Forcing Paperwhites Only Once?

NathanielBlaussApril 27, 2011

I've read again and again, here and elsewhere, that forcing bulbs - daffodils or paper-whites amongst others - depletes them so that they won't flower again. I now accept this as a matter of faith, but I'm wondering: why? I don't doubt that it's true, but why does that happen? Daffodils will obviously flower year after year if they're planted outside, and surely the same is true of paper-whites - at least within their narrow hardiness band. If nurseries are able to supply them, they must find a way to grow them a few years running anyway, and I'm wondering what the difference is? If they're planted in a deep pot, or given enough space and sunlight will they still not flower again? I live in an apartment without a yard, and they grow beautifully in the windows, can I find a way to bring them back next year (or maybe the year after that)? I know I could buy more, but I'd like to stick with them, if you know what I mean. Any thoughts out there?

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It has a great deal to do with both the method and the aftercare. Paperwhite narcissus are most often forced using just pebbles and water and this method does indeed deplete the bulb's energy reserves so that reblooming in future seasons is compromised. If the location affords a suitable climate so that the forced bulbs can be planted outside, they may recover in a couple of seasons and bloom again. Maybe not :-)

Forcing narcissus in potting soil does not necessarily mean these will not rebloom. They can if planted out in normal growing conditions and if the foliage is allowed to ripen properly before removal. Obviously this is going to work better with standard narcissus in most areas rather than the more cold tender paperwhites. Potting soil, as nearly sterile as it tends to be, still provides some basic nutrient component that just water forcing lacks. But it does take a nutrient load - like what is typically found in garden soil (and/or some bulb fertilizer) - and adequate photosynthesis to build up the bulb's reserves to rebloom and that sometimes takes more than a single season in the ground.

As individual bulbs are so inexpensive, most just choose to replace with fresh bulbs each season than wait for the bulbs to regenerate.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2011 at 11:27AM
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Some bulbs contain everything that they are within itself; i.e. a "true" bulb is one that contains all what you see inside it. It has, in the bulb, the stem, the leaves, the stalk, the flower...everything.
When the bulb is put into the ground at the appropriate time, the roots form and begin to feed these parts of the bulb. As they grow they then come up producing what you admire.

They only last their specific time, then they begin to wither. By allowing this to happen, the bulb is then accepting the sugars and starches to go back down into it which serves a purpose. Much like an animal that conserves fat to feed on, the bulb conserves the energy so it can return the next year.

Not all bulbs are 'true' bulbs. Some do not have the capacity to hold onto this energy and thus cannot return the next season.
When a bulb is 'forced', it is being made to expend all its energy and ergo, cannot do more. Most often, bulbs that are 'forced' show their bloom for a short time and then are disposed of...thrown away.
The 'narcissus tazetta (paperwhite) and the "soleil d'Or, the yellow variant, are like this and cannot bloom again and should be discarded.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2011 at 12:22PM
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