If you are fairly new to gardening, paperwhite bulbs are an excellent plant to start your garden off with. These flowers are easy to plant and grow very quickly – not to mention they’re beautiful too!
What Are Paperwhites?
Paperwhite flowers are native to the Mediterranean region of the world, including Greece, Portugal, Morocco and Algeria. The plant has become naturalised in California, Texas, Azores, Corsica and Louisiana.
Paperwhites are part of the genus Narcissus which includes plants sun as daffodils. These fragrant flowers are easily identifiable by their mid-green stems that grow upright. At maturity, they can reach a height of about 45 centimetres. At the top of each stem, there are several small white flowers.
Paperwhites are symbolic of rebirth and a sense of renewal. They are one of the first flowers to bloom and to signal the arrival of spring. Sometimes, they bloom even earlier because they can easily be “forced” to grow indoors.
How To Grow Paperwhite Bulbs
When growing your paperwhite plants, make sure you consider the following factors:
Where to Plant Paperwhite
Paperwhites can be planted and perform well both outdoors and indoors. If you are planning to plant your paperwhites outdoors, make sure that they are somewhere sunny with well-draining soil. If grown indoors, plant your paperwhites in a container filled with stones or soil.
When to Plant Paperwhite
If you’re planting your paperwhites outside, plant them during the autumn months to enjoy a spring bloom. You can plant paperwhites at any time of the year if you are growing them indoors as they perform well when forced.
How to Plant Paperwhite
Plant your outdoor paperwhites about six inches deep in clusters of three to five bulbs so that they create maximum impact with their bright white blooms. When planting them indoors, set the bulbs close together on top of your potting mix and then add enough soil so that the top third of the bulb remains exposed.
How To Force Paperwhites
Paperwhites can very easily be forced to grow.
All you need to do is water them in clean gravel, glass beads or any other loose material around which roots can easily grow and intertwine. This supports the top-heavy flowers and prevents them from falling over. Once properly established, it will be quite easy to force them to grow inside, protected from the elements they would have to compete with outside.
How To Care For Paperwhites
It’s relatively easy to care for paperwhites. If their soil is dry, water them to moisten it. If they are indoor plants, tip their container slightly to drain any excess water. Make sure that the flowers are in a cool but brightly lit location.
Paperwhites tend to grow more compactly and their blooms last longer in cooler temperatures. The growth of the paperwhites stretches out in warmer temperatures and conditions with lower lighting.
As your paperwhites grow, rotate their container in order to prevent them from leaning towards the light and ensure that their soil remains moist but not soggy. These flowers typically bloom in two to four weeks and once they start, can last one to two weeks. However, if you wish to achieve a longer bloom, you should keep the soil moist and move the container out of direct sunlight.
Unlike many plants, paperwhites will not bloom again, and as a result, can be discarded.
How long do paperwhites last?
Typically, paperwhites start to bloom two to four weeks after planting. They can then last a further two weeks once they have bloomed. If you wish to extend their bloom period, you can move your flowers out of direct sunlight.
Do paperwhites come back every year?
Paperwhites that have been grown indoors and forced to bloom typically do not come back the following year and could be discarded. However, paperwhites grown outside can be replanted the next year from the leftover bulbs.
What do you do with paperwhites after they bloom?
With the exception of paperwhites forced indoors in pebbles, these flowers can rebloom for about two more years. You can save the plant to bloom again the following year by simply leaving them exactly where they were originally planted in your garden.
Do paperwhites need sun?
Like most other flowers, paperwhites need sun. If they are growing indoors, make sure they are somewhere with access to sunlight and rotate them regularly.
Do paperwhites multiply?
Yes, paperwhites multiply underground. Paperwhites can be dug up about every two years as their bulbs multiply. They can then be replanted.
Can you rebloom paperwhites?
When paperwhite bulbs are forced, they cannot be regrown. However, when they are grown outside and allowed to bloom according to their timing, you can certainly rebloom or regrow them every year.
Why do paperwhites stink?
Paperwhites are deemed the “cilantro of the flower world” because some people absolutely love their scent, while others cannot stand it. Their stench is due to the presence of a biochemical called indole. Indole’s scent has been characterised as “musky”.
How do I keep my paperwhites from getting leggy?
You can stop your paperwhites from getting leggy by placing about two inches of washed pebbles on the surface of their soil. When watering them, do so lightly so that it barely reaches the bottom of the bulb. This will help keep your plant compact.
Are paperwhites poisonous to cats?
All parts of the paperwhite plant are poisonous to cats. However, the most toxic part of the plant is the bulb.
Are paperwhites the same as Narcissus?
Yes, paperwhite blossoms are the same as Narcissus, the December birth flower. While paperwhites are generally thought to have a bad scent, Ziva paperwhites and Nir paperwhites, most commonly associated with the ‘Narcissus’ label, are both lauded for their fragrances.
Exotic and unusual, yet easy to grow, paperwhites make for wonderful cut flowers. They look lovely in bouquets and centrepieces that need a touch of white. If you’ve got even mildly green fingers, give them a grow!