top of page
  • Writer's pictureKassi Kuppinger

How To Plant and Grow Paperwhites

Paperwhite bulbs are fun and easy flowers to grow during the winter months. They make beautiful decorations around the holiday season and are a fun distraction for green thumbs and gardeners during the cold months. Paperwhites require little more than water to produce beautiful and fragrant white blooms, and they can be planted in a number of different containers to suit a wide variety of styles. With other bulbs having to be “forced” to bloom indoors, paperwhites bloom readily! So, let's learn all about different ways to plant and grow paperwhites!

How To Grow Paperwhites Indoors

The beauty of paperwhites is they are so easy to grow, requiring little setup and minimal maintenance. Simply follow the instructions below for a beautiful and fool-proof decoration for your enjoyment throughout the holiday season!

Planting Paperwhites Indoors

Paperwhites can be grown in soil like a regular bulb or in a vase with water. Either way is equally effective, it just depends on your preference and style! Paperwhites do not require a chilling period, so keep the bulbs at room temperature until you plant them.

  • Planting Paperwhites in Soil: If you decide to plant your paperwhites in soil, make sure to not fully bury the bulb. Approximately the top half of the bulb should be exposed, with the bottom half buried in the soil. Many people who plant their narcissus paperwhite bulbs in soil like to also put some sort of moss around the base of the bulbs to cover the soil and give it a more appealing appearance.

  • How to Grow Paperwhites in Water: Planting your paperwhites in water is equally as easy. Similar to planting in soil, you will want to make sure not to submerge your bulbs in the water. Ideally, only the roots of the bulbs should be in the water, with the rest of the bulb sitting above the water.

The Perfect Container for Planting Paperwhites

The first step to planting paperwhites indoors is finding your container. One of the perks of growing paperwhites is that any container will do! It could be a shallow dish like the one pictured below, it could be a tall and cylindrical vase, or it could be a clear glass bowl of any size. Create a simple, minimalistic centerpiece with some neutral stones in the bottom of a simple vase, put together a large and showy glass bowl with 10-20 bulbs planted in succession, or plant your bulbs in a normal pot with soil and moss!


Fill Your Container

After choosing your container, decide whether you want to plant in soil or just use water. This will determine what you fill your container with!

  • Soil: If you choose to plant your paperwhites in soil, simply fill your container with soil and pack it down gently (you don't want the soil too compact, but you don't want it to sink in when you water your paperwhites at the end).

  • Water: If you choose to grow your paperwhites in water, find some decorative rocks to fill your container of choice. The extent to which you fill it is up to you. You can do a shallow 2-4 inch layer of rocks or pebbles, or you can fill the entire vase.

Add Your Paperwhite Bulbs

  • Soil: Use your finger to create depressions in the soil or use a small spoon to scoop holes where you intend to place your bulbs. Position your bulbs roots down and gently pack the soil around the base of your bulbs, adding more soil if necessary. Make sure that the top half of the bulb is still exposed.

  • Water: Place your paperwhites on top of your stones, roots down, and nestle them into the stones a bit. If your container allows for it, you can always add additional stones around the bulbs once you have them in place to help reinforce their position when they start to grow. If they aren't secured in their space, they can easily topple over under the weight of their leaves and flowers once they begin to grow.

Watering Your Paperwhites

The last step is to add water! If you planted in soil, gently water your container until water begins to flow out of the drainage hole. If you are growing your paperwhite bulbs in water, simply fill the bottom of your container until the water covers the rocks and just barely touches the base of the bulbs.

How to Care for Paperwhite Bulbs

The Bulbs Once the Blooms Have Died Off

While there isn't much that you need to do to care for your paperwhites after they have been planted, there are a few things that you should be aware of that will help ensure the success of these Christmas flowering bulbs.

