Growing Paperwhite Narcissus plants is a rewarding experience. These early spring bloomers are heavily scented, trumpeted flowers. In warmer parts of the country, they can be planted in the fall to bloom in the winter. Paperwhite Narcissus flowers are a joy to grow outdoors. But, for most of us, we force time to bloom inside of our homes over the long winter months. And, it’s oh so easy to grow, too!
Native to Europe and Asia, it is now grown around the world. Paperwhites are a small member of the Narcissus family (Daffodils and Jonquils are larger family members). What Paperwhites lack in size, they make up for in fragrance and charm. For little flowers, they are big in the popularity department. These spring-blooming flowers are equally popular, grown as an indoor houseplant. Growing these plants indoors adds bright, cheery blooms, and a sweet scent, to an otherwise dreary winter’s day.
Almost everyone propagates Paperwhites from bulbs. However, they can be grown from seeds. If you take this route, the plant requires 2-5 years growht to produce the first blooms. As their name suggests, Paperwhites are white. But you can find these trumpet-shaped flowers in yellow and orange too. Each bulb produces two to three stems. Each stem produces up 20 20 sweet-scented flowers.
Did you know? Paperwhite Narcissus flowers were named after the legendary Greek youth Narcissus, who was strikingly handsome.
Flowers Bloom: Spring
Flower Colors: White, white with a yellow center, yellow, and orange.
Plant height: Plants grow from 10 inches to 2 feet tall.
Plant Hardiness Zones: 8 – 11
Here’s where the fun comes in. Forcing Paperwhites to grow and bloom indoors in the winter, is a popular and fun activity. Fill a shallow bowl, pot, or container partway with decorative stones. Plain stones, gravel, and even soil work too. The decorative stones allow you to display your personal creativity and are much more fun. Set Paperwhite bulbs onto the stones, pushing them down just far enough so the bulbs are supported in an upright position. Put several of them together. Don’t worry about crowding.
Add water to just reach the bottom of the bulb. If the water covers too much of the bulb, the bulbs can rot. Now put them in a cool, dark place for one to two weeks. When the roots have begun to take hold, and the plant has sprung from the bulb, take the pot out into a brightly lit room. Rotate the flowerpot every few days, so all parts of the plant recieves some sunlight. Four to six weeks later, your Paperwhites will be in bloom. The flower blooms last 2-3 weeks.
Tip: Plant several pots in succession. Space them a couple of weeks apart. Then, you will have Paperwhites blooming all winter long!
After blooming, cut the flower and stem off. Do not cut back the leaves. Put them in a sunny window and transplant them outdoors when the weather permits. It will take two or three years before they will bloom again. They need to “recharge” their bulbs with energy.
If you have extra bulbs store them in a cool, dark place. The ideal storage temperature is 40 to 50° F. Freezing temperatures will kill the bulbs. The bulbs will bloom more quickly, the longer they are stored. And, no chilling is required.
Paperwhite plants are grown from bulbs. Plant outdoors in the fall. Select a sunny spot, although they will tolerate partial shade. The bulb stores all the energy it needs for next year’s bloom. Adding a little fertilizer will help the bulb to absorb energy for next year’s bloom. Add mulch around the bed to make it more attractive, and to keep the weeds down.
Paperwhites look attractive planted in bunches. They don’t mind a little crowding.
Bulb Planting Depth: 2 to 3 inches deep.
Final Plant Spacing: 2 to 3 inches apart. They tolerate a little crowding. However, plants and flowers are smaller when overcrowded.
Ideal Soil pH: 6.0 – 7.5.
There are few problems with paperwhite narcissus.
The soil-borne disease is common. To minimize problems, keep the soil moist not wet, and provide air circulation. If grown in stones and water, do not immerse the bulb in the water. Rather, the bottom of the bulbs should barely touch the water.
Indoors, the paperwhite plants can grow tall and lanky. It may even drop over. This is due to insufficient sunlight. Find ways to increase exposure to sunlight.