Snowy white blossoms, spring green leaves, and a heady perfume have made paperwhites one of the world’s most popular indoor bulbs – second only to amaryllis. They are also incredibly easy to grow, requiring nothing more than a little water and a bright window. Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of these fragrant, winter-blooming bulbs:
1. Plant paperwhites in groups of 5 to 7 bulbs. Big clumps look more balanced than just two or three bulbs. Use pots (without drainage holes) that are 6 to 8” wide.
2. Extend the show by planting several batches of bulbs. You can do all the planting in one day and then store the pre-planted pots in a cool, dark place. When you are ready to start a new batch of bulbs, just bring out one of the pots and add water.
3. Grow paperwhites in water rather than soil. It works just as well, and weighing the bulbs down with stones helps keep the flowers from tipping over. Washed gravel works fine, as do marble chips, polished river stones, tumbled glass or even marbles. Only the bottom half of the bulb needs to be covered. The roots will anchor themselves by growing around and under the stones.
Once your paperwhites have finished blooming, you can snip off the spent flowers and continue enjoying the foliage. Eventually, the bulbs can be tossed as they will not bloom again. There are only a few areas in the country (S. California and parts of Texas) that have the hot, dry weather conditions that paperwhites require for good flower production. In other areas where paperwhites are hardy (zones 8-11), they can be grown outdoors year-round, but may not bloom reliably.