Paperwhite Bulb Planting Guide
No Experience Required If you're just getting started with gardening, paperwhites are an excellent first project. They are fast, easy, fragrant and beautiful. They make wonderful centerpieces for the holidays and are cheerful additions to any winter windowsill. Gardeners in zones 8-10 can also enjoy paperwhites outdoors in the spring. If you’re looking for a failsafe gift, check out our pre-planted paperwhite gifts. Need to buy bulk paperwhites? We have that covered, too. Here’s everything you need to know about how to grow paperwhites.
Top 1" of bulb exposed indoors; 6" deep outdoors
Moderate with growth
Bright Direct indoors; Full to partial sun outdoors
Blooms 30-45 indoors/Spring outdoors
Species dependent; Zones 5-10
Growing Paperwhites Indoors
Growing paperwhites indoors is also called “forcing paperwhites.” You’re forcing them to bloom before they would outdoors. Unlike other narcissus, paperwhites don’t require a cool period before blooming. Give them some water and they’re ready to grow!
There are three ways to grow paperwhites indoors: in soil, in water only (and forcing vases), and in pebbles and water. All three methods work equally well. It really depends on how much space you have and the look you’re going for.
Regardless of what they’re growing in, paperwhites growing indoors do best in bright sun. If you’re going to use them as a centerpiece but your dining room or side table is usually in the dark, grow the bulbs in the sun and move them to the center of the action right before the party.
Planning to give paperwhites as a gift? We recommend pre-planted paperwhite gifts to take the guesswork out of gardening. If you do gift a handful of bulbs in a gift bag, it’s a nice touch to include a bulb forcing vase to get your new gardener started.
Growing Paperwhites Outdoors
Paperwhites are fantastic narcissus for gardeners in warmer zones to enjoy growing outdoors. They provide a similar spring look to daffodils without the chilling requirement. Wintersun is a special favorite for southerners, with its bright yellow cups!
When growing outdoors, plant paperwhites in a sunny spot with well drained soil. You’ll see the biggest impact when planting in large sweeps or clumps of 7-10 bulbs. You can plant paperwhites all the way through winter in zones 8-10 and still get flowers in the spring.
How to Grow Paperwhites in Pebbles and Water
- Select a container with tall sides (if possible). Glass containers and vases are fun because you can watch the roots grow.
- Pour pebbles into the bottom of the container to a depth of 1-2 inches. (You can also use decorative glass stones.)
- Add water to the container so it just barely reaches the tops of the pebbles.
- Place the bulbs on top of the pebbles, pointy side-up.
- Set the container in a bright sunny area and watch for growth.
- Monitor water levels so the water is always just barely reaching the tops of the pebbles. You do not want the bulbs to sit in water.
How to Plant Paperwhites in Soil
- Select a shallow container if planting your own. Paperwhites only need 3-4 inches to grow, so a six inch deep container is plenty!
- Fill the container 1/3 of the way with well-drained potting mix.
- Plant the bulbs, pointy side up, shoulder to shoulder in the container.
- Cover the bulbs with soil so that the tips just barely peek out of the soil.
- Water until the soil is about as moist as a wrung-out sponge.
- Set the container somewhere sunny and watch the bulbs grow! Keep the soil slightly moist as the plants bloom.
Tips for Growing Paperwhites
- Grow paperwhites indoors near a bright, sunny window and rotate their container every couple of days to keep the stems straight.
- Make sure that you’re growing paperwhites and not some other type of narcissus when forcing indoors. (Paperwhites don’t require chilling and will immediately start to grow for you, while other narcissus types will not if they were not pre-chilled.)
- Force indoor paperwhites in pebbles in tall, wide-mouthed vases. The sides of the vases will keep the plant stems upright without the need for a stake or a string around the plants.
- Stick decorative branches in your indoor paperwhite container to act as a type of trellis or support for paperwhite stems. (And to add a bit of flair because everyone loves flair!)
- For continuous indoor paperwhite blooms “plant” or start a new batch of paperwhites every 2-3 weeks from October through January.
- Really pack your pots full if growing paperwhites in soil. That will create a full display of blooms and reduce the risk of plant stems flopping