Paper Whites: The Joyful Christmas Flower

If you're looking for the perfect winter flower to make your home merry, paper whites are the answer

Credit: Frank 3.0

Paper whites are not only beautiful, but they smell wonderful too

Paper whites are an elegant way to lift winter spirits and decorate your home for Christmas

Planting paper whites indoors now will ensure that your home will be full of fragrant, gorgeous blooms for the holidays. Follow these steps and watch these festive flowers work their magic.

Pick the Right Type of Paper White Bulb

There are several different varieties of paper whites. Some have slightly different blooms, and some are more fragrant than others. Whichever paper whites you choose, make sure that they are suitable for forcing indoors; come January, there is nothing quite as disheartening as having to throw out a bunch of green stems that never bloomed.

Select Your Favourite Container

This is an opportunity to display your favorite pottery bowl or crystal vase. Any type of container will work, as long as it does not have drainage holes and the sides are at least three inches deep.

Think ahead: a cluster of bulbs in large wine or martini glasses may seem like a good idea now, but the long stems will look unbalanced and a little awkward later. Also, as the festive season draws near, you will have better uses for those martini glasses!

Pick a Planting Material to Anchor the Roots

Paper white roots need something to hold on to. While some indoor gardeners plant their paper whites in potting soil, experimenting with other types of materials is fun.

Some nurseries sell clean gravel for this very purpose, but beach glass, shells, pebbles, big fake gems and even marbles can be used. Shells and marbles look great in clear glass vases. Fill the container at least one or two inches deep with the material, and make sure the surface is level.

Secure Your Paper White Bulbs

Place the bulbs, flat sides down, in the growing material. If you are planting several bulbs in the same container, they can be nestled in together tightly, as long as they are all planted at the same depth. Some people like to add more planting material to almost cover the bulbs, but I am more of a naked bulb person and prefer mine to sit on top.

Add Water

Fill the container with water, just to the base of the bulb. Check the water every day or so to ensure that the bottom of the bulb stays wet. After a few days, roots will start to grow into the material, securing the bulb.


The bulbs can be kept in the dark while they are first starting to grow, and then positioned on a windowsill later. They prefer slightly cooler temperatures and like to stay out of direct sunlight. In about four to six weeks, blooms will start to appear.

Once the bulbs are finished blooming, you can lift them out of the medium and put them into the compost. The planting material can be washed and dried and saved for next time.