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blooming plant of the month                                                       (printable PDF)
'paper-white' narcissus


Narcissus tazetta ‘Paper-white’
(nar-SIS-us tuh-ZET-uh)


Polyanthus Narcissus, Paper-white Narcissus, Paper-white


The ‘Paper-white’ variety of polyanthus Narcissi has multiple small trumpet-shaped white blooms clustered atop smooth, hollow stems that are typically 12 to 18 inches in length. Open blooms generally face outward, slightly upward or slightly downward and provide a strong sweet fragrance. In the center of each six-petaled bloom is a corona (cup), which gives the flowers their “trumpet” form. Inside the corona are orange-yellow stamens.


As the variety name suggests, ‘Paper-white’ Narcissi are bright white.


The bloom cycle of these potted bulbs can span 10 days to three weeks depending on care and interior environment (temperature and light, see “In-Store and Consumer Care”).


Depending on grower, potted ‘Paper-white’ Narcissi can be found from October through April.


in-store and consumer care

These plants require bright indirect light. Avoid exposure to direct sun.


Potted paper-whites need evenly moist soil. Water them thoroughly when the soil surface is dry to the touch, and allow water to drain.


These plants prefer low temperatures, 50 F to 65 F, which is unlikely in most indoor environments. Let customers know, however, that longevity is directly related to temperature. Paper-whites can be stored in a floral cooler at 33 F to 41 F for up to one week.


Indoors, these plants like moderately humid environments. Mist stems regularly if plants are in warm, dry rooms, but avoid getting blooms wet.


Low; these plants are fairly resistant to the effects of ethylene gas.


Feeding is not usually necessary because the bulbs contain essentially all of the nutrition these plants need to grow and flower.


Cut off individual blooms as they fade. Leave stems and leaves intact.


After blooming concludes, water and fertilize the bulbs weekly until the leaves turn yellow and wither. Remove the bulbs from the pot, and allow them to dry. Once the bulbs are dry, cut off dead foliage, store the bulbs in a cool place until autumn, then plant them outdoors. These bulbs will not bloom again indoors.



Both are fairly rare; however, spider mites can attack potted bulbs. Symptoms include unhealthy looking leaves with tiny yellow dots.


Dry conditions and a sudden change from low to high temperatures can cause buds to drop before opening. Increase water and humidity, and avoid moving plants rapidly from cold to warm conditions; allow them to acclimate gradually from one to the other.


Causes include overly warm conditions and not enough light.

fun facts
WHAT’S IN A NAME Narcissus is a Greek name said to be derived from “narke,” meaning numbness, in reference to its
narcotic properties. The specific epithet (species name) “tazetta” derives from the Italian “tazza,” meaning small cup, in reference to the coronas of these flowers. The common name “polyanthus” means many flowers.
FAMILY MATTERS N. tazetta is a member of the Amaryllidaceae (amaryllis) family. In addition to daffodils and jonquils, close relatives include amaryllis (Hippeastrum), African lily (Agapanthus), Eucharist lily (Eucharis), Guernsey lily (Nerine) and kaffir lily (Clivia).
HOME SWEET HOME  ‘Paper-white’ Narcissi are native to the western Mediterranean region east to Iran.
LEGENDS AND LORE Flower lore says this genus of plants was named for Narcissus, a beautiful Greek youth who became so entranced by his reflection in a pool of water that the gods turned him into this flower at the water’s edge, forever nodding downward so he could see himself.
purchasing tip
• Potted Narcissi, like many bulb plants, are relatively short lived, so buy these plants when flower stems are eight to 10 inches tall and buds are visible but blooms have not started to open.

toxicity alert
• All Narcissus species contain crystalline alkaloids, especially in the bulbs but also in the leaves, that are toxic to both humans and animals, causing digestive, nervous and even cardiac disorders.
• Some species also can cause mild to severe contact dermatitis in some people.

Some information provided by:
Botanica, by R.G. Turner Jr. and Ernie Wasson
Chain of Life Network® ,
Complete Guide to Conservatory Plants, The
  by Ann Bonar
Complete Houseplant Survival Manual, The
  by Barbara Pleasant
Dictionary of Plant Names, by Allen J. Coombes
Ecke Ranch;
Hortus Third, by Liberty Hyde Bailey and Ethel Zoe Bailey
Houseplant Encyclopedia, The
  by Ingrid Jantra and Ursula Krüger
New House Plant Expert, The, by Dr. D.G. Hessayon
SAF Flower & Plant Care
  by Terril A Nell, Ph.D. and Michael S. Reid, Ph.D.
Stearn’s Dictionary of Plant Names for Gardeners
  by William T. Stearn

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WildFlower Media Inc.