How to grow paperwhite daffodils using Monty Don's top tips for gorgeous Christmas blooms

Paperwhite daffodils are the most gorgeous indoor flower – and so festive, too! Trust Monty Don to show us the way...

Winter Narcissi: Narcissus papyraceus 'Ziva' / paperwhite daffodil bulbs on top of antique books.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Learning how to grow paperwhite daffodils is a brilliant way to add a fresh, floral twist to your Christmas decor this year – and who better to teach us than Monty Don, eh?

One of the most beautiful winter flowers – and one of the easiest to grow, even for total beginners – these fragrant white blooms have become something of a festive staple for the gardening guru.

'Paperwhite daffodils, aka narcissi papyraceus, will be flowering for Christmas if you plant them in November,' promises Monty via his popular gardening blog.

How to grow paperwhite daffodils

When learning how to grow paperwhite daffodils, you have two options: you can either pop them out in a sheltered garden, or you can plant them up into bulb bowls and 'force' them to grow early as an indoor plant.

The latter option, favoured by Monty Don, means you wind up with fragrant white Christmas flowers for gifting or displaying around your home. 

'Plant the bulbs just beneath the surface of your compost in a container (ideally with drainage, but a normal bowl can be used if you add some charcoal to keep the soil sweet), and keep them watered but not soggy,' he advises, noting that they should be kept  in a warm, light place.

Monty Don wearing navy jacket and smiling

(Image credit: Getty / Colin McPherson / Contributor)

'The bulbs will grow strongly and, if kept indoors in the warmth, flower in 4 weeks,' adds Monty, who notes that you can delay and prolong flowering by keeping your paperwhite daffodils cool and frost-free. 

Of course, Monty isn't the only gardener who's a fan of paperwhite daffs; Tristan Sissons, head of purchasing at Hillier Nurseries and Garden Centres, is also a huge fan of these winter hardy flowers with their delicate, pure white blooms.

'With an abundance of dinner parties just around the corner, now is the perfect time to start planting pretty bulbs that can add some festive cheer to table displays,' he says.

Paperwhite daffodils

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Paperwhite daffodils are also, Tristan adds, the 'strongest-scented daffodil variety and offer a beautiful scent that is guaranteed to fill your home for weeks'.

Consider us sold, quite frankly. So, how to grow paperwhite daffodils?

What you will need

If you are hoping to learn how to grow paperwhite daffodils in time for Christmas, you will need:

How-to grow guide

Once you've sourced all of your materials, it's time to learn how to grow paperwhite daffodils. And, spoilers, it's actually very simple: these truly are a 'just add water' kind of flower...

If you're using soil...

If you are hoping to grow your paperwhite daffodils in soil, Tristan advises you 'plant them at a depth that is one and a half to two times the bulb’s diameter with a well-draining potting mix'. 

'These varieties need well-drained but consistently moist soil during cultivation,' he says.

If you're using decorative stones...

If you prefer to grow your paperwhite daffodils in water and pebbles, simply 'find a container with no drainage holes,' says Tristan. 

'Fill it halfway with decorative stones or pebbles and place the bulbs on top. Ensure the pebbles are properly supporting the bulbs so that they sit upright and add water until it reaches the base of the bulbs,' he adds. 

Winter Narcissi: Narcissus papyraceus 'Ziva' / paperwhite daffodil bulbs on top of antique books.

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Make sure that, throughout the growing process, you keep topping up the water to make sure it maintains at that level.

Choose the perfect home for them

'If you are growing paperwhite daffodils in soil, keep in a warm greenhouse, conservatory or sunny windowsill,' advises Morris Hankinson, director of Hopes Grove Nurseries

'Be sure to keep an eye on the watering regularly: the aim is to keep them moist but not waterlogged.'

Alternatively, if you're growing paperwhite daffodils in decorative stones, Morris says it's best to place them on a sunny windowsill and keep the water topped up so that it continues to touch the base of the bulbs.


How do you plant paperwhite daffodils?

Paperwhite daffodils are very easy to grow, even for the very greenest of gardeners – although you need to choose whether you will plant them in potting mix or in decorative pebbles/glass beads so that the roots are visible.

Alternatively, you can use peat-free bulb fibre (available from Amazon). To pursue this option, Morris says you should choose a pot that is 10-15cm in diameter and fill with 5cm of bulb fibre, place the bulbs in the pot on top of the fibre, fitting in as many bulbs as possible for the best flowering effect. 

'Fill in around the bulbs with