Forcing Paperwhites Into My Life

posted by on 11/26/2012 | 206 comments (leave one of your own)

I’ve always wanted to have Paperwhites on my table for Christmas and I remember this like two days before December 25th and then it is too late. You have to be on your game and get them started around Thanksgiving.

I happen to be all over it this year.

And by all over it, I mean I was in Home Depot for the nine billionth time last weekend picking up something for the never-ending kitchen remodel and I walked right past a Paperwhite display and threw a pack of bulbs in the cart.


According to my research and the instructions on the packaging, you plant these in a pot and it’s called “forcing Paperwhites”.  I think this is pretty rude, I don’t like to force anyone to do anything.

I mean, these bulbs look pretty helpless.


The Paperwhites do not like to grow in dirt, just rocks. Forcefully. I bought a bag of rocks also at Home Depot: $4.


The bulbs are already growing in the package, so we had a one on one and I suggested to them that they grow in a bowl.  It’s cool, Paperwhites, nobody’s gonna hurt anybody.


We’re gonna be like three little Fonzies here.


Except then I decided that it looked better with four little Fonzies.


I am hoping that these bowls are deep enough, I guess I’m going to find out.  The instructions said I should fill in with enough rocks to hold the bulbs in place and leave their noses showing.  I think I pretty much nailed it.  And I ran out of rocks.


I added water just below the base of the bulbs. You want to make sure it stays at this level and the water shouldn’t touch the bulbs because they could rot. Action shot, revel in it.


I’m moving them to a cool, dark room and then a few weeks, I can move them to a sunny windowsill with the hopes they will flower.


These little bastards better not let me down.

Team Paperwhites.

  • Robin Jingjit

    Blogging is so educational. I had no idea what a paperwhite was or that I was supposed to want one for Christmas. Learn something new everyday!

  • Audrey Kam

    A little charcoal in the bottom of the dish helps it from getting too funky as well. These are super easy to grow.

    • Zakary

      Can I get this at Home Depot since it is like the only place I ever shop?

      • Audrey Kam

        I think so. It’s been so long since I’ve grown paperwhites. I think I just used some of my parent’s charcoal. I remember reading an article about them not too long ago and it said you could buy it at most home improvement stores.

  • Beth

    While lovely, when they bloom I think they smell like R Kelly’s sheets….like piss.

    Cat piss actually.

    Hopefully you’ll have less stinky bulbs.

    • Zakary

      OMG, this is the best comment ever.

      Also, they better not smell like cat pee.

      • Beth

        Both Mfamb and you like my comment, baby Jesus in a tuxedo onsie, I can die happy.

  • Deb

    Yeah, they smell. I don’t know if I’d say CAT PISS, but they are definitely…pungeant. I’ll be waiting to see how that goes over on the Christmas table.

    You can also force Amaryllis. They are very pretty and I don’t think they smell.

    • Audrey Kam

      I think they smell like kalamata (sp?) olives. Better than pee but still not good.

  • Jules

    Aw, paperwhites remind me of my friend Helena’s dad. One of the first times I met him was around the holidays. He had a green thumb and when we walked in the house was FULL of blooming paperwhites. Seriously, they were everywhere. I’ve never seen so many pots outside a florist shop.

  • Issa

    The cat piss comment above had me rolling. Good lord.

    I hope they work out for you.

  • Ami

    I totally reveled in your action shot. And now I’m humming the theme from Happy Days. (Your blogging makes my life, and possibly the world, a better place.)

  • Heather

    I grew some last year and they never bloomed. They grew and grew, and lived for months, but with nary a flower.
    Hope yours bloom and grow, foeverrrr.

    • Zakary

      *pours one out for your Paperwhites*

      • Heather


  • Andrea

    Good luck with your paperwhites! I hope they don’t stink up your Christmas dinner table. R Kelly’s piss sheets would have everybody gagging instead of wanting to feast.

  • my favorite and my best- MFAMB to you

    i was gonna call you names about forcing shit and stuff..
    but i can’t remember what i was going to say after “smell like R Kelly’s sheets.

    i mean. i can’t.
    that comment sent me.

  • tara

    I had no idea what Paperwhites were either. I’m jealous.

    Unless it smells like cat piss.

  • Sarah

    Yep, totally thought this was going to be about the new Kindles and I was so confused.

    But now I see it’s about flowers that grow in rocks and smell like piss. It makes sense now!

    • Zakary

      Spreading holiday cheer one piss plant at a time!

  • sarah


  • Adriane

    I have been wanting to grow paper whites forever. I always wait until its too late and I am all out of holiday cheer/ patience. So glad you can be the paper white guinea pig for all of us. I was hugely disappointed to read the comments indicating they smell bad. They look like they smell wonderful! Keep us posted, please.

  • Stacey

    The nice thing about all the force, is once they grow to 5 inches tall, you reward them with vodka to strengthen them.

    • Zakary

      That’s my personal motto.

  • Sally

    They should call them Cat Piss Poseys!

  • Five Monkeys and a Chick

    Beth’s comment and Heather’s comments killed me! Then I read them again and well nevermind! I have to go wipe the tears now!!!

  • Rebecca

    Best comments ever. Also waiting to see how they bloom for you and if they smell bad.

  • Katherine

    I successfully “forced” (didn’t know that was a thing- thought I just “grew” them) paperwhites a few years ago, but they got so tall they started to topple over. I put chopsticks in the rocks and tied the stems to the chopsticks. Sort of took away from the look, but what choice did I have, right?

    I do not recall the smell of cat piss. FYI.

  • Lisa

    Love the paperwhite comments…I hadn’t ever heard of them before this. In other squirrel related news….have you checked out the holiday collections at World Market? They have not-so-pointy squirrels. My personal favorite….the squirrel nutcracker…

    How awesome is that…

  • Rebecca

    I always thought the small was dirty diapers? These things, albeit beautiful, smell so bad to me that I make my mother move them off the table at Christmas time.

  • Cabber

    Might want to put them in a tall glass vase — that way when they start growing they won’t topple over.

    They are a bit pissy but pretty. The Naomi Campbell of flowers….

  • xae

    Having never heard of this (again) I looked it up. They look beautiful and are supposed to smell good too, but the comments are saying otherwise. Like bad :/

    Hope they turn out nice. I mean the smell 😉

  • Shannon

    I’ve always wanted to do this and after reading your post thought maybe I still had time. Now, I’m a little afraid, what with cat pee and vodka. What a crazy ass flower!

  • jayme

    SO?! did it work!?? where’s the update because i’m freaking out of the status and the scent of your forcing!

  • jayme

    oops, now i feel like a huge asshole considering its the most recent photo on the blog on a very special post. sorry for being dumb but i didn’t know the story behind them until i got to page 3 on previous posts.

    but i am still wondering if they smell like r. kellys sheets?

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