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Forcing Paperwhites for Christmas

We are having our first snow of the season today and its’ just beautiful outside and it’s making me even more anxious for Christmas!  I’ve been busy decking the halls and am so excited to share everything with you!  Today I want to show you how to force paperwhite bulbs indoors so they are blooming in time for Christmas!  It’s so amazing that by planting a bulb (that looks like a peeling onion) in some gravel, and then 3 – 6 weeks later there are glorious clusters of white flowers on long green stems!  I’ve also forced amaryllis bulbs, but forcing paperwhites for Christmas is my favorite! 

How to Force Paperwhite Bulbs for Christmas

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Close up of Paperwhite Bulbs in Gravel


how to force Paperwhites for Christmas

  1.  Paperwhites bloom 3 – 6 weeks after planting.  So, plan accordingly.  I want mine to be blooming in time for my Christmas home tour the first week of December.  
  2. I like to use gravel to “plant my paperwhite” bulbs.   And, by plant, I mean nestle the bottom of each bulb into the gravel.  You just want the roots of the bulb to have contact with water and the gravel will help hold the bulb in place.  You can also plant in a potting soil or sand, but I prefer a white stone gravel because it looks pretty!  Here’s what I used.
  3. I planted my paperwhites in a glass pie plate.  A pie plate is the perfect depth for planting paperwhites because you only need about 2 inches of gravel or planting medium.  I wanted to use this vintage silver tureen(seen below) for the paperwhites, so I turned a soup bowl upside down in the bottom of the tureen and then sat the glass pie plate on top of it.  The bowl elevated the pie plate to just under the rim of the tureen and it looks like my tureen is filled with soil/gravel!  But, it’s just an illusion!
  4. When you arrange the bulbs in the gravel, make sure that the shoots are pointing inward.  This helps them to grow straight up together and the stems will support one another when they get taller!
  5. Turn your container every few days so the growth doesn’t stretch towards the sun source!
  6. After about one week, pour off any water and mix 1 part rubbing alcohol to 11 parts water and use this mixture to water the bulbs.  This solution stunts the growth of the green stems so the paperwhites don’t get too leggy!  I just learned this tip and can’t wait to give it a try!!!  From what I read, the paperwhites still get tall, just not so tall that they need to be staked and tied up!
  7. Don’t like the smell of the traditional paperwhite varieties, try one of these varieties:  Wintersun:  Nearly fragrance free!!!  Inball:  Same paperwhite scent, just less of it!
  8. Keep the roots in water.  But, don’t get the whole bulb in water or it will rot!
  9. For lasting blooms, keep your house temp at around 65 degrees.   Like most flowers, paperwhites last longer in a cooler environment.

Paperwhite Bulbs in White Gravel

Forcing paperwhites is really easy!  It’s something that I did when Mark and I were first married and had no clue what I was doing!  I’ve never had them NOT bloom!!! 

where to buy paperwhite bulbs

You can find paperwhite bulbs right now at discount stores, home improvement stores, your local garden shop, and even at the grocery store!  And, they aren’t expensive!  So, go out and get some paperwhite bulbs to force for Christmas!


How to Force Paperwhites for Christmas



Tuesday 5th of January 2021

Right now My paperwhites are planted in the ground outside. What's the process for digging them up and storing until i bring them indoors to force for christmas?

Doreen Cagno

Thursday 7th of January 2021

They need to be kept cold and in a dark spot.

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Tuesday 5th of November 2019

[…] How to Force Paperwhite Bulbs for Christmas […]

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Wednesday 5th of December 2018

[…] no longer available!  It’s perfect as a tablecloth and has tassels on all four corners.  I planted the paperwhite bulbs on the table in hopes that they would be blooming by picture day, but I think I should have started […]


Thursday 15th of November 2018

Wondering where to place the paper whites while they are starting to grow? In a window or is natural light not needed? Can they just be on my kitchen island? Thank you so much!

Doreen Cagno

Friday 16th of November 2018

They should get some natural light. But, don't need to be right next to a window. Hope that helps!


Thursday 15th of November 2018

I am excited to try your top using alcohol to stunt the growth a bit!!