How To Grow Perfect Paperwhites

Perfect Paperwhites, Photo Courtesy of Easy To Grow Bulbs For perfect paperwhites for the holidays, I asked the friendly bulb specialist, Easy To Grow Bulbs, for their expert advice. Easy To Grow Bulbs is a mail-order company which specializes in "bigger, better bulbs for warm weather gardens." I thank Kathleen McCarthy, Head of Customer Service, for graciously writing and navigating us through "How To Grow Perfect Paperwhites."

For those familiar with growing paperwhites, the benefits enjoyed are many. Fresh, fragrant flowers are easily and quickly grown indoors for the holidays and to brighten the grey days of winter. In mild winter climates they make terrific additions to the garden bed after the blooms are finished -- returning to bloom every spring, deterring gophers and deer all the while. Truly a wonderful addition to holiday décor, gift-giving, and as an early breath of spring.

Paperwhites have in the past, been just a bit short of a perfect experience, however. While many love the fragrance they offer, some find it entirely too much of a good thing, and long for varieties with a lighter scent. And just about everyone has had their paperwhites grow too tall with the stems and leaves flopping over. Whether this has happened occasionally, or every time you have grown paperwhites, you probably found creative ways to support them, wishing they would just stay straight and strong on their own. Now there are solutions to both of these issues – paperwhites can now be perfect.

For classic paperwhites with a less potent fragrance, I suggest the Inball paperwhite variety, With large, plentiful white blooms, Inball has the same musky fragrance as a typical paperwhite – just a lot less of it. If you think of a regular paperwhite as having a “gallon of fragrance,” Inball has just about a “cup” of that same fragrance.

Another less potent fragrance variety is the Wintersun paperwhite. It has a much lighter scent that must be appreciated with your face quite close to the blooms. With its pale yellow petals and prominent golden cups it is perfect for both Thanksgiving feasts, and as indoor sunshine for the long, grey days of January and February. Plant paperwhites at 2-3 week intervals to enjoy months of flowers and fragrance!

Tired of paperwhites flopping over just as they are ready to bloom. The reason – and solution -- is simple. Paperwhites prefer to grow in full, day-long sunshine. So, when grown indoors in dim light, they stretch, reaching for the sun they know must be up there somewhere. Where they stretch, they get weak, where they get weak, they flop over. No need to build a solarium to enjoy these beauties at their best, though!

Discovered by a professor of horticulture at Cornell University, the addition of a small amount of alcohol to their water keeps them straight and strong. It simply makes them unable to stretch, so they remain short and upright. Whether using hard liquor or rubbing alcohol, be sure to read the linked article to determine the proper dilution rate. Mix up a quart or so to use for weeks as your paperwhites need their water replenished. As an added benefit, the alcohol keeps the water algae free and crystal clear – an important consideration when growing paperwhites in pebbles and water. For more details on why paperwhites flop and how to stop it, go to This really works!

Having growing, blooming plants in your home is a joy, and easy to achieve with paperwhites. Have fun, be creative; and regardless of the weather outside, enjoy a breath of spring!

For more information on paperwhites and warm weather bulbs, visit Easy To Grow Bulbs.