Here’s a picture I took today, highlighting my pot of Paperwhite Narcissus at its peak of bloom. I really like them set against the bright red poinsettias, and hope to remember next Christmastime to bring them to flower in mid-December. Paperwhites are very easy to plant and will grow in almost any sort of container and planting medium. I like to use a shallow, wide pot with a drainage hole. Place a shallow layer of planting medium (I use potting soil mixed with aquarium pebbles!) on the bottom; then arrange the bulbs on top of that. They can be quite close together, but shouldn’t actually touch one another. Put more soil on top of and around the bulbs, but leave the tips exposed. Water them, making sure that the bulbs do not sit in water. I leave mine in a cool, dark spot for a time before I want them to grow, giving the roots a chance to establish. This year I planted the bulbs in mid-November and left them in my cold garage under a layer of newspapers until late December. I understand this period of cool darkness is not strictly necessary for Paperwhites, but it doesn’t seem to hurt them. (Just don’t let them freeze!) In mid-December, I moved them to the basement and set them under a grow light. After about two weeks, when I saw flower stalks amidst the frond-like leaves, I moved the pot to the warmth and natural light of the dining room, where they now bloom with gusto.
If you don’t have a grow light, you can certainly just set your pot in a bright window. Be sure to turn it daily so the flower stalks grow straight. You may need to sink a stake or two into the growing medium to keep the plants from flopping down. I have seen instances of Paperwhites growing in tall glass vases, bulbs atop a layer of small stones, and this seems a lovely way to keep them more contained. However you choose to grow them, you cannot help but smile when you see how these sweet blossoms brighten the short winter days!