatures. Exposure to heat can inhibit flowering.

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When planting in stones, the top two-thirds of each bulb should remain exposed above the pebbles and the container needs to be kept in a cool, dark place for the rooting period.

Once roots are well established, the planted bulbs are brought gradually into brighter light.

Although planting in water and decorative pebbles is the more popular method, planting in soil is easier. It also generally produces longer-lasting flowers. In soil, only the top third of each bulb is left exposed above soil level. The cool, dark rooting period is the same.

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Paperwhite bulbs will not fare well in water-logged conditions. In soil, the planting mix needs to be kept just modestly moist. Bring the planting out of the dark when roots can be observed at the pot’s drainage holes or when root growth is seen in glass jars.

As the rooted bulbs are brought gradually into good light, keeping the planting as cool as possible will help to prolong bloom.

Q. I am dismayed to come upon tulip and daffodil bulbs, still in their packages. I bought them early in the fall. Is it too late now to plant them?

A. It is not too late, but plant as soon as possible to give the bulbs time to form good root systems.

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