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Paperwhites in bloom
Paperwhite narcissus bulbs can be grown in a vase for a beautiful indoor flower display during winter.

Helpful information

Timing: Autumn (plant bulbs in October if you would like flowers in time for Christmas)

Where to do it: Indoors

Garden space: Indoors

  • When it's cold and wet outside, you can still get the enjoyment of nature growing in your home
  • Planting bulbs is suitable for gardeners of every level of experience
  • This is a light physical task that can help build strength and co-ordination

Essential items

  • Paperwhite bulbs
  • A tall vase
  • Water
  • Glass stones, gravel or pebbles
  • Gloves

Optional items

  • Sieve

Top tip

It is a good idea to wear gloves whenever touching bulbs, as bulbs can irritate some people's skin

Step 1. Gather your equipment

Paperwhite bulbs equipment
Equipment including paperwhite bulbs, pebbles and vase

Find a comfortable spot to work in. Have all your items within easy reach.

Step 2. Put pebbles or stones in your vase

Paperwhite bulbs vase with pebbles
A tall glass vase part filled with small pebbles

A tall, see-through vase can be ideal for growing paperwhite bulbs. This will allow you to see the roots develop. If you don't have one, shorter vases and ones you can't see through are fine.

Add your glass stones, gravel, or pebbles to the vase. If the gravel or pebbles you are using are quite dirty, you may want to wash them with some water first. You could put them in a sieve to do this, then let the water drain.

Paperwhites can grow quite tall, so it's a good idea to only fill the vase half way or less. This way, it can support the stems as the plant grows.

Step 3. Position your bulbs

Paperwhite bulbs in vase placing
Paperwhite bulbs positioned in the vase

Place the bulbs on top of the stones or pebbles. Push them down very gently, so the bottoms of the bulbs are just below the surface.

You can place as many bulbs as you can comfortably fit on the surface. Try not to squash them together too much.

Step 4. Add water

Paperwhite bulbs in vase watering
Water is added to a vase of paperwhite bulbs

Fill the container with water until the water level is just below the bulbs. Be careful not to pour in too much water otherwise the bulbs might rot.

Step 5. Place on a cool, bright windowsill

Paperwhite bulbs in vase final
Paperwhite bulbs in a vase placed on a bright windowsill

Find a spot where you can enjoy watching them grow. Keep the water topped up. Soon (perhaps in 6 - 8 weeks) you will be rewarded with a mass of stunning flowers that will cheer up any winter’s day.

Paperwhite bulbs after a few weeks
Paperwhite bulb growth after three weeks

Scent alert

Some people may find the scent of paperwhites a bit strong for their liking. In that case, just enjoy looking at them from a distance and don't sniff too closely!

Some bulbs can be planted out in the garden after flowering. Paperwhites generally don't survive in very cold weather. It is probably best to just enjoy them this year, then add to the compost pile when done.

Or, you could always give planting in the garden a go and just see what happens!

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