Paperwhite Narcissus

Paperwhites are routinely sold in stores during holidays.

Many bulbs are easy to grow indoors for seasonal display and beauty. Common examples are Amaryllis and paperwhite narcissus.

Of all the types of narcissus, the paperwhite narcissus is the one most commonly sold for forcing indoors. This is because it doesn't need an extended cold treatment to induce flowers. Boxed bulb kits often include a pre-cooled bulb that is all ready to bloom indoors. Simply pot up and water thoroughly to get it started.

You can also start your own indoor bulb garden. Almost any bulb will work. Plant the bulbs in pots or bowls, using an indoor soil mix. Place the bulb tips at or slightly above the soil surface. Water thoroughly. Keep planted bulbs dark and cool (35 – 40 F) for about eight weeks. Most people put them in the refrigerator or a cool garage.

Whichever method you use, once the bulb starts to grow, keep it in a warm, bright location. Do not fertilize. Continue to water as needed. After flowering, either throw away, or you can try to keep it for reblooming. Unfortunately, precooled bulbs from kits are often sometimes to get to rebloom.

A warning if you try the paperwhite. Paperwhites have a very distinctive smell that most people do not find pleasant. It doesn't bother everyone, but some people don't like the odor. Still, it is a beautiful flower and worth trying.

By the way, there is always confusion over the names of this flower. They are called narcissus, daffodil, and jonquil and many people think all three are synonymous. Actually, narcissus is the scientific genus name, but it is also used as a common name. Daffodil is a common name that was brought here by the English. Jonquil, however, refers to a particular flower type (N. jonquilla) that has a reed like leaf and sweet-smelling flowers.

Narcissus is a classical Greek name. According to Greek mythology, Narcissus was a beautiful youth who became so entranced with his own reflection that the gods turned him into a flower.

More information on growing bulbs is available at the University of Illinois Extension Website Bulbs & More at

Watch a video from Horticulture Educator Richard Hentschel on Taking Care of Holiday Plants