You can force bulbs to bloom indoors over winter

  • Paperwhite narcissus bulbs will flower in a vase with pebbles and water.

    Paperwhite narcissus bulbs will flower in a vase with pebbles and water. Courtesy of Chicago Botanic Garden

By Tim Johnson
Chicago Botanic Garden
Posted1/10/2021 7:00 AM

Paperwhite narcissus require a cage or a ring of raffia tied around them to keep them from flopping as they grow. If they were purchased as bulbs, you can grow them in a shallow dish or a vase filled with pebbles rather than soil.

Put about 2 inches of pebbles in the bottom of a small vase or about 4 inches in a large vase. Arrange the bulbs close together and cover them with pebbles, with just their tips exposed. The weight of the pebbles helps to keep them from falling to the side as they grow. Finally, add water until the level reaches just below the base of the bulbs, but no higher, because if the bases of the bulbs sit in water, they will rot.


Discard the bulbs after flowering, but rinse and keep the pebbles for future forced bulbs.

• Winter is a good time for garden planning. Consult your notes on seed and plant purchases, past garden successes and failures and garden maps as you begin to plan garden improvements for the coming year. Do not let the pretty catalog pictures push you into buying things that may not work in your particular garden. Choose the right plants for the conditions in your garden that meet your design goals.

• Color is a common design element in the home garden. Complementary colors such as orange and blue are opposite each other on the color wheel and can create bright, vibrant effects when combined in the garden. Harmonious or analogous colors such as yellow and orange are next to each other on the color wheel and create a visually harmonious effect when used in the garden.

Combinations of hot colors such as reds, yellows and oranges create vivid and exciting displays in the garden. Hot colors tend to leap forward in the landscape.

Cool colors in shades of blue, violet and green can create a soothing and tranquil effect in the garden. Cool colors tend to recede and can be used to exaggerate the illusion of depth in the garden.

• Tim Johnson is director of horticulture at Chicago Botanic Garden,

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