How to Care for Paper White Bulbs

Overview

Paper whites (Narcissus tazetta) are a species of narcissus similar to the daffodil flower. These attractive plants features groups of creamy white flowers set atop tall stalks. Many gardeners like to force paper white bulbs, or "trick" the bulbs into blooming early in a container indoors. Paper whites can also be planted outdoors in the fall for early spring blooming. When caring for these hardy flowers indoors or out, do not let them become waterlogged.

Indoors

Step 1

Keep the bulbs in a cool, dark location until you are ready to plant them. Check the bulbs for any soft (rotted) spots or large cracks. Discard those bulbs.

Step 2

Fill a shallow, decorative container with 2 or 3 inches of pebbles, decorative marbles or stones. Add enough water to the container so reaches just above the level of the pebbles.

Step 3

Place 3 to 5 bulbs in the center of the container. Group them together in the middle of the container, with the points of the bulbs facing upward. They should be touching each other. Press the bulbs into the pebbles a bit so that they are well-supported.

Step 4

Place bulb container in a cool location with bright but indirect light, such as near a south-facing window. Too little light and the flowers will flop over. Keep the water level just above the pebbles. The bulbs will bloom in four to five weeks, according to the University of Illinois Extension.

Step 5

Remove the bulbs and throw them in the compost pile after the flowers fade. Or, plant them outdoors, in a sunny location, between 6 to 8 inches deep. It may take several years for the paper whites to re-bloom, which is why they are sometimes best discarded, according to the University of Florida.

Outdoors

Step 1

Choose a location in full sunlight with rich, well-draining soil. Overly wet soil will cause the bulbs to rot before they can bloom.

Step 2

Plant the bulbs in the fall, before the first hard freeze. Dig a hole 6 to 8 inches deep. Place the paper white bulbs pointed-end up in the hole in a cluster, as they like to be grouped closely together, according to the University of Illinois Extension.

Step 3

Cover the bulbs with the removed soil and tamp it down gently. Water thoroughly, and cover the planting site with a 3-inch layer of mulch.

Step 4

Remove the mulch in the spring when sprouts appear. Keep the soil moist as the flowers grow and bloom.

Step 5

Let the foliage die down completely in the summer (turn brown and wilt) before removing it. This lets the nutrients in the plant return to the bulb, according to the University of Florida.

Things You'll Need

  • Shallow decorative container
  • Pebbles, marbles or rocks
  • Trowel
  • Mulch

References

  • University of Illinois Extension: Paperwhite Narcissus: Easy and Fun
  • University of Florida: Picture Perfect Paperwhites
Keywords: care of paperwhites, paper white bulbs, growing paperwhite narcissus

About this Author

April Sanders has been a professional writer since 1998. Previously, she worked as an educator and currently writes academic research content for EBSCO publishing and elementary reading curriculum for Compass Publishing. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in social psychology from the University of Washington and a master's degree in information sciences and technology in education from Mansfield University.