Paperwhites: Simple Winter Flowers With the Promise of Spring

Paperwhites hold the Promise of Spring

After the winter holidays are over, many of us sadly take down the decorations and wait months for the arrival of spring. In my Central Oregon home, warmer weather can be months away, often waiting until May or June! But I love flowers, especially bulbs. What can I do to enjoy nature's beauty before its time?

Paperwhites hold the promise of spring! These delicate white flowers on long green stems, also known as Narcissus, can be grown and enjoyed indoors by the process of forcing bulbs.

Unlike the more garish Amaryllis that is popular during Christmas and New Year's, Paperwhites are a simple flower, with pretty blooms. I find that they are a beautiful, refreshing alternative to Poinsettias and holly, when I am looking for relief from the recent weeks of red and green.

Beautiful winter flower - the Paperwhite
Beautiful winter flower - the Paperwhite | Source

Paperwhites are Fragrant and Beautiful

Paperwhite flowers can generally be enjoyed in winter months (January through March) with their long, delicate stalks, white blooms and fragrant scent. Also known as Narcissus, Paperwhites are a bulb flower (like tulips, daffodils and others) that can be forced - i.e., to bloom before its time - indoors.

Paperwhites have a strong fragrance, which sets them apart from most other bulb flowers. Once you force them to bloom, paperwhites can delight you for weeks. And it only takes about a month to coax them into blooming after planting indoors.

For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, you can enjoy Paper whites in January!

How to Force Bulbs: Paperwhites

About Paperwhites: Bulb Flowers for Spring

The Paperwhite flower is an import to the United States. Scholars believe that they originated in Mediterranean countries, due to writings of several well-known authors, including Homer. Isreal is one of the top producers of Paperwhite bulbs for the U.S. Bulbs that are produced are cultivated on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.

Paper white flowers have a strong fragrance, so if you are sensitive to smells, you might want to think twice about Narcissus.

Grow Paperwhites Indoors

Forcing paperwhite bulbs
Forcing paperwhite bulbs | Source

How to Grow Paperwhites

Paperwhites can be forced with very little effort. In fact, if you purchase paperwhite bulbs in December, you will be enjoying blooms within 4-6 weeks, in early winter months. You should keep the bulbs in a cool, dry place before planting them.

Pre-potted containers of narcissus are also available for those who want to grow paperwhites even more easily. If you are looking for a nice gift, you can give a pre-potted narcissus bulb to a teacher, hair dresser, coach or any other important person in your life.

You can grow paperwhites indoors on a bed of washed pebbles, marbles or gravel. All you need is a shallow container about 3-4 inches deep in which you wish to display your forced paperwhites. The materials you need can be found at your local craft store, nurseries or garden centers.

The best results for growing paperwhites can be achieved by adding a small amount of liquor to the water for your bulb flowers. You can control the floppiness of the flower stems by using vodka, gin or whisky. Adding alcohol to water for your flowers will promote short, sturdy stems, rather than longer, more floppy ones.

Growing Paperwhites in a Vase

Have you ever grown paperwhites?

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Paperwhites are a winter beauty
Paperwhites are a winter beauty | Source

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Comments 32 comments

tlpoague profile image

tlpoague 5 years ago from USA

I have to say, I have never heard of this flower before and am interesting in seeing if I could grow one. I am glad you posted this hub. Where I live, the winters can sometimes be long, and I miss seeing the flowers. I will have to give this a try. Thanks!

prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 5 years ago from malang-indonesia

I love this flower. Thank you very much for writing the detail of paperwhites. I really love the video as well. I'll show this hub to my father, he loves gardening. Well done and rated up!


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Thanks Tipoague,

I enjoy growing paperwhites indoors after Christmas because I miss flowers during winter too. Good luck growing them! Best, Steph

stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Hi Prasetio,

Thanks! Hope your father enjoys this hub on paperwhites, too. Cheers, Steph

randomcreative profile image

randomcreative 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Beautiful flower! Thanks for the great information.

kashmir56 profile image

kashmir56 5 years ago from Massachusetts

I have never heard of this flower before, but now because of all this great information in your beautifully written hub i know more about this beautiful flower, thanks !

