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How to Force Paperwhite Narcissus Bulbs

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Curious about how to force Paperwhite Narcissus bulbs? Paperwhites are one of the easiest bulbs to force for cut flowers or for an ornamental display in your home from December to March. They’re a form of daffodil that does not need to be chilled in order for it to bloom.


To force paperwhites, use a container called an azalea pot. They are about ¾ tall, or else a bulb pan; however anything that would work for a house plant would work for forcing bulbs, as long as it drains well. The container you are using should be filled about ½ to ¾ of the way with potting mix and then moistened. Gently press the bulbs into the moist potting mix with the broad base down and the pointed end up. They should be arranged as close together as possible without touching each other or the container itself, to gain the best look. Add enough potting soil so that only the top half of the bulbs has remained visible and water thoroughly.

One nice trait of a paperwhite is that it can be forced in a shallower container as well with pebbles or rocks and water or in water alone. For this you want to place the bulb pans or decorative containers in a bright, cool room until the shoots are 1 to 2 inches tall. Then move the pots to a warmer location. Bulbs started in a warm room have a tendency to become leggy and the leaves like to flop over. No fertilizer is needed to force paperwhites.

Paperwhites bloom four to eight weeks after potting. For a continuous show of color, start new pots of bulbs every couple of weeks throughout the fall and winter. They will bloom only once so discard bulbs after they have flowered.

There can be an issue of a disease called Fusarium, which infects the basal plate of the bulb and will result in a mushy brown decay. Immediately discard any affected bulbs. To reduce the possibility of encountering this problem purchase bulbs that are free of blemishes and are firm to the touch.