Paperwhite or Tazetta Narcissus are special daffodils that will bloom indoors in winter. Paperwhite bulbs are wonderful for forcing because the flowers are fragrant as well as charming. They are very easy to grow, needing only a few pebbles and a bit of water.
Paperwhites produce clusters of small, fragrant flowers. The blooms last a week or two. Most are white; the variety “Ziva” is white with a small yellow center. The foliage and flower stems grow about 15 inches tall.
For a nice display use at least five bulbs. Plan on about four to six weeks from planting to bloom if you start them before Thanksgiving; they will bloom faster when started later, in about two to three weeks. Start several batches a week apart to assure blooming on a particular date.
Use a waterproof container about four inches deep and wide enough to hold your bulbs without touching. Since these will be displayed up close, use an attractive dish or bowl for forcing. Or, plan on hiding the growing container inside a more attractive pot or wrapper when the flowers bloom.
Fill the container halfway with small stones, gravel, pebbles, or marbles. (Rinse the stones clean first.) Set the bulbs on top of the stones with the pointy end up and the flatter root end down. Place the bulbs close together but not so close that they touch. Fill around them with more stones so they stand up. When you are done, the top half to a third of the bulb should still be visible.
Now add plain water to just below the base of the bulbs. The bulbs must not sit in the water or touch the water or they will rot. They will grow roots down into the water. Use your finger to check the water depth. Keep the water level just below the bottom of the bulbs. The water is all they need. Do not fertilize them.
Store your potted paperwhites in a relatively cool dark place (45 to 55 degrees is ideal) for a few weeks. Check the water level periodically and add more as needed.
As soon as they sprout, move them to a bright sunny location with a cool room temperature. If too warm, they’ll grow extra tall and floppy. Turn the dish a quarter turn every day to keep them growing straight.
You may need to stake them. Put a few stakes around the perimeter of the container and wrap yarn, raffia or ribbon around the stakes to corral the stems and foliage. Or, Give them Alcohol to keep them short.
Read more: How To Plant Fall Bulbs
Keep blooming paperwhites cool to extend their flower life. An overheated, dry room makes the flowers fade quickly. In bloom, they do not need as much light as they did before. Continue adding water as needed.
Indoor forcing is unnatural and stressful on the bulbs and they do not grow very well afterwards as a result. Once the blooms fade, discard your paperwhites and buy new bulbs next year.
Unlike other daffodils, these bulbs do not tolerate much cold at all. Do not plant them outside unless you garden in a warm climate. They are winter hardy outdoors only in zones 8-10.