The Q&A Archives: how to propagate paper whites

Question: My Dad got paperwhites for the first time this Christmas and it said on the package that the bulbs would not come up again. He noticed some black lumpy things growing where the flowers were and wanted to know if they were the new seeds? If not how do you propagate them?

Answer: It is just so rare that we manage to keep paperwhites healthy indoors, hence most people simply buy new ones each year. Occasionally a plant will form seedpods with the back seeds inside, but often the plant is sterile and does not set seed. (Make sure the seeds are fully mature before removing them from the plant.) If you have seeds, you could try planting them and see what happens. You could also try to rebloom the original bulbs by growing the foliage for as long as possible to replenish the bulbs' strength, then let the bulbs rest dry over the summer, then repot in the fall. Or, to increase the number of bulbs, you can divide the bulbs in the fall and replant the individual sections. However I should mention that not only does it typically take about five years for a seedling to reach blooming size, but the flowers may or may not resemble the parent. And, it is also very difficult to grow the seeds into blooming size bulbs under home conditions. Paperwhites are not cold hardy in your area so if you really want to try hybridizing or growing seedlings you might want to use a hardy daffodil instead so it could be grown outside year round. Here are instructions on growing daffodils in containers that you may find helpful. Enjoy your project!

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