How to grow paperwhites – a winter flower!

by Molly Saunders, Digital Bear

This is an activity my brother and I did with our family every winter when I was growing up. This was the first year I grew my very own paperwhites. These are great because they are SO SIMPLE and grow really fast. They’ll breathe new life into your home during the cold time of the year when everything outside is not so vibrant. Most instructions I’ve found online make this process seem too difficult with too many steps and not enough pictures. So here are some easy ones for you and your family to follow.

1. Here is what you’ll need:

Bulbs – paperwhite narcissus (from a big hardware/garden center, or your local hardware store, sometimes these are more fragrant.) There are now different varieties, some that smell a lot and some that hardly smell at all, so if you get them at a smaller hardware store they will probably know (and have on hand) the different varieties.

Rocks (I always get mine from a dollar store – 3-4 bags will work, unless you have a huge container and tons of bulbs)

A container to grow them in – I like the more shallow dishes, but these can be very hard to find and honestly, the one I used I inherited from my pops. A glass vase with a wide bottom works fine too, or any other kind of planter you have that doesn’t have a hole in the bottom of it.)

supplies for growing paperwhites

These are the supplies to grow paperwhites.

2. Cover the bottom of the container with rocks, place the bulbs where you want them, root side down, then hold them in place as you place more rocks around them to make sure they are anchored in. (In this picture you can see the little green stems sticking out. They are crooked because that’s how they started growing in the big box where I bought them from the hardware store. They were reaching for the sun!)

Paperwhite bulbs reaching for the sun

See the little light green stems?

3. Pour water in. Only cover the bulbs with water to about 1cm from the top of the brown bulb. Here is a guide for how much water you should put in your container.

anatomy of a bulb

water level for paperwhites
Here is a water level guide to help.

4. These take about 4-5 days to really get going, but once they do, they’ll probably need just a little bit of water every day. They grow so fast. My family always jokes that we wish we could just sit there and watch them grow. (This is my set at only 10 days. See how they’ve straightened up? This means their roots have really grown, something really cool to see if you plant them in a glass container!)

growing paperwhites

After about a week they’ll go crazy!

growing paperwhites

This is only one day later, 11 days. See? I told you.


5. Once they are tall and blooming, sometimes they bend over because their stems are not strong enough to support all those flowers. So just tie them up, prop them against a wall, or get one of those fancy flower cages from the hardware store; anything you can find to help support them will be just fine.

flowering paperwhites

Once they start to flower the smell is amazing!


Have you ever planted these? Will you do this with your family?

About Molly Saunders

I am a bear in the Digital Dept at Build-A-Bear Workshop. I work at World Bearquarters in St. Louis, Mo. View all posts by Molly Saunders

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