Different Types of Paperwhite Narcissus
Paperwhites are the most popular holiday flowering bulbs, right next to amaryllis. In fact, for a truly gorgeous display, plant both so they'll bloom at around the same time. Paperwhites take about 30-40 days to bloom indoors and amaryllis can take 45-60 days to bloom, so keep that in mind when planting for an indoor display.
But, let's not get ahead of ourselves. Which paperwhite bulbs should you buy?
That depends on what you're going to do with them.
Here's our comprehensive guide to picking out paperwhites.
Best Paperwhite Bulbs to Grow Indoors
Bulbs are labeled with numbers such as 15+ cm or 17+ cm or 28/30 cm and so forth. That is the circumfrence, in centimeters, of th bulb at its widest part. The best paperwhites for forcing indoors are the 17+ sized bulbs. Those are the biggest and best paperwhite bulbs you can buy. (And primarily what we sell.)
The other thing to think about when buying paperwhites to grow indoors is the strength of the fragrance.
Fragrant Paperwhite Narcissus
If you want a super fragrant paperwhite, Ziva paperwhites are the best choice. Nir paperwhites are another excellent choice for good fragrance. They are a newer variety that boasts even more flowers per stem than the Zivas.
Ariel is another new paperwhite variety with a strong, classic scent. Ariel's flowers are larger than Ziva's and the stems are a little thicker and stronger, so they're less likely to flop.
Non-Fragrant Paperwhite Narcissus
Is there a truly non-fragrant paperwhite narcissus? Not really. All paperwhites have some fragrance, but a few types are less fragrant than others. If you have a sensitive sniffer, go for Wintersun (with its jaunty yellow cups) or Inball paperwhites, for a classic white flower with a less robust scent.
Best Paperwhites to Grow Outdoors
You can grow paperwhites outdoors if you live in zones 8, 9 or 10. All paperwhites are great for providing spring daffodil-like blooms where the weather isn't cold enough to provide the chilling that other daffodils and spring blooming bulbs require.
Wintersun is an especially wonderful paperwhite variety for growing outdoors in warm climates because its yellow cups make the flowers look more like traditional daffodils, but without the chilling requirement.
We recommend the 17+ cm sized bulbs for indoor forcing, but outdoors, when you're planting paperwhites in large sweeps or in groups of 10 or more, the 15/16 cm paperwhite bulbs will give you plenty of show!
For planting outdoors, buy paperwhites in bulk. (Some of our bulk paperwhites are 15/16 bulbs and some are 17+ bulbs. Either will work outdoors.) You can plant outdoors anytime in the fall or early winter and still enjoy beautiful spring blooms.
Best Paperwhites for Gifts
The premium 17+ cm sized paperwhite bulbs are the best bulbs for gifts, because they will put on the biggest show. (It's also worth thinking about whether your recepient would rather have a traditional more fragrant variety or a new variety with less fragrance.)
If you're giving paperwhites as a gift, consider sending preplanted paperwhites in a decorative container to make things easy on the recipient. All they have to do is give the bulbs some water and enjoy!
Or maybe you'd like to give some bulbs in a gift bag, but you don't want to worry about shipping it yourself?
Perhaps you want to give paperwhites to many of your friends, neighbors, kids' teachers, and work colleagues. In that case, a bulk basket that you can divide up is a good choice. (You can plant the basket for your favorite recipient, too, and get multiple gifts from one!)
- Katie Elzer-Peters