Paperwhite narcissus can be grown in standard potting mix (in pots with drain holes), or they can be set on gravel or pebbles in a bowl or vase with water added to just below the bulb bases. Bulbs produce several flowering stems, each topped with a cluster of about 6 to 10 white flowers that are extremely fragrant (some may find the scent a bit overwhelming!).
Common name: Paperwhite narcissus
Botanical name: Narcissus papyraceus
Plant type: Bulb
Zones: 9 to 11 outdoors; all zones indoors
Height: 12 to 18 inches
- Sun: Window with bright indirect light and/or under fluorescent lights
- Soil: Soilless potting mix in pot or gravel/pebbles plus water in bowl or vase
- Moisture: Even moisture; in closed containers, make sure water level stays just below the bulb base to avoid rot.
- Mulch: None
- Pruning: None
- Fertilizer: Indoors, none; outdoors, apply bonemeal or high phosophorus fertilizer annually
- Outdoors, dig, divide and replant bulbs when clumps get too crowded.
Pests and diseases
- ‘Ziva’ is a strong-growing cultivar that is especially good for indoor forcing.
- ‘Ariel’ blooms a bit earlier than ‘Ziva’.
- After bloom, throw paperwhite narcissus into the compost or trash since they can’t be forced again.
- For a fascinating look at root growth, grow paperwhite narcissus in a clear glass bowl or vase filled with smooth pebbles.
- Paperwhites look best when grown in groups; try 3, 5, 7 or more bulbs, depending on container size.
All in the family
- Paperwhite narcissus is a member of the amaryllis family (Amaryllidaceae), a large group of bulbs and herbaceous plants.
- Other garden bulbs and houseplants in the amaryllis family include amaryllis (Hippeastrum), snowdrops (Galanthus), rain lily (Zephyranthus) and clivia.
Where to buy