Tips For Growing Paperwhite Flowers Indoors

Looking for a winter gardening project? Get tips for growing paperwhite flowers indoors and you'll be rewarded with beautiful blooms in just a few weeks.

Need a break from the winter blues? Missing your garden blooms a little more each day? Here’s easy solution— try growing paperwhite flowers indoors right now for fresh, sweet-smelling blooms.

Growing Paperwhites Indoors

How to Grow Paperwhite Flowers

Paperwhite flowers (Narcissus papyraceus) are part of the narcissus family, like daffodils. They’re native to the Mediterranean. Since they come from a mild climate, they don’t need to be pre-chilled before they flower like other bulbs. That means you can start growing them right out of the box. Better yet—they grow and bloom quickly. I recently started the paperwhite flower bulbs shown here, and it took less than 2 weeks for these beautiful blooms to appear. Your results may vary. It may take between 2 to 8 weeks to see flowers.

Psst—these are the best websites for buying flower bulbs online.

Growing Paperwhites Indoors

Growing paperwhite flowers indoors is very easy. You don’t even need soil, just a shallow dish with some stones will do. Here’s the basic process and a few tips from my own experience. I grew these on my back porch in Florida, which during the winter actually mimics the temperatures of most people’s homes pretty well!

Pack the bulbs close together; they don’t need to be spaced out. They only need a few inches for the roots to grow, so almost any container will work. Add water to the dish until it covers about the bottom half of the bulb and no more. Otherwise the bulb could rot.

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Growing Paperwhites Indoors

To ensure strong healthy plants, paperwhites are best grown in bright, indirect light and in temperatures around 65 – 70 degrees F. Add water as needed as the stems begin to appear.

Growing Paperwhites Indoors 3

Stems grow tall and straight, with flower heads appearing when they reach 12 – 18 inches. This is the point at which many people struggle with paperwhites, because they become floppy and need to be staked or tied up, like the ones shown below.

Growing Paperwhites Indoors

Paperwhite Flower Care

There are a few easy tricks to keep this from happening, though. Try any combination of these to grow shorter, sturdier paperwhites:

  • Keep paperwhites at temperatures below 70 degrees F, and ensure they receive plenty of bright light. If you notice the stems leaning toward the light source, turn the container regularly to keep the stems straight.
  • Keeping the planted paperwhite flower bulbs in a cool area like a garage or basement with temperatures around 50 degrees F for several weeks before exposing them to warmth and light is said to ensure shorter stems.
  • *The most unusual way, but also one of the easiest, is to try “pickling” your paperwhite flower bulbs by watering them with a very dilute solution of alcohol. This is the method I used, and was pleased with the results. Any kind of hard liquor will work (but not wine or beer), or you can use rubbing alcohol. After the bulbs show about an inch of growth, drain the existing water. Replace it with a solution of 4-6% alcohol. Use the same solution to water the plants for the rest of their growth cycle. My plants wound up about a third shorter than a friend’s who grew them at the same time in the traditional way. They did not get “floppy” or need to be staked.

Growing Paperwhite flowers Indoors

Paperwhite Flower Smell

Paperwhite flowers last quite a long time, and can be cut for vases as well. They are extremely fragrant, too much so for some people. I have noted that while the scent can be overpowering when the flowers first open, the fragrance fades a bit in a day or two. When the bulbs are done blooming, you can try planting them outside in your garden in zones 8 – 10, but they may not bloom again for several years. In colder zones, it’s best to discard the bulbs as they are unlikely to bloom again next year.

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Jill Staake
Jill lives in Tampa, Florida, and writes about gardening, butterflies, outdoor projects and birding. When she's not gardening, you'll find her reading, traveling and happily digging her toes into the sand on the beach.