From My Garden to Yours
Paperwhites in containers Paperwhites bulbs in container
Paperwhites against blue sky


Every time I post a photo of Paperwhites on Instagram, someone is sure to say, “They stink!” Although they are gorgeous, I have to agree. But I grow them outside so I’m not concerned about their scent. Indoors you can grow them in any zone, but outside they are best suited to zones 8-10. Since Paperwhites are native to the Mediterranean, they don’t require any cooling period before planting.

Forcing Paperwhites Indoors

Since they don’t need much room for roots (about 3″), they are easy to grow in nearly any container. Plus, they will grow in nearly any growing medium: soil, pebbles, marbles, beach glass, etc. and are so easy to grow. Just place them in the container close together with roots facing down.

Without soil: Place pebbles (or whatever you’re using) between and around the bulbs to keep them anchored. Add water to the base of the bulbs. You just need enough for the roots.

In soil: Place bulbs with soil line at about their necks. You can space them tightly; almost touching. Then saturate soil. Be careful if you are using a container without a drainage hole. Paperwhites want to be moist but not soggy. Add water when the soil starts to dry – poke your finger in the soil to test.  With smaller containers I also will pick it up to determine if it’s dry or wet. A wet container will be heavy and will become lighter as the soil dries. They will need less water while bulbs are beginning to root and then more water when foliage and flowers are growing.

While the bulbs are rooting place in a cool location away from direct sunlight. When they begin to root (or they poke out of soil), place by a sunny window.

Forced bulbs generally will not bloom the following year. You can throw them away (or put into compost). But if you’re patient, you can also plant them in a container or in your yard. Next year you will just get foliage from the bulb as it regains strength from the sun and soil.

When the Paperwhites in soil containers have finished blooming and you live in a temperate zone (8-10), you can take the container outside.

Growing Paperwhites Outside

Paperwhites like a sunny location with good drainage. If your soil doesn’t have good drainage (common with clay soil), consider creating a small elevation for them.

Whether in a container or planted in your garden, Paperwhites like a sunny location. If they don’t get enough light, they can get too tall and floppy. But they can be grown in light shade.

Divided bulbs of various sizes.
Tiny bulblet.
Paperwhites with pansies.

Bulb Depth: When planting, the tips of the bulbs should be just below the surface of the soil. Then water thoroughly.

Amendments: In the yard, I sprinkle  a little bone and blood meal with the bulbs which are slow feeders. In containers, I use a potting soil that includes fertilizer. At least every two years, I repot the bulbs.

After blooming: Let the foliage grow until it turns brown. As foliage is fading, phase out watering. Then store in a dry location. I keep all of my bulb pots under a tree in the yard since I don’t have a basement/cellar which would be ideal. Even without watering, the bulbs will start to push up shoots when the weather starts to cool (typically October in my zone).

Dividing Paperwhites: They create babies pretty quickly. About every two years, I divide my container bulbs. I carefully pull them apart and then repot. Depending on the size, bulblets will need at least a year or two of growth before they will bloom.


Latin Name
Narcissus papyraceus
Bloom Season

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