Forcing Paper White Narcissus

Unlike many other forced bulbs, the paper white bulbs available for forcing don't require a special chilling or rest period to provide their fragrant, starry display. As soon as you plant them, they'll start growing!

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Paperwhite Narcissus

Paperwhite Narcissus

Paperwhite Narcissus can be made to bloom on shorter stems with a special alcohol and water mix. And Mardi Gras beads work just fine in place of gravel.

Photo by: Image courtesy of Felder Rushing

Image courtesy of Felder Rushing

Tools and Materials

  • A container without drainage holes, such as a traditional bulb pan
  • Clean pebbles about 1/2-inch in diameter
  • Large, firm bulbs of paper white narcissus
  • Water

Step 1: Prepare the container

 Fill a container with pebbles to within an inch of the rim. You can use a glass bowl, clay pot, or even a tall vase, which will help support the paper white's tall stems. Add water until it is just below the top of the pebbles.

Step 2: Plant the bulbs

 Set the bulbs on the surface of the pebbles, crowding them together so they almost touch. Add more pebbles, covering the bottom third of the bulbs. Make sure the bulbs themselves are not touching the water, or they may grow mold and rot.

Step 3: Water and wait

 Maintain the water level described above and leave the bulbs in a cool location with little or no light. This cool darkness encourages root growth.

Step 4: Check for growth

After a week or two, tug gently on the bulbs from time to time to test for root development. Once they feel rooted, move them to a bright spot without direct sunlight. They should flower in three to five weeks.


Paper whites grow more slowly and last longer when temperatures are no warmer than 65 F. If it's too warm, they'll grow quickly, becoming floppy and leggy.

To keep your paper whites standing tall, you can support them with a decorative plant ring or a circle of stakes and twine.

For added appeal, use decorative or unusual containers for your paper whites. Instead of using plain pebbles, substitute colored stones, marbles, hydroponic gravel, or other unusual medium.

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