Paperwhites for Christmas Forcing – Grow Your Holiday Decor

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Are you looking to add a touch of natural beauty to your home this holiday season? Look no further than Paperwhites. These delicate white flowers, forced to bloom indoors during winter, are perfect for your Christmas decor. Unlike other plants that require months of preparation, paperwhites can be easily forced into bloom within just a few weeks. Our guide below will help you plant paperwhites for Christmas forcing and provide tips for keeping your flowers looking their best.

Paperwhite daffodil flowers isolated against white.
Table of Contents

    Essential Equipment and Tools For Forcing Paperwhites

    You’ll need a few essential tools and equipment to force paperwhites for Christmas successfully. Here’s what you’ll need:

    Bulbs: Opt for healthy, firm bulbs free from rot or damage signs.

    Pot or container:  If you’re looking for a creative and versatile way to grow Paperwhite bulbs, you’ll be delighted to know you can plant them in different containers. Whether you use a rustic mason jar, a cozy coffee mug, or a wonderfully sophisticated vase, there are countless possibilities to explore. So, let your imagination run wild and choose the perfect container to display your beautiful Paperwhite blooms.

    Soil or growing medium: Use well-draining soil or a specialized bulb planting mix to balance nutrients and moisture retention.

    Glass rocks or decorative gravel: These can be used to line the bottom of your pot for added drainage and aesthetic appeal. Aquarium gravel is an excellent option.

    Water: Good old H2O is crucial for your paperwhite’s growth, so ensure you can access clean water.

    Forcing paperwhite narcissus bulb flowers in water and rocks

    Timing and Schedule for Growing Paperwhite Bulbs

    To successfully grow paperwhite bulbs for Christmas forcing, it’s crucial to understand the timing and schedule involved. Here are some key points to keep in mind:

    Why Paperwhite Bulbs are Different From Other Bulbs and Do Not Require a Hard Chilling Period

    Unlike other Narcissus varieties, paperwhite bulbs have a higher water content, allowing them to grow and bloom without requiring a chilling period. This unique characteristic makes them ideal for indoor forcing. Traditional Narcissus bulbs, like daffodils, typically need a cold period to break dormancy and initiate flowering, but Paperwhites do not.

    The composition of Paperwhite bulbs consists of layers that include the outer protective bulb fibre and the inner layers that store nutrients and moisture. The bulb fiber of Paperwhites is somewhat fleshy and soft compared to traditional flower bulbs. This softer texture is due to their higher water content.

    When planting Paperwhite bulbs for indoor forcing, you don’t need to worry about the hardness and dryness often associated with traditional bulbs.

    Paperwhite flowers in full bloom indoors against a soft blue background.

    Planting Multiple Bulbs

    Planting multiple bulbs together can result in a beautiful and fragrant display of flowers. Moreover, when bulbs are planted together, they offer mutual support and protection from environmental factors. If some bulbs fail to bloom, the remaining ones will still thrive, creating an even more impressive display.

    Additionally, planting bulbs in clusters can create a more natural and attractive appearance, especially if you choose to plant bulbs of different sizes and colors. By doing so, you can create a beautiful and varied display that will enhance the beauty of your garden or yard.

    Many Paperwhites bulb flowers ready for planting.

    Timing the Planting

    If you want to have beautiful blooms, timing is everything. The ideal time to plant flower bulbs depends on when you want them to bloom.

    For instance, if you want flowers for Christmas, you’ll need to plant the bulbs about 4-6 weeks before the desired bloom time. This means growing them in mid-November for Christmas blooms to allow enough time for them to sprout and be in full bloom by late December.

    By carefully planning and planting your bulbs, you can ensure a stunning display of flowers that will brighten up your home during the holiday season.

    Closeup of paperwhite blooms.

    Staggered Plantings

    If you want your paperwhite flowers to bloom continuously throughout the holiday season, one effective way is to stagger your plantings. You can achieve this by planting new paperwhite bulbs every 2-3 weeks. Staggering planting will ensure that your bulbs are at different stages of growth, with fresh blooms appearing at different times.

    Follow the timing and schedule guidelines to increase your chances of successfully growing paperwhite flowers for Christmas. Plan, provide the necessary pre-chilling period, and choose the suitable container and lighting conditions for optimal growth. Doing so lets you enjoy beautiful and long-lasting blooms during this festive season.

