Paperwhites, they have such a well-known reputation as the beauties and the stinkers of the holidays. I can remember when I was a newbie gardener and how I was thrilled to learn I could plant bulbs in a pot in early December and have them blooming indoors for Christmas! Load me up—I am going to fill my house with “paper love.”
Good grief what a powerful surprise. At first I blamed one of my Golden Retrievers for the smell, and then I thought, that smell isn’t dog, it’s that cat for sure. Did Bob the cat forget to ask to be let out to powder his nose? Then after investigation, I discovered the source of the odor, my beautiful in full bloom pots and pots of Paperwhites—they were the stinkers!
Needless to say I was crushed. Pots moved outdoors to be viewed through the window, I was fortunate that it was a mild winter and they didn’t suffer much.
Then years later—Eureka! I discovered a variety of low-fragrance Paperwhites called Nazareth. They still have a fragrance but it is toned way-way down to livable. I have been growing them for several years now and it is such a treat to have these beauties back in my life.
I have found other ways to help control the odor like keeping them out of full sun and warm rooms. If possible set them in a cold garage overnight which also helps them to last longer. Paperwhites also make excellent cut-flowers. Cut just above the bulb when the first blooms begins to open. The stems will last as long if not longer than attached to the bulb.
If you live in zone 7 or warmer (don’t know your zone? Click here) Paperwhites can be planted outdoors in spring after enjoying holiday blooms. I never knew this until I visited the home of a seasoned gardener that had a huge garden full of Paperwhites in bloom outdoors. She had saved and planted all the Paperwhites she had purchased for holiday blooming throughout her 50 years of gardening.
Bulb size definitely matters in the flower power you get— always purchase the largest bulbs you can find. I learned this early on in my commercial career—for a few cents more you get a lot more bang for your buck!
Give Paperwhites a chance!
Lisa Mason Ziegler is a commercial cut-flower farmer in Newport News, Virginia; she lectures and writes about organic and sustainable gardening. You can email Lisa at firstname.lastname@example.org , call her at 757-877-7159 or visit her website www.shoptgw.com .
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