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How To Overwinter Paperwhites

The paperwhite narcissus is a lovely flowering plant that can easily grow white bulbs indoors. They are a popular holiday season decoration, an alternative to bright red flowers, and something that can brighten up a room during the winter. Since they can't tolerate harsh winters, how do you take care of them during winter? We have researched answers for you. 

The paperwhite narcissus should be planted indoors instead of outdoors. During the winter, place the paperwhite in a shallow bowl.

Fill the bowl with four inches of deep gravel, stones, and marble, and make sure they pack the paperwhite in place. Place the plant in a cool location and water it once a week to encourage its development.

Paperwhite narcissus blooms have a lot of aesthetic value, and they will be lovely as a holiday decoration along with other seasonal foliage. Keep reading below to learn more about how to grow and take care of them. 

Bunch-flowered narcissus in the pot, How To Overwinter Paperwhites

How to Overwinter Paperwhites

Paperwhite narcissus plants are typically seen indoors during the winter. They are not winter-hardy, and they don't need an extended cooling period. It's better to keep them indoors, especially during the winter, to avoid frost. 

Here is how you should plant your paperwhites indoors.

Place them in a bowl with no drainage holes

Forcing paperwhite narcissus bulb flowers in water and rocks

Paperwhites thrive best in a pot full of water. Once the roots touch the water, they will start developing. Fill the pot or bowl halfway until it almost reaches the bottom of the bulbs.

Fill the bowl with gravel, stones, and marble

The stones will make the paperwhite pots more aesthetically pleasing, and they help keep the flowers standing upright. 

Place the flowers in a cool location

Do not expose the paperwhites to direct sunlight for too long.

Place them in a cool room with a temperature of no more than 60 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent the water from drying out and to make sure the flowers don't flop, which is what happens when the temperature increases.

Do paperwhite narcissus plants require soil?

Paperwhite narcissus plants generally don't require soil. They only need to be planted in a container filled with water, gravel, stones, and marble in order to develop.

However, if you want the paperwhites to last until spring, planting them in the soil would be beneficial.

  • After planting the paperwhites in the soil, wait until the top part of the soil is dry enough before placing them near sunlight.
  • Cut off dead leaves that may grow before spring.
  • Return them to a cool place until they can be transferred into the ground in the spring.

How long until paperwhites bloom?

With proper care, paperwhites will typically start to bloom within four to six weeks from the start of planting. After that, the flowers can last for up to three weeks.

To make your space vibrant all throughout the holidays, get paperwhite narcissus every three weeks so you'll have a steady decoration.

If you want them to last until spring, you can plant the bulbs on 2/3 of well-drained potting soil mixed with 1/3 perlite and place them in a cool room. 

Where should you plant paperwhites?

Paperwhite narcissus plants can grow best in USDA zones 8-11. These zones are the only areas that can grow narcissus outdoors since the climate is ideal for the paperwhite plant's growth. 

They grow best during the winter in frost-free climates, and the flower bulbs will start blooming in the spring.

Plant the paperwhites in well-draining soil under full sunlight so the flowers can have enough time to bloom.

If you live in a cold area, it is best to plant paperwhites indoors to force them to bloom.

Are paperwhites high maintenance?

The amount of maintenance required for paperwhites depends on your specific climate. If you live in USDA zone 8-11, they can be relatively easy to grow since you already have the optimal environment for them.

However, if you're going to "force" the flowers to bloom during the winter, they require that specific conditions be met before they produce flowers.

If you follow the rules, they can be easily grown indoors, although you still need to check on them between the time of planting to when they start growing flowers.

Paperwhites growing in a greenhouse

Do paperwhites get leggy?

Just like other flowering plants, paperwhites tend to get leggy when they're not getting enough sunlight.

Even if you place them in a cool room, they still need to be exposed to natural or bright light for around four hours so the flowers won't inadvertently "reach" for a source of sunlight, which is the main reason paperwhites get leggy. 

However, make sure they don't get overexposed to too much heat and light since that could damage them. 

Aside from sogginess, paperwhites will also get leggy if you place them in an area that's too warm and humid.

Can you grow paperwhites off-season?

Paperwhite narcissus plants can only grow outdoors in USDA zone 8 through 11, and they can't be grown during harsh winter seasons when frost is present. 

You can plant them outdoors during the fall in these areas, but you need to keep them away from frost when winter comes around. Make sure to plant them around four inches apart to ensure good air circulation. 

You can force them to grow off-season, but only indoors and wherever you can control the temperature and amount of humidity present. 

Paperwhites are considered a perennial in warm climates, particularly in areas around Southern California and Texas.

Paperwhite narcissus varieties

Paperwhite narcissus is one of the most preferred flowering bulbs that everyone wants to display during the holidays because of their pristine white blooms that can brighten up any home.

There are a lot of varieties you can choose from, and each one has a unique feature that may appeal to you best. 

They also have a distinct fragrance, so you may want to explore other varieties before deciding especially if their unique fragrance is something you want in your house during holiday gatherings.

Here are different varieties to look into. 

Bethlehem Paperwhite

The Bethlehem paperwhite variety has white petals like most paperwhite varieties, but they have a mild musky and sweet fragrance that can make your home feel cozier and more welcoming.

They have a pale yellow center that adds to the overall appeal of the flower. The stem can grow up to 15 blooms each. 

The scent also fits the holiday season, which is when Bethlehem paperwhites are most sought-after. 

This variety can grow up to 10 inches tall, making them look classically elegant and placed on tall and transparent vases filled with stones and pebbles. 

Chinese Sacred Lily

Chinese sacred lily

The Chinese sacred lily also has white petals and a yellow center that makes them look dainty. Each stem can produce 5-10 flowers which all exude a refreshing citrus-like fragrance that can make a space feel more relaxing and tranquil.

This variety can grow for up to 16 inches and may require staking, especially if your house can become humid. Note that you still need to keep them in a cool area to keep them from sagging. 

Among other varieties, the Chinese Sacred Lily is one described as being frost-tolerant. However, it is still best to keep them away from anything that may potentially damage them. 

Ziva Paperwhite

Narcissus paperwhite Ziva blooms in the garden

Ziva paperwhite is the strongest-scented paperwhite variety compared. You can consider this variety if you want the flowers to emit a strong, sweet, citrusy scent in your home. 

However, if you or someone in your home may be sensitive to smells, you may want to consider other varieties that have a more subtle scent. 

All paperwhite varieties emit a particular scent. There's no variety that has virtually no smell. Make sure to pick one that won't overpower your senses too much so you can feel relaxed in your home. 

Like other varieties, they have pristine white blooms that can make for a good decoration in your home. 

Final Thoughts

Paperwhite narcissus plants are beautiful perennials that can add seasonal appeal to your home. They are best planted indoors, since you can force them to bloom during the holiday season.

You can plant them outdoors, or transfer them in your garden during the spring if your zone can accommodate their growth.

The pristine white blooms of the paperwhite narcissus will surely add vibrance to your garden and make it look more attractive. 

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