Paper whites are a popular indoor plant for winter and the holiday season. It’s festive to see a vase or basket of paper whites on display at a people’s houses when little other is blooming.
Paper whites (Narcissus papyraceus, a sub-species of Narcissus tazetta) are a member of the same family as daffodils, and resemble the yellow spring flowers except that the entire blossom is white and have a spicy fragrance. Paperwhites are often forced into bloom indoors during the winter months, as they are not cold hardy like daffodils. Paperwhite bulbs can be grown outdoors in the garden if you live in USDA Hardiness zones 8 through 10, as the slightest freeze can kill these tender perennials.
Unlike other narcissus, paper whites don’t require a chilling period, so forcing them is almost as easy as putting the bulbs one -half to two-thirds of the way down in your planting medium (polished rocks or pebbles) and waiting. The fragrant flowers bloom within about 4-6 weeks of planting, for almost instant and guaranteed gratification.
Some articles also recommended adding alcohol (e.g., gin, vodka, whiskey, rum, tequila), to your water solution once the bulbs root to stunt the growth of the paperwhites since the stems can become leggy. You will most likely need to be stake them if you don’t stunt the growth.
- Select a container that is about 3 – 4 inches deep (8 – 10 cm) with no drainage holes.
- Spread an inch or 2 of stones, marbles, soil or even gravel, along the bottom of the container.
- Position your paper white bulbs with pointed end up, on top of the stone layer. Fit several into your container. They not only look better in a large group; the tight fit will help keep them supported.
- Add more stones to fill in any gaps and cover the bulbs up to their shoulders. The pointed tips should still be showing.
- 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.
- 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.)
- Check your bulbs daily to see if they need more water.
- When you see roots developing, move the container to a sunny window. The sunnier the better, but try not to let them get too warm or they’ll grow leggy.
- Once the plants flower, they will last longer if moved out of direct sunlight, to a cool spot with indirect or diffused light.
- You can start pots of paper whites every couple of weeks, for a continuous display throughout the winter.
Right now, in the Garden Store, we have brought in several proven varieties of Paper whites and supplies you will need to bring blossoms and fragrance to your home this winter:
Paperwhite narcissus (Narcissus ‘Grand Soleil d’Or’) – This tender paperwhite is well-suited to forcing and it blooms 4 to 6 weeks after planting. 5/$5.98
Narcissus papyraceus ‘Ziva’– To make a good thing even better, we select extra-large bulbs of ‘Ziva,’ which produce more bloom than you’ve ever seen on a Paperwhite. “Ziva’ tends to have a stronger fragrance, larger blooms, and sturdier stalks and some even have pale yellow blooms versus the classic white flowers. .99 each
Grand Soleil D’ or Paperwhite Daffodil – Popular for forcing indoors as they have a delicate fruity fragrance and yellow petals that frame orange cups. Grand Soleil D’ requires a couple of weeks longer to force compared to Ziva. It produces bright-yellow flowers with orange centers on stems ranging from 12” to 14” tall, and exudes a marvelously sweet fragrance. 5/5.98
Narcissus Paperwhite ‘Inbal’– Inbal boasts a more delicate, pleasant fragrance, a flatter cup and stronger stems than other modern paperwhite varieties. These bulbs are great for forcing, so plant 4-5 weeks before the holiday season bloom! 5/5.98