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How to Save Paperwhites

narcissus image by Aleksandr Lobanov from

Paperwhite, or narcissus, are an easy bulb to force to bloom during gloomy winter weather. Unlike tulips, crocus and hyacinths, paperwhites do not need to be chilled to bloom. The flowers resemble miniature daffodils and are highly scented. They are often available around the holidays. Save your paperwhites to plant in your garden after they've finished blooming inside.

Cold Winter Climates

Place the paperwhites in a sunny window until the bulbs are finished blooming. Cut off spent blossoms. Keep the leaves watered when soil is dry to the touch at a depth of 1 inch. If the pot feels light, it's time to water.

Prop the leaves up if they start to droop by inserting stakes--wooden skewers for grilling kabobs work well--in between the bulbs and tying the leaves to the stakes.

Fertilize once a month with half strength water soluble fertilizer.

Wait until the leaves have completely yellowed and are starting to wither before you stop watering. Let the bulbs dry out. Keep them in the pot or remove them. Store in a dry cool place.

Plant the bulbs in the garden when any chance for frost has passed. The bulbs may sprout but they most likely won't bloom that first spring.

Warm Winter Climates

Place the pot outside in dappled shade for an hour the first day. Increase the time by several hours a day until the pot is outside all day long.

Dig a hole 6 inches deeper than the pot where you want the paperwhites planted in the garden. Add 6 inches of mulch and slow release fertilizer per package directions in the planting hole.

Plant the paperwhites by removing them all together and placing them in the hole. It's not necessary to separate them and plant each bulb individually.

Water until the ground is wet 6 inches deep.


Don't be tempted to cut off the leaves before they have withered. The leaves provide energy for next spring's flowers.


Paperwhite bulbs are poisonous

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