Experiments & Fun Activities

Forcing Paperwhites

You need

  • Paperwhite narcissus (sold at garden centers from fall through early winter)
  • Shallow bowls
  • Pea gravel or some type of rock

What to do

Make sure the rock or gravel is clean. If necessary, wash it and let drain. Put the pea gravel/rock in the container until it is half-full. Place the bulbs in the container, root side down and gently work into the gravel so they stand upright. Carefully place some more gravel around the bulb. One-fourth to one-third of the top of the bulbs should be above the gravel. Fill the bowls with water until the gravel is just barely covered.

Store the bowls in a cool, dark location (i.e. a closet, an unused room). The temperature should be cool but above freezing. Check the water level occasionally and add water if needed. During this time roots will begin to form and pale green shoots will start to grow.

After about two weeks in storage, bring the bowls into a warm room with bright light (but not direct sun). The shoots will be pale when brought out. As time goes on they will begin to get darker green. Try to keep them as cool as possible; warm temperatures will make them grow spindly and flop over.

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