Planting Paperwhites for Christmas

A couple of years ago, I planted paperwhites for Christmas and loved watching them poke their green heads up out of the rocks and then those beautiful delicate white blooms pop up just in time for their debut during this special time of the year.  You have to plan ahead, at least 6 weeks is needed to force bulbs to bloom, so I got busy last week and got mine prepared for this year.

You still have time if you get out there right now and get you some paperwhite bulbs!  You will love watching them grow!

Here’s my inspiration pic again, this is from Coastal Living.

I’ve got a mantel party in a few weeks, after all and have some plans with these beauties, along with some fresh greens.  So in case you’ve never planted paperwhites, here’s an easy tutorial for you.


Start with a pretty container.


Instead of filling my urn completely with rocks, I opted to use a plastic container inside to hold the rocks and water.


I shaved some of the top off and it sits just below the rim of the urn.


Place the bulbs on top of the rocks.


And then pile the rocks around the base of the bulbs to help hold them in place.  Then you will fill the plastic container with water so the bulbs are sitting in water.  You can see they are already poking their heads out ready to grow.


See how cute they are?!  With water and some sunlight coming in, they will shoot up their sprouts in a short time and hopefully by Christmas, they will be in full bloom.

And here they are just one week later!! 

You’ll see them in a few weeks when I report back!

I did get an email from someone who said that paperwhites (and most bulbs) are toxic for cats and dogs, so keep that in mind too and perhaps put them up high enough that it wouldn’t be a problem for your pets.

Are you planting paperwhites this year? 

- Rhoda


  1. Can you Plant any type of bulbs? What are paperwhites specifically?

    • Hi, Marisa, Paperwhites are white, so they mix well with Christmas decor, but you could use any bulbs & force them. Amaryllis are pretty too, most are red!

  2. Woo hoo! Just picked mine up yesterday and am planting today! So excited– I haven’t done this in years. Happy Thursday!

  3. Thanks for this post! I’m off today to find some bulbs! Thanks for the tip on using the plastic container down inside the vessel.

  4. Wow, I really appreciate a simple how to Tutorial. I’m off to buy bulbs. I love Paperwhites and always buy them for Christmas, but I want to try this.
    Happy Thanksgiving

  5. I love the look (but not the smell) of Paperwhites. I’m looking forward to seeing pics of yours!

  6. just picked up my bulbs yesterday. I use old glass jars for mine and wind twkinly white lights around the bases. have you heard of the trick of adding a couple of tablespoons of vodka in the water ( or whiskey, apparently they aren’t discriminating drinkers!)? It slightly stunts their growth so the stems are a bit shorter and thicker. I like it because that means they aren’t to floppy!

    Love you urn!!

    • I haven’t heard that trick! When they get tall & floppy, I take a pretty ribbon and just tie around the middle to hold them up.

  7. Elizabeth H says:

    Seeing yours has made me want to do this. Thanks for the tutorial. Later today I will be running some errands and plan to pick some up to start. I do love the look.

  8. No, I don’t plant them. I love the looks but cannot bear the smell!!


  9. I had never heard of these until recently and they are so pretty. I got 3 bulbs at Home Depot yesterday (I didn’t want to kill too many on my first try). I got them home and I think I set them up in the rocks correctly, BUT… how much do you fill them with water? MY directions said to have the rocks damp but not wet. How do you do that with rocks? So I filled it up so that the bottoms of the bulbs were sitting in the water. Is that right? AHH! I have a such an amazing talent for killing plants.

    • Maury, I just make sure their bases are sitting in water. That has worked fine for me in the past. I keep the water level filled up to cover their little bottoms. 🙂

  10. When we lived in Monterey, the outdoor mall had the most beautiful paperwhites. I dressed my kids up and went early and took the Christmas card photos right there! I don’t know if I could even find bulbs here (Ukraine) to try this- but I’m going to pin it so I can try when we’re back in the States!

  11. Great minds…I just got my Amarylis going on Sunday.

  12. I gave Christmas tins with rocks and bulbs that I had already refrigerated as hostess gifts for all the holiday open houses a few years ago.

  13. Wow! How lovely. I had to google image search “paperwhites” because I had no idea what they were.

    Do you know if they are safe for pets? Our cat knows no boundaries…

    • Ashley, I just edited my post to add that they are toxic to cats & dogs. I think it is the bulb part that is most toxic, so be aware of that.

  14. Rhoda,

    I have grown paperwhites for at least 30 years and the holidays wouldn’t be complete without them and their smell. I love it because it reminds me of holidays past, but alas some people can’t stand it. Several years ago Martha S advocated adding rubbing alcohol to the water and it didn’t just stunt the growth, they never grew…at all! I had to go purchase my paperwhites in flower that year. Not sure I would try the Vodka trick 🙂

  15. I adore paperwhites and have planted mine just yesterday! As a note, I am a Veterinarian, and while it is true that most plants have a degree of toxicity for pets, Paperwhites, and in particular, Pointsettias are not as toxic as people are usually told. They can cause digestive upset (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea), but rarely severe symptoms (unless the bulb of the paperwhite is eaten). Christmas Lilies, are, however, extremely toxic and deadly. There are many great poison information sites (try the spca, or aspca in the US and check for the lists of toxic plants and the symptoms. I do, of course, not recommend placing ANY plant where a pet is tempted to ingest it, but I can’t count how many times I’ve had emergency calls with frantic owners whos pets have eaten pointsettias (which is not a huge problem!).

  16. Paper whites have long been a Christmas tradition at My Old Historic House, will be again this year. Just love them, and especially love them in your urn. Nice!Richard

  17. Paperwhites are so festive. My aunt plants the bulbs in pretty pots and gives them as holiday gifts just as the flowers are starting to bloom.

    Be forewarned that some people (like me) do not like the way they smell. They literally make me feel sick. My mother plants hers early and rids her house of them before I arrive home for the holidays. LOL.

  18. What a beautiful gift you will have in the Paper Whites…I’ve never attempted, but now am “tempted” after reading your blog. Anxious to see their progress.

  19. I don’t do those but I love to have amaryllis blooming. Mine is just beginning to peek it’s head up. I save the bulbs and grow them all summer. I get beautiful blooms most of the spring. Just quit watering in August and let them dry out and put them in a dark dry place. I use a cardboard box in the utility. BUT WATCH THEM, you might miss a bloom if you don’t check them as the weather begins to warm.

  20. Actually I have some paperwhite bulbs “growing” or so I hope. Smile. Love your white urn. Mind if I borrow it? Where can I get one like it? I live in a very small town with beyond limited shopping.

  21. Oh how I adore paper whites and their lovely frangrance!

  22. Paper whites are so beautiful.

  23. Ooh, thanks for the inspiration! I grew some last spring, and was just head over heels in love with the scent. I’ll have to see if I can snag some at Home Depot or something in order to get them in time for Christmas flowering!

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