Paperwhites – A Sweet Gift No Matter What Color Your Thumbs

Paperwhites – A Sweet Gift No Matter What Color Your Thumbs

Paperwhites – A Sweet Gift No Matter What Color Your Thumbs


One of the things I look forward to each year during the Christmas season is paperwhites.  I start planning the paperwhite placements in my house sometime in October, mentally going through my containers & whether I will keep the ones I used last year or replace them.


Paperwhites (also known as Narcissus), as the name suggests, are clusters of small fragrant white flowers; some varieties have a yellow center.  They grow up to 15,” and bloom indoors in winter.


A couple of years ago, a whole new world of possibilities for paperwhites opened up for me. I was fortunate enough to visit Tasha Polizzi and her staff at TPSaddleblanket a few years ago at their studio in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.  It was February, and their offices were on the second floor of what was probably some sort of manufacturing plant a hundred years ago.  The room was big and open with windows all around and wonderful old wood floors, and scattered all around were paperwhites in a mix of great old containers.  (Why I didn’t think to take pictures I don’t know.) The flowers were so organic in the industrial building, and gave the studio – full of idea boards and samples of Tasha’s clothing and home lines – a simple warmth.



My obsession with paperwhites ratcheted up after that visit, newly inspired.  Now I continue to force them all through January to add color and warmth to my house, since it is always feels a little lonely when all the Christmas things are packed up and gone.


It’s just as much fun to spread the paperwhite loveliness around to friends and family as it is to experience the joy yourself.  They make a pretty and inexpensive gift.



They look great in a simple glass vase with rocks around the bulbs.  (Don’t you just love the amaryllis, too?)  Just place the bulbs in the rocks, pointy end up and flat root end down, close together but not so close that they touch.  The top half to third of the bulb should still be visible.


Here they have added clumps of moss around the tops of the bulbs – so pretty.

Add water to the base of the bulbs, but sometimes if the bulbs sit in water alone, they can rot.  Roots will grow down into the water.  Keep the water level at the base of the bulbs, & check the depth with your finger periodically.


(I love how they have put pinecones & Christmas balls in around the tops of the bulbs and mixed branches in among the paperwhite stems.  And what a lovely arrangement altogether!) As soon as the bulbs sprout, move them to a bright location in a cool room temperature.  If they are too warm, they grow extra tall and flop over.  Turn the container every couple of days to keep the stems growing straight.



Obviously, paperwhites work in all kinds of containers.  Here, since the filler won’t really be seen on this mantle, they’ve used simple pebbles. I’ve used things like green sea glass chunks or marbles that look great for the holidays, or dirt hidden by moss, and natural stone decorative rocks bring a clean look but with interest in the texture.


What a pretty presentation this makes in a simple mason jar – a charming paperwhite gift for a great price. 


When they get tall, you often have to tie them with ribbon or twine to keep them from listing over.  If like me, you don’t have a lot of cool yet bright locations and you want to put them simply where they look prettiest, you can keep the height to about two-thirds by mixing one part rubbing alcohol (or spirits like Vodka or Gin!)  to seven parts water.


I love the burlap tied with a pretty ribbon – wrapped & ready to go if you need a quick gift!  Putting several bulbs in a cellophane bag tied with ribbon – include growing instructions – is simply genius gifting.  I’m doing this one for sure this year!  

Instant gardening, no green thumb required!  Plus you have a charming gift that is truly made by your hand.







Libby Haynes