Paperwhites (Narcissus papyraceus) resemble daffodils, but comprise pure white flowers. Unlike other narcissus varieties, paperwhites can’t withstand cold weather and don’t call for a period of dormancy before blooming. They are often grown as indoor winter plants, but you may also plant them outside in light U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 8 through 11. Properly caring for the potted plants as soon as they bloom improves their odds of surviving from the garden.
The paperwhite foliage remains green even after the final flower has wilted and died because the leaves are still consuming sunlight and nutrients to replenish the stores in the flower bulb. Prune away the dead flowers but leave the leaves on the plant until they yellow and perish on their own. Provide the plant with lots of sunlight by placing it near a brightly lit window. It typically takes approximately six weeks to get the leaf to start dying naturally, at which time it is OK to get rid of it.
Water and Fertilizer
The plant still needs regular watering until the foliage dies back naturally. Check the soil moisture every two or three days and water it if the top 1/2 inch starts to feel dry. Paperwhites require evenly moist soil and won’t withstand too dry or soggy problems. Any water left standing at the drip tray reabsorbs and makes the soil soggy, therefore empty it after every watering. A program of a soluble balanced fertilizer formulated for potted flowering pots, applied after flowering completes, helps replenish the nutrients from the bulb. Apply fertilizer at the rate recommended on the label to your bud size.
Paperwhites rarely flower again in a grass because the forcing process is too stressful. Transplant the paperwhites out after all frost risk passes in spring, frequently after the foliage has died back and the lights have gone dormant. Plant the bulbs in a sunny, well-drained bed. Sow each bulb using the pointed upper 2 inches under the ground surface and space the lights 6 to 8 inches apart. The lights require no care during winter and summer dormancy, but will need regular watering once they send up new growth the next spring.
Bulbs grown as garden plants need comparable after-bloom care as potted plants. Trim off the flowers once they wilt and keep watering the plants. Implement a fertilizer formulated for garden lights after bloom to help replenish the nutrients from the ground. Only remove leaf after it shouted back naturally. When the lights have been in the garden for more than three years and the bed looks crowded, it is possible to dig the lights after the foliage dies, divide and replant them.