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How to force Paperwhite Bulbs for Christmas

With the holiday season upon us, what better way to add a touch of natural beauty to your festive decor than with the fragrant blooms of paperwhite bulbs?

These delicate flowers with their dainty white petals and sweet scent can be forced indoors just in time for Christmas!

paperwhite flowers

Paperwhite blooms

I remember my grandma filling little cups from around her house with these paperwhite narcissus bulbs and setting them on her window sills. Somehow they were all magically blooming for Christmas and it seemed so special to have real fresh flowers at Christmas time!

Having natural holiday decorations is something that we make a point of in our household. We love freshening up our house with Dried Orange Garland and Holiday Greenery, it opens up our home to the fragrance of winter and allows us to compost our decor after the season is over!

paperwhite bulbs in moss

Getting Started: Materials You’ll Need

Before you start on your paper-forcing journey, gather the following materials:

  1. Paperwhite Bulbs: Choose large, healthy bulbs for the best results. I found ours at a local farm store, but you can also find them here.
  2. Shallow Containers or Bulb Forcing Vases: Ensure they have drainage holes. I love using thrifted cups, pots or even fancy dishpans! If you have enough pebbles on the bottom of these, you don’t have to drill holes.
  3. Potting Mix or Pebbles: To provide support to the bulbs. You can find my favorite ones, here.
  4. Water: Use distilled water for optimal growth.
  5. Location with Indirect Sunlight: Paperwhites prefer bright, indirect light.

close up of paperwhite bulbs

When Paperwhites Bloom | Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Selecting Bulbs: Choose large bulbs with no signs of rot or damage. Larger bulbs typically produce more flowers.
  2. Pre-chilling (Optional): For fuller plants, pre-chill bulbs in the refrigerator for 4-6 weeks before planting. This mimics the winter chill they would experience outdoors.
  3. Planting: Place bulbs on top of the potting mix or pebbles in the container, leaving the upper half exposed. Add water until it reaches just below the base of the bulbs.
  4. Watering: Keep the water level consistent, ensuring the base of the bulbs remains just above the waterline. Avoid submerging the bulbs as this may cause rot.
  5. Placement: Position the containers in a location with indirect sunlight. Rotate the containers regularly to prevent leaning.
  6. Blooming Time: Paperwhites typically bloom within 3-6 weeks after planting. Once in bloom, move them to a brighter location to prolong flowering.

paperwhite bulbs with christmas tree in the background

Paperwhite Bulb Tips and Tricks

  • Stagger Planting: Extend the blooming period by staggering planting dates.
  • Scent Control: If the fragrance becomes overwhelming, place the containers in a well-ventilated area.
  • Decorative Touch: Enhance your display by placing bulbs in decorative containers or adding festive accents.
  • Gift Idea: Forced paperwhite bulbs make excellent holiday gifts. Plant them in attractive containers and share the joy of blooming flowers. Vintage holiday dishes are my favorite!

paperwhite bulbs in terracota dishes

Holiday Decorating Traditions

Whether it’s our natural or nonnatural holiday decorations, we get the whole family involved. Our kids love getting to help with the decor and we love the memories we make. Check out some of our favorite family holiday crafts and recipes here: 8 Simple Holiday Crafts | Making Christmas Traditions with your Kids

Questions People are asking about forcing Paperwhites

Can I reuse paperwhite bulbs?

While you can attempt to reuse bulbs, they may not bloom as vigorously in subsequent years. For best results, start with fresh bulbs each season.

Why are my paperwhites leaning?

Leaning can occur if the plants are reaching for light. Rotate the containers regularly to promote even growth.

How can I prevent my paperwhites from toppling over?

Providing support, such as decorative stakes or twine, can help prevent toppling as the plants grow taller. I also like placing a glass hurricane around them so I can see them and know they are supported at the same time.

With these tips, your paperwhite bulbs will be ready to bloom just in time for Christmas, filling your home with the delightful fragrance of the holiday season. Happy forcing!

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paperwhite pin
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Affiliate Disclosure & Content Disclaimer

This post may contain affiliate links from a paid sponsor, Amazon or other program. When you use these links to make a purchase I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. This allows me to continue creating the content that you love. The content in this article is created for information only and based on my research and/or opinion. 

Emily T.

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