Paperwhites are easy to bloom because they don’t need a chilling period


By Maddy Rohr, K-State Research and Extension news service


Manhattan, KS — While the winter brings cold and snow, bringing paperwhites — a type of daffodil — to flower is simple, said Ward Upham, Kansas State University horticulture expert.


A chilling period is not needed to force paperwhites into bloom. Upham recommends starting with a 3-4 inch transparent container with no drainage holes.


“It should be transparent enough to see the water level,” Upham said.


Next, fill the bottom of the container with 1-2 inches of media (washed gravel, marbles, glass beads or stones).


“Place the bulbs on the media so that they are near one another. Add enough media to hold them in place,” Upham said.


After adding the bulbs, fill container with water until the bottom of the bulb is sitting in water.


“Do not submerge the bulb. Maintain the water at this level. It normally takes 4-8 weeks for the bulbs to bloom,” Upham said.


Upham recommends growing in cooler temperatures (60-65 degrees Fahrenheit) to prevent bulbs from becoming leggy and falling over.


Another tip from Cornell University’s Flower Bulb Research Program suggested a method to produce a plant that is 1/3 shorter than normal. Start by growing the bulbs as described above until the shoot is green and about 1-2 inches above the top of the bulb.


“Pour off the water and replace it with a 4-6% alcohol solution. Use this solution instead of water for all future waterings,” Upham said.


The alcohol solution should be mixed with one part alcohol to 10 or 11 parts water.

“Use rubbing alcohol. Do not use beer or wine as the sugars present can interfere with normal growth,” Upham said.


Water stress stunts growth but won’t affect the flowers, Upham said.


Upham and his colleagues in K-State’s Department of Horticulture and Natural Resources produce a weekly Horticulture Newsletter with tips for maintaining home landscapes and gardens. The newsletter is available to view online or can be delivered by email each week.


Interested persons can also send their garden and yard-related questions to Upham at, or contact your local K-State Research and Extension office.