Forcing Paperwhites ~ Not Just for Christmas


Happy New Year! I cannot believe 2019 is here already and January is almost done. Winter is in full swing in the Midwest and I miss my little garden. Growing up in the Caribbean, and even while living in the South, I was spoiled into having some sort of plant or flower growing in the garden almost all year around. Now living in Minnesota, that is impossible to without a greenhouse— which I do not have one. So in the winter, I move my potted plants to my garage and a few couple of years ago I started forcing bulbs indoors.

Forcing bulbs is a rather new practice for me, only a couple of years old, but I have found it so rewarding. Nothing like blooming flowers in winter. Really gives you something to look forward to in the spring. This year, I forced paper whites. Interestingly, these were a Christmas gift from my mother-in-law, as I did not have a chance to do start any this year for Christmas. Is it me or Christmas came and went in the blink of an eye? And I think my MIL noticed because she gave me this kit as a gift on Christmas Day.


If you are newbie, forcing bulbs indoors is a great way to get your green thumb going because it is almost fail proof. Please notice I said almost not fully fail proof. So, what are my tips from a newbie to a newbie?

  1. Make sure your bulbs are healthy and make sure you pick the right bulb for your first project. I like paper whites because they are super easy to grown. Not all narcissus are created equal, depending on what you want (size vs scent vs flower), I would stay with a more common variety like ‘Ziva’. This is the variety you will find in most premade kits. The beauty about narcissus is that they do not need to be “chilled” a process where you literally chill the bulbs before forcing them out of dormancy.

  2. Select a container that allows 2-4” below the bulb (I love large mason jars) as I find it helps the roots be more stable. To the container, add 1-3” of gravel. Any gravel is good, but I prefer the small pebble kind, like the type you put in fish tank.

  3. Place the bulbs on top of the gravel with the roots down (pointy part up).


4. .Add enough water to come up to just below the bulbs. BULBS DO NOT LIKE TO SIT IN WATER. Water as necessary, but again— just below the bulb.

5. Put the container in a well lit area. Now, let’s talk light because in winter, your best bet will be on a window sill BUT it is very cold by the window even with a heater on. So, I would place on a table by the window to keep it warmer. Without enough light, your paperwhites will get leggy and sometimes there is no way around that because… winter.

6. In about 4-5 weeks your bulbs will start blooming and the scent of narcissus will waft in the air.

7. Once the bulbs start flowering, you can move them to a cooler area of the house, to keep the flowers longer


And there you have it. Super easy and super rewarding once they open. Forcing bulbs is a great way to bring spring indoors a bit sooner. The winter months can be brutally long, and I do not know about you but blooming flowers in winter nourishes my soul and gives me something to look forward to until the earth awakes from its long winter slumber. Have a wonderful week!