    Paperwhites for Christmas forcing in water and rocks to create a spring feeling in mid winter.

    Step-by-step Guide: Paperwhites for Christmas Forcing

    Choosing the Right Bulbs

    When selecting narcissus bulbs for planting, it is vital to choose healthy bulbs labeled as either “paperwhites” or “narcissus tazetta.” Look for bulbs that are free of blemishes or discoloration.

    Check for any signs of damage or disease on the base of the bulbs, such as soft spots or mold, as these can affect the growth and health of your plants. By carefully selecting high-quality bulbs, you can ensure that your narcissus plants will thrive and produce beautiful blooms.

    You can find healthy bulbs at local nurseries and even big box stores. But you will find larger assortments and better varieties from suppliers like

    Paperwhites for Christmas forcing planted close together in a shallow black bowl.

    Preparing the Bulbs

    To plant bulbs in a container, fill them with pebbles, marbles, or decorative gravel. Make sure not to overcrowd the container and place the bulbs on top of the medium (like a layer of stones)without letting the bulbs touch each other.

    Next, pour enough water until it reaches the base of the bulb. Avoid submerging the bottom of the bulb in water, as it can lead to rotting.

    Sunlight Requirements For Beautiful White Blooms

    Paperwhites are a type of narcissus that are easy to grow indoors. If you’ve started to grow paperwhites, it’s important to know that they need bright light to thrive. However, you should also be aware that the flowers will last longer if the plants are kept in a cooler location, around 65˚F.

    A cool windowsill that receives indirect sunlight is a great option for finding the ideal paperwhites spot. Alternatively, a table near a sunny window can also work well. Just be sure to avoid placing them near a southern window that gets direct sunlight for extended periods in the afternoon, as this can be too harsh for the plants.

    paperwhites for christmas forcing turn into beautiful bright white tiny flowers with dark green stems and strappy green stems.

    Watering and Care

    Proper care of your plants is essential to ensure their healthy growth. To maintain optimal conditions for bulb plants, it is recommended to regularly check and adjust the water levels to keep them below the base of the bulb. Overwatering can lead to bulb rot, harming the plant’s health.

    Rotating the container to promote even growth is also beneficial, allowing all sides of the plant to receive proper sunlight and nutrients. Following these simple steps can help your plants thrive and flourish.

    Enjoying Your Blooms In Four to Six Weeks

    Your paperwhite narcissus will likely bloom within two to four weeks after you bring them to light. Once they begin to bloom, it’s best to move them to a cool spot away from direct sunlight to extend the lifespan of their flowers. You can enjoy these flowers’ beautiful colors and fragrant blooms throughout the holiday!

    Forcing paperwhites in winter.  Bright white small daffodil like blooms with tiny yellow stamen against a dark green background.

    Summary: Mastering Paperwhites for Christmas Forcing

    Paperwhites are the perfect choice for adding natural beauty to your holiday decor with minimal effort. Their quick indoor forcing ability and fragrant bright white blooms offer a charming contrast to the winter season. Their fragrant blossoms and vibrant green foliage will bring any room a fresh and festive feel. So, why settle for artificial decorations when you can have the real deal?

    And we have more natural Christmas decor ideas you can implement this year to give your holiday decor a bit of a glow-up without spending a lot of money:


    How long does it take for paperwhites to bloom?

    Paperwhites usually take around 3-5 weeks from planting to blooming when forced indoors. However, temperature and bulb variety can affect the exact timing.

    Do paperwhite bulbs require sunlight?

    While indirect light benefits healthy growth, direct sunlight can cause tall stems that may flop over. Place your paperwhites in a bright spot away from direct sunlight to ensure sturdy, upright growth.

    Can I force paperwhite bulbs without soil?

    Absolutely! Paperwhite bulbs can be grown in various mediums, such as pebbles, marbles, or water. Just make sure to provide enough support for the growing stems.

    How do I prevent paperwhites from getting too tall and floppy?

    To prevent tall and floppy stems that are top heavy, use a diluted alcohol solution (1 part hard alcohol to 7 parts water to create a 5% alcohol solution) instead of plain water when watering your paperwhites. This method helps regulate stem growth while still allowing for beautiful blooms. Avoid fertilizing, as fertilizers can also lead to tall, leggy stems.

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