Vote up !!!

brsmom68 profile image

brsmom68 5 years ago from Alberta, Canada

I have grown Paperwhites before and they are very pretty. I did find them to be a bit overpowering fragrance-wise, so would suggest placing them in a larger room. Great Hub with a ton of information.

stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Thanks randomcreative, kashmir and brsmom! Yes, paperwhite flowers can be quite fragrant - good idea to consider putting them in a large room. Hope you all get to enjoy the early hints of spring growing paperwhites at your homes! Best, Steph

robie2 profile image

robie2 5 years ago from Central New Jersey

great hub. I force bulbs every winter-- it's kind of a January ritual for me to have a little Spring in the house with paperwhites. Thanks so much for this one. Voted up and useful

Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 5 years ago from East Coast, United States

I've always wanted paperwhites, but never got around to it. What a wonderful way to beat the winter blahs. Maybe this year....

stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Hi Robie - my mother-in-law always gave me Amaryllis for Christmas, which I never really liked much. Once, I was looking for a replacement flower (the stem on the first one broke) and I came upon a display of Paperwhites for forcing. I've loved them ever since. ;-) Cheers, Steph

stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Dolores, it is so easy to force paperwhite bulbs. Hope you try it this year. Best to you, Steph

Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

Hi Steph,

That is so interesting regarding adding a bit of liquor to the water to affect the growth of the stems of the paperwhites. Nice to know! Interesting and useful hub. Merry Christmas!

Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

Lovely hub, Steph. Paperwhites are an air freshener from heaven. No scented candle or artificial spray could ever compete with them. Their scent is heavenly. I wonder, how much liquor to water, one part in ten, or more? Interesting that while booze can get us humans tipsy to the point of falling over, it has the opposite effect on paperwhites. One of nature's delightful mysteries. :)

stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Hi Peggy,

The same can be done with some cut flowers - tulips to be exact - to extend the length of them in a vase. Merry Christmas to you, too! Steph

stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Hi Sherri - I usually use a small amount of alcohol, about a tablespoon in 1-1 1/2 cups of water. And it is kind of funny to think about liquor strengthening flower stems when it relaxes us humans to the point of not being able to stand up straight, at times... :-) Best, Steph

Agnes Penn profile image

Agnes Penn 5 years ago from Nicholson, Pennsylvania, USA

The last pix is lovely and the rest depict the accurate description of the Paperwhites' care and development.

I love flowers and, though snow raises my spirits, I do miss flowers in winter.

Great idea! Will try.

Merry Christmas!

stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Hi Agnes,

I love flowers, as well. Actually, I think that I savor each season as it arrives, but am usually ready for it to pass by the end. At times, winter can linger, so its nice to enjoy bulb flowers that have been forced indoors.

Merry Christmas to you, too! Best, Steph

Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 5 years ago from England

Hi, I have never heard of them called Paperwhites before, what a wonderful name! and I did smile when you said add vodka etc for shorter stems, does this mean they come up 'half cut'? lol! lovely!

stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

LOL Nell! Half-cut... that is a good one. ;-)

mljdgulley354 profile image

mljdgulley354 5 years ago

I miss working in the greenhouse at this time of year. We always forced bulbs starting around January. Thank you for this article.

Movie Master profile image

Movie Master 5 years ago from United Kingdom

I love these beautiful flowers, we call them Narcissus in the UK and I have planted lots of bulbs in the garden.

A pot of these flowers on the kitchen window sill are a real delight, thank you for the tip for the alcohol!

Thank you for sharing this wonderful hub and voted up.

anglnwu profile image

anglnwu 5 years ago

I do paperwhites. One year, my neighbor gave me a pot of paperwhites and that was the first time I have it in the house. The flowers are so pure and I love that one can still enjoy flowers in the dead of winter. Rated up.

stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Thanks all - I am glad that this hub is bringing back memories of paperwhites/narcissus. Gardening with bulbs is such a simple joy, whether indoors or outside. Merry Christmas and Happiest of Holidays to you! Steph

RedElf profile image

RedElf 5 years ago from Canada

I have not yet had any luck forcing paperwhites, though I was successful with Hyacinths one year. You have inspired me to try again!

stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Try again, RedElf! Maybe the bulb you were trying to force was dried out? Good luck - cheers, Steph

suziecat7 profile image

suziecat7 5 years ago from Asheville, NC

You've renewed my interest in these flowers. Off to buy some bulbs now. Thanks.

stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Thanks suziecat - let me know how the paperwhite bulbs turn out for you! Best, Steph

Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 4 years ago from East Coast, United States

Hi again - well I did grow paperwhites. Someone gave me some bulbs for Christmas. I didn't try the alcohol thing, but they turned out great! However, as much as I love scented flowers, I found the flowers to exude a stench. They put the stink in distinctive aroma. The whole house smells like garbage. I have since found that 1/4 of the population finds the smell offensive. Will I grow them again? You bet I will. They are still beautiful! Thanks for the inspiration!

stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Oh no!! Smelly flowers are no good!

stessily 4 years ago

Steph, Your tribute to paperwhites is greatly appreciated. I love them; they're among my favorite flowers, for their fragrance and their unassuming beauty and for their adaptability to growing indoors. Paperwhites serve as daily gifts, reminding us that spring is really not that far away.

Well done.

Mary 14 months ago

Can I put 20 together In a big ugly pot and then transfer them to 20 cute pots for gifting right before they bloom?

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