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Container growing


QuestionLast year I attempted to force paper whites and the results weren't at all like I had envisioned. The bulbs sprouted readily, but the growth was very "leggy". The flowers bloomed at different times and the stems started to fall over. I did loosely tie them, but it wasn't too attractive. I think they needed more light when sprouting. The temperature that I kept them at was my house temperature of approximately 68 degrees. I didn't pre chill them. Can you offer any suggestions as how I could have better results this year?


AnswerPaperwhite narcissus, Narcissus papyraceus, are quite showy during the holidays or into the new year, adding not only color but fragrance as well.  Many find the scent a bit cloying, but others enjoy it.  I think several factors may have led to the results you had last season.  First, when you originally plant the bulbs put  them in a container with enough depth to support the top weight of the plants.  This will prevent them from toppling over.  Fill the container with smooth pebbles or stones.  Wedge the bulbs into the rocks, keeping 1/3 to ½ of the bulbs above the rock line.  Then pour water into the rocks, just keeping the basal area of the bulb wet.  Put the bulbs in a cool locations—55-60 degrees until you see new growth beginning.  This will keep them from growing too fast and getting leggy.   If they are exposed to warm temperatures, they tend to grow taller and leggier.  Turn the container regularly to keep them from leaning toward the light.  You can actually provide support to them as they grow, taking either deciduous stems from outdoor plants or small stems of nandina with foliage to put around the pot.  This gives them a showy look and supports the stems all at once.  Once they begin to bloom, remove them from direct sunlight and try to keep them on the cool side, as this will extend the bloom period.  Once they are forced, I usually toss them.


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