Be Careful Not to Overwater

Whether you planted in soil or water, it is important to not fully bury your bulbs or to not let them become submerged even partially in the water. Bulbs do not like too much moisture, and allowing them to sit in water that is too deep will cause them to rot. The same goes for if they are fully covered in soil. The soil could retain enough moisture to cause the bulbs themselves to rot. This is why it is so important to leave the tops of the bulbs exposed, with only the base of the bulbs where the roots grow touching the water or buried in the soil. If you planted your bulbs in soil, allow the soil to dry out nearly completely before watering again.

Paperwhite Light Requirements

Just like any other plants that are grown indoors, paperwhites have specific sun requirements if they are to grow strong and last as long as possible. Paperwhite bulbs prefer bright indirect light. They often do well on dining room tables that are far enough from windows not to catch cold drafts, but close enough to soak up some of the indirect light. Placing your paperwhites in full or direct sun can cause damage to the plant or can cause the blooms to drop prematurely.

Why Are My Paperwhites Falling Over

Bulbs such as paperwhites and amaryllis tend to grow tall and lanky to the point that their stems cannot even support the weight of their blooms. And while you can try to support the flowers with props and stakes, this can often take away from the visual appeal. So, how do you keep your paperwhites from falling over?

  • Pro tip: Water your paperwhites with a water-alcohol solution! This will stunt the growth of the flower stalk, keeping it shorter and stronger, thereby enabling it to support the weight of the flowers without the aid of any unsightly stakes. It is best to use clear, distilled alcohol such as gin, vodka, or white rum. Rubbing alcohol also works! Simply make a mixture that is one part alcohol to seven parts water (1:7), or one part alcohol to eleven parts water if you are using rubbing alcohol (1:11). You can start using this solution to water your paperwhites once you start to notice some green growing out the tops of the bulbs. Simply drain any old water and fill your dish with the alcohol solution!

Paperwhites Planted in Soil

When To Expect Blooms

In just a few days, the bulbs will start to root and the green tips will quickly begin to emerge. Keep an eye on the water levels, keeping the roots submerged but the bulbs themselves out of the water, and in about 4-6 weeks you’ll have fragrant clusters of white flowers!

How Long do Paperwhites Last

Given they are in the right growing environment and your bulbs have remained healthy, your paperwhites should last for a week and a half to two weeks once they have begun to bloom. Once the blooms begin to fade, the greens will also begin to die back.

How To Help Paperwhite Blooms Last Longer

There is not a lot that can be done to extend the bloom time of your paperwhites. Like all other flowers, the blooms naturally fade over time no matter what you do. If you want to be able to enjoy their blooms for longer, you should consider planting your paperwhites in succession! This involves planting your bulbs several days apart for a period of time. This will make it so that bulbs planted first will bloom first, followed by those planted next, ensuring that you have a constant cycle of paperwhites blooming for weeks at a time!

What To do with Paperwhites After They Bloom

After your paperwhites have finished blooming, there is not much to do with them other than discard them. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to get paperwhite bulbs to rebloom in subsequent years, and often won't even if their conditions are perfect. New bulbs are inexpensive and readily available year after year in local garden centers throughout Fort Collins, Colorado, so we recommend throwing away your bulbs after they have bloomed and starting fresh with new bulbs next year!

Paperwhite Narcissus Bulbs for Sale

At Bath Garden Center and Nursery, we have Narcissus paperwhite bulbs for sale every holiday season and sometimes even throughout the year! You can shop for paperwhite bulbs in our greenhouse in Fort Collins, or you can shop online for paperwhite bulbs. We also have pots, soil, decorative rocks, glassware, and anything else you could need to plant and grow paperwhites indoors this season.

How to Plant Paperwhites

Paperwhite bulbs are so fun and easy, not to mention beautiful! If you have any questions about caring for paperwhites or need help with your Christmas flowering bulbs, please let us know! We also have a tutorial video on how to plant paperwhites that may answer some of your questions. Find more info on fun holiday bulbs such as amaryllis in our blog or on our YouTube channel today, and shop Narcissus paperwhite bulbs online today!


bottom of page