How To Grow Paperwhite Bulbs


Paperwhite flowers are one of many types of narcissus; these delicate, fragrant flowers grow prolifically outdoors in spring and make wonderful forced flowers for an indoor dose of the garden during cold, gray winter months. Both outdoor growing and indoor forcing are simple to do. You'll want to plant bulbs outside in late fall for a great display the following spring. For indoor forcing, plant the bulbs in October to have blooms near the holidays.

Outdoor Growing

Step 1

Locate a sunny site; paperwhites prefer full sun.

Step 2

Prepare the soil by digging up and removing any grass or weeds and using a hoe or shovel to break apart large clumps of dirt. If the soil is mainly clay, mix in some topsoil to encourage a well-drained home for the paperwhites.

Step 3

Plant the bulbs about six inches deep, with the larger, flat part of the bulb on the bottom and smaller, pointed end facing up. Spread the bulbs out so they are about 6 inches apart. You can plant in a row, fill in a circular bed, or lay the bulbs along the edge of another planting or in front of a fence line.

Step 4

Cover the bulbs with the soil and gently pat down. It's a good idea to label the area so you don't forget where your bulbs are planted before they bloom.

Indoor Forcing

Step 1

Purchase bulbs labeled "for indoor forcing." Bulbs must have a sufficient dormant period before they are ready to flower again, so if you've just lifted and divided bulbs from your garden they won't be ready for indoor forcing.

Step 2

Use a clay or ceramic pot for forcing to provide enough weight to support the taller, top-heavy paperwhite flowers. Be sure the pot you choose has drainage holes in the bottom.

Step 3

Place a layer of pebbles in the bottom of the pot.

Step 4

Cover with a layer of potting soil mix. You want the top of the bulbs to be just about even with the top of the pot, so put in enough dirt to set the bulbs at that level. You can add fertilizer according to package directions, but according to the Reader's Digest All-New Illustrated Guide to Gardening, you will get a good bloom without fertilizer.

Step 5

Place the bulbs, large side down, on the soil. It's okay if the bulbs are touching on the sides. You'll have a good display of flowers with several bulbs in one pot. Cover the bulbs with soil. Water well and allow excess water to drain. Set the pot in a spot inside with good lighting: a sunny windowsill or a well-lit room. Water often enough to keep the soil moist.

Things You'll Need

  • Pots or suitable planting containers
  • Gravel or small pebbles
  • Potting soil mix


  • The Reader's Digest All-New Illustrated Guide to Gardening, pp 109 through 120.
Keywords: forcing paperwhites, growing narcissus, forcing bulbs

About this Author

Annie Mueller is a professional writer and blogger. Since 2003 she has written extensively on small business, finances, parenting, education and personal growth, and has been published on Financial Edge and many other websites. Mueller attended Missouri Baptist College and earned her Bachelor of Arts, summa cum laude, in English from Mississippi State University.