How to Force Winter Paperwhite Bulbs

Winter can be gloomy and gray, but having live plants can make it so much easier to endure. The plants help remind you that the gray days won’t last for forever. Today, I am going to show you how to force winter paperwhite bulbs.

paperwhite bulbs in a cement planter

I usually buy a green plant, or two, to give me a bit of a boost in the winter.

Midwest winters are long and gray, especially once the calendar turns over a new year.

You think once Christmas is over that spring is on it’s way, and even though that is true, it’ll be months before it actually arrives.

There is something about having plants around once the holiday season is over that brightens things up a bit.

Last year, I had wanted to force paperwhite bulbs, but I never got around to it because I wasn’t sure where to start.

My fear was that it was going to be difficult and, therefore, a waste of time and money. Hint, I was way wrong!

I decided that this year was the year and I want to share how to force bulbs with you!

paper white bulbs on cement

Do you need to have a green thumb to force paperwhites?

No, paperwhites are so easy and non-fussy, so if you don’t have a green thumb- no worries!

The only thing you have to worry about is not overwatering, other than that, they thrive!

Why you’ll love this DIY

  • You only need a few simple supplies
  • This DIY is great for the beginner
  • Forcing paper whites can become a winter tradition you can look forward to
  • Once you force paperwhites, you can move on to other winter bulbs
  • You don’t need a yard to grow these, so it’s great for those who live in apartments
paperwhite bulbs in a cement planter

What you’ll need for forcing Paperwhite bulbs

Forcing winter bulbs only requires a few things:

  1. Paperwhite blubs or winter bulbs of your choice
  2. shallow container or dish
  3. some pea gravel
  4. water
  5. moss, if you wish to cover the pea gravel
forcing winter paperwhite bulbs

How to Force Winter Paperwhite Bulbs

Winter bulbs only require a few quick steps to plant. Then, the only thing left to do is to enjoy watching them grow. Here are the steps to planting winter bulbs:

  1. Put pea gravel in a shallow dish or container
  2. Gently nestle your winter bulbs in the center of the container. Cozying them up to one another helps them to be supported once they begin growing.
  3. Water your bulbs just until the water is touching the roots. If you fill the container too high, the roots will rot, so don’t saturate the bulbs. The roots will reach down towards the water, so fill the container just until you see the water coming to the top of the rocks.
  4. If you decide you want moss, now is the time to tuck it into the container.
  5. Water your bulbs 1-2 times/week.
  6. Once your paperwhites grow tall, tie some ribbon or twine around the stems to help support the weight of the blooms.
paper white bulbs on cement next to a floral dish

Force Winter Paperwhite Bulbs with me!

I shared a video on youtube where you can see the process of forcing paper white bulbs.

How long does it take for paper whites to bloom?

After you plant your paperwhites the green stems will grow upward for about 4-6 weeks.

After that, the blooms will blossom.

Be sure if you are wanting them to bloom for something specific that you plan ahead and start them early!

How long do paperwhites last?

Paperwhites will last for about two weeks. You can enjoy the blooms for two weeks before snipping off the blossoms.

After that, you may still leave the green stems to enjoy until spring and to add some color to your home.

pea gravel in a vintage dish

Tips for Forcing Winter Bulbs

  • These bulbs tend to have tall stems with a top-heavy bloom. Plant the bulbs close together so the blooms can support one another when they grow. You might need to add a stick to your pot to help support the stalks.
  • Only water enough that the roots can touch the water. Do not allow the bulb to sit in water, this will produce disease. The roots will find the water if you leave the waterline barely below the surface of the gravel

paperwhite bulbs in a vintage dish

Paperwhites falling over Rememdies

It is not unusual for your paperwhites to start to bend over from the weight of the stem and bloom.

There are several things you can do to rememdy paperwhites falling over.

  • Support them with sticks
  • Tie them with ribbon or twine so they can support one another
  • Plant them at the bottom of a clear, tall vase so they get support as they grow

How to prevent paperwhites from getting leggy

When paperwhites get really tall, weak stems it is called “getting leggy.”

The blossoms fall over when this happens. There is something you can do to prevent this.

To stunt the growth of your paperwhite bulbs, you can use a small amount of hard alcohol to make them grow slower.

I know, it sounds odd, but it does work!

Water them with 4% alcohol to water solution to prevent the legginess.

If you don’t want to do this, just enjoy their tall stems and do your best to suppor them.

Planting paperwhites outdoors after forcing

The paperwhites I plant are forced during early winter, so I can’t plant them outdoors since the ground is solid.

If you force them later in the season, you can plant them outdoors afterwards.

  • Feed the bulbs that are done blooming
  • Snip the stems and blooms off after they are done growing
  • Plant the bulbs in a warm, sunny location in your yard
  • It is best to plant the bulbs 6 inches deep and 3 inches apart

Other types of Winter Bulbs

Paperwhites aren’t the only winter bulb you can force.

If you are looking for a bit more color, you can choose a red amaryllis, narcissus, hyacinths, and even tulips!

paperwhite bulbs in a cement planter

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