Paperwhites are a holiday favorite, blooming in winter with cheery white flowers that provide a welcome pop of color. Native to the Mediterranean, these dainty bulbs require some strategic planning to get their timing right. Follow this guide to learn when you should plant paperwhite bulbs for them to reach their peak for the Christmas season.
What are Paperwhites?
Paperwhites are a type of daffodil known for their delicate fragrance and creamy white blooms. They belong to the Narcissus genus and are one of the easiest bulbs to force into flower indoors.
Unlike most bulbs, paperwhites do not require a period of cold dormancy to trigger flowering. Their warm climate origin means they will bloom quickly on their own timeline when brought indoors. The challenge is timing this accelerated growth just right for holiday decor.
When to Plant for Christmas Bloom ?
Paperwhites need around 6-8 weeks of growth before coming into full bloom. This means you’ll want to plan for planting in October or November for flowers at Christmas.
Start in Late October for Early Blooms
Plant paperwhite bulbs in late October about 8 weeks before you want blooms. This will give the bulbs time to develop roots and leaves before sending up flower stalks, yielding blooms in early to mid December. Starting in late October allows you to enjoy the paperwhites throughout the entire holiday season.
Start in Early November for Late Blooms
If you don’t mind shorter blooming duration, early November planting will still give you flowers for Christmas and New Year’s. Planting the bulbs in early November provides a 6-7 week growing period before blooms arrive just in time for Christmas festivities, lasting into early January.
Wait Until Mid-Late November for New Year’s Blooms
For paperwhites timed specifically for New Year’s, plant bulbs in mid to late November about 5-6 weeks before you want blossoms. This will likely produce flowers between late December and early January, just in time to ring in the new year. Later planting shortens duration but concentrates the display.
Don’t Wait Too Long!
If you wait until December to plant, you risk not having enough time to produce blooms before Christmas and New Year’s have passed. Make sure to get bulbs started by late November at the absolute latest for any holiday blooming.
Factors That Influence Bloom Time
Keep in mind, timing can vary slightly based on growing conditions that impact maturity. Here are a few factors that influence bloom time:
Bulb Size : Larger bulbs with bigger noses mature faster than smaller bulbs. Buy large, high nose count bulbs for fastest holiday blooming.
Pot Size and Crowding : Plant just 3-5 bulbs per pot and choose wider pots to prevent overcrowding, which can delay flowering.
Temperature : Warmer temperatures (65-72°F) speed growth; cooler homes slow it down. Time accordingly.
Light Exposure : Place pots in a sunny, bright window to encourage faster growth and blooming.
Water : Keep soil consistently moist but not soaked for healthy plants. Too much or too little water stresses bulbs.
Step-by-Step Guide to Planting Schedule
Follow these steps for perfectly timed holiday blooms:
- Buy High Quality Bulbs : Look for large, firm bulbs from a reputable source. Bargain bulbs are often too small or old to bloom well.
- Pot Up Bulbs in October or November : Plant bulbs pointy end up in pots just barely buried in moist potting mix. Add 3-5 bulbs per 6-8 inch pot.
- Provide Warmth and Light : Keep bulbs consistently warm (65-75°F) and in a sunny window or under grow lights.
- Water Sparingly : Water just enough to keep soil slightly moist. Too much moisture will make bulbs rot.
- Watch for Growth and Buds : Once you see green shoots, flowering will follow within 2-3 weeks – time for holiday decor!
- Enjoy Blooms, Then Repeat : After blooming, paperwhites can be planted outdoors. Replenish your bulb stash each fall.
Decorating with Paperwhites
Paperwhites look and smell lovely in any holiday display:
Cluster pots atop the mantle or dining table for a seasonal centerpiece
Line windowsills with paperwhites to enjoy while inside
Place smaller pots throughout holiday decor as accents
Mix colors by pairing paperwhite pots with poinsettias or Christmas cactus
Extend Enjoyment Indoors and Out
With the right planting schedule, paperwhites can brighten up your Christmas and New Year’s festivities with heavenly fragrance and floral cheer. Time bulbs correctly and you can enjoy these uplifting winter blooms both indoors and out. Just be sure to get them started in October or November so they can put on their holiday show.