When days grow short and winds blow cold, indoor flowers go a long way to warm the heart and cheer the soul. The easiest and most rewarding bulbs you can grow, Paperwhites are amazingly fragrant daffodils that are perfect for producing flowers in a short period of time when grown indoors. Hailing from the temperate shores of the southeastern Mediterranean, these bright, peppery-scented bulb flowers are not winter hardy. However, in warm climates (zones 8-11) with hot, dry summers, paperwhite bulbs can be planted outside where they will bloom annually for many years. Paperwhites are members of the daffodil family, Narcissus tazetta.

  • Rising up to 10-18 in. (25-45 cm), Paperwhite daffodils produce clusters of small white, yellow, or orange flowers which make beautiful cut flowers.
  • Widely available in the fall, Paperwhite daffodils are ready to bloom and unlike most bulbs that require a period of dark, cool temperatures, they will grow and bloom almost without waiting.
  • Paperwhites do not need any preparation, their only requirement in life is water to send their roots gripping firmly downward and their stems racing for the sky. Once they sniff water and feel sunshine, they’re off to the races, coming into flower 3-5 weeks after planting. However, the longer the bulbs are stored, the faster they will turn into blossoms. They might take a month to bloom if planted in November but only 2 weeks if planted in January. For Thanksgiving bloom, plant the bulbs in mid-October. For Christmas fragrance, make your planting the third week of November. 
  • Paperwhite narcissus bulbs can be forced in shallow bowls (no drainage holes) or pots. Any watertight container at least 4-5 inches deep will do (10-12 cm).
  • In bowls: partially fill the container with washed gravel or stones. Place the bulbs on the gravel or stones. Then place additional gravel or stones around the bulbs, leaving the tips of the bulbs exposed. Add water to the bowl until it touches the bottom of the bulbs. Maintain the water at this level throughout the forcing period. Place a layer of washed gravel or stones several inches deep in the container. Hold on tight. Then place as many bulbs into the container as can fit onto the stone layer. Pack them in firmly, with the pointy-ends up. The more bulbs, the better – they’ll hold one another upright and provide maximum bloom. Then hand-place a second layer of stones around and in between the bulbs, sliding them in to hold the bulbs in place. Leave the bulb shoulders (where the tops narrow) and necks exposed. Add water! Add enough water so it rises to just beneath the bottoms of the bulbs themselves - close enough so the bulb can ‘sniff’ the water, but not touching.” If the bulbs are actually sitting in water they will rot. Just the roots need be in the water.
  • In pots: partially fill the pot with potting soil. Place the bulbs on the soil surface. Then add additional potting soil. When potted, the tips of the bulbs should stick above the potting soil. Water the potting soil thoroughly. Keep the potting soil moist throughout the forcing period.
  • Place the planted bulbs in a cool (50°F - 55 °F), dark location to encourage root growth. When the shoots reach a height of 3 in. (7 cm), move the plants to a sunny window with a temperature of 60°F - 65°F. The brighter the light, the less “leggy” the plants will be (legginess is a result of stretching for light). 
  • When the paperwhites begin to flower, move the plants from direct sunlight to prolong their bloom period.
  • Paperwhites may grow tall and leggy, flopping over just as their spicy-scented blossoms begin to bloom. Try securing the growth by tying a circle of ribbon or raffia around the whole bunch, approximately two thirds of the way up the stems. According to Dr. Bill Miller of the Department of Horticulture at Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, growing paperwhites in a 4% to 5% solution of alcohol is actually an excellent growth regulation technique. When grown in 5% alcohol, plants are about half the height of plants grown in straight water. Given that most liquors are 40% alcohol, this is equal to 1 part alcohol to 9 parts of water. Gin, vodka, whiskey, rum, tequila and schnapps are all equally effective. Beer and wine (red or white) are not recommended as they kill the bulbs.
  • Paperwhite bulbs cannot be saved for another season, so you can dispose of them once they are no longer attractive.
  • Pick and choose the attributes you like best from a range of different varieties. Buy paperwhites in fall and early winter - pot them up in batches to enjoy pretty flowers and musky fragrance all winter long! Store unplanted bulbs in a cool dry place out of the sun. Do not store in enclosed spaces (such as a refrigerator).
  • Ingestion may cause severe discomfort. Can also be a skin irritant.