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Monday, February 6, 2012

Paperwhite Narcissus

Horticulture therapy is a practice that  is a valued modality in "providing treatment to individuals with physical or mental disabilities.   Some of the techniques used include "creating sensory-stimulation environments with plants selected for fragrance texture and color."   (AHTA website, FAQ sheet)

A good horticulture therapy exercise is the forcing of narcissus bulbs...as they awaken more than one sense! Narcissus are great because they do not require advance chilling to get the bulbs to bloom indoors.  This is an activity that uses gross motor movements, has a low cost, low maintenance, and quick results.  I picked up 2 boxes of paperwhite narcissus that were on the clearance table at Lowe's(pictured below) and proceeded to awake the magic that is locked up inside by following the instructions written on the outside of the box.

In case you are doing this activity from scratch, you will need:
  •  Healthy paperwhite narcissus bulbs.  Bulbs that are close together will keep each other from falling over.
  •  A container that is 3 to 4 inches deep ( I used a 6 in plastic pot) with no drainage holes
  •  Medium for growing.... stones, gravel, glass pebbles.  My box contained coir disks.   They are compressed coir that expands when soaked in warm water to about 3 times its compressed state.
  1. If this is for a timed display, start this process about 6 weeks before bloom time.  Spread an inch or 2 of either one of these:  coir/stones/glass pebbles/gravel, along the bottom of the container.
  2. Position your narcissus bulbs pointed end up (roots down) on top of the stone layer.
  3. Add another layer of coir/stones/gravel/glass pebblesin any gaps and cover the bulbs up to their shoulders. The pointed tips should still be showing.
  4. Add water so that the level just reaches the base of the bulbs. Allowing the bottom of the bulb to sit in water will stimulate growth. Covering the entire bulb with water could cause it to rot.
  5. The bulbs don’t need light at this point and they prefer to be kept on the cool side, at about 65 degrees F (18 degrees C.)
  6. Check your bulbs daily to see if they need more water.
  7. When you see roots developing, move the container to a sunny window.
  8. Once the plants flower, they will last longer if moved out of direct sunlight, to a cool spot with indirect or diffused light. 

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