Paperwhites Paperwhites

Paperwhites are easy to grow, beautiful and fragrant. To grow paperwhites outside you need to reside in zones 8 through 10. However, for those in cooler regions, paperwhites are easily forced inside as long as you have a shallow pot, some small stones and a sunny window.

TIP: Our expert gardening advisor, Susan Patterson adds, "Cut paperwhites make a lovely addition to an indoor spring arrangement with daffodils."

Growing Conditions

The best time to plant paperwhites is from September through December. Find a sunny location that drains well. Amend the soil with plenty of compost or organic matter.


Dig holes that are 4 inches deep. Place bulbs in the holes with the pointed tops facing up. Plant 5 bulbs per square foot. Cover bulbs and water them thoroughly. Depending on the variety, you will see buds and blooms in late winter or early spring. Apply a water soluble fertilizer in late fall or winter to provide nourishment for bulbs.

TIP: Susan advises, "Do not cut down plant leaves until they turn yellow and wither."

Growing in Containers

Choose a container with excellent drainage. Fill the container with lightweight potting soil. Position it where it receives full sun all day. Plant bulbs close together and 3 inches below the surface of the potting mix. Water the container thoroughly. Plants will bloom in late winter or early spring. After flowering, place the container in a shady location until fall. Water in fall and provide fertilizer.

Forcing Indoors

Choose a shallow dish and fill it with small pebbles. Plant the bulb with the pointy part up and 1 inch above the pebble line. Water up to 3/4 from the top of pebble line and keep the bottom of the bulbs damp. Place the pot in a sunny location. Bulbs will bloom within 3 weeks. Stake flowers when they get too high to avoid having them flop over.

TIP: Susan recommends, "When forcing bulbs indoors, place them very close together, almost touching."

The flowers last for about 2 months. So if you start them growing in late November, they'll start blooming in late January, and you'll have fragrant flowers in your home until the end of March, just in time for spring. When the blossoms start to brown around the edges, throw the whole business away, saving only the pebbles and the shallow dish for next year.

Reprinted with permission from the Sheffield School of Design.

photo (c) htop 2009,

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