Planting paperwhites just in time, Nov. 20, 2014

By Heather Hacking, Chico Enterprise-Record

Recently a very nice woman asked my advice on growing paperwhites.

I hate it when I pretend like I know what I’m talking about and get caught.

With an heir of certainty, I said she was too late if she wanted paperwhite blooms by Christmas. I could tell by her expression that she already knew the answer, and she was using the question as a nice way to start a conversation.
“Are you sure?” she prompted. “I thought they bloomed more quickly.”

Four to six weeks is how long it takes paperwhites to bloom. I know this now because I have a smartphone.

If you bought paperwhite bulbs today, you might have blooms by Christmas.

I can also say with complete certainty, that if you plant them now you will have fun watching them grow for several weeks.


The University of Vermont Extension Department of Power and Soil Science gives a fairly good how-to.

First, buy paperwhite bulbs.

Next, fill a 2- to 3-inch-deep container with pebbles, marbles, or those glass baubles you can purchase at the dollar store. The point is that the pebbles need to be able to hold the bulbs and flowers in place once they start to grow.

Place the bulbs with their pointed side up so they are not touching.

The Vermont extension states that five bulbs is about the right number for a 6-inch pot.

To add water, put just enough so the water reaches the bottom of the bulb, but not so much that the bulb will rot. You’ll need to check the water level every few days.

Each time you check the water, think kind, loving thoughts about the people to whom you will give the flowers.

Find a cool, dark place in the house, preferably about 50 degrees. After a few weeks greenery will appear. At this point, move the plants to a bright window. Watch the plants, because you don’t want them to stretch toward the sun.

For the full article:

Paperwhites in water may not travel well. My family, for example, lives in the Bay Area. I could only imagine how bedraggled these gifts would look when they arrived. However, any gift would be better than my attempt to make origami swan mobiles.

You can also plant paperwhites in potting soil, the website says with certainty,

Another interesting fact is that flowers in the narcissus family contain sap that can harm other flowers. Never place daffodils, paperwhite or other narcissus in a vase with other types of blooms.


A few weeks ago I lamented the death of my Daphne odoro, which is high on the list of plant with an intoxicating scent. It blooms right around Valentine’s Day, but hates to be transplanted.

I moved the plant to a new location and started watering it with questionably-clean water I had saved from the sink.

It died.

An incredibly kind reader named Larry felt my loss, and offered me a visit to his backyard.

For some reason he had dug up a Daphne and placed it in a pot. I felt better when he said there were several others, but they had died.

The buds on this particular plant have already formed. I’m hoping that if I don’t move it, I’ll have flowers on Valentine’s Day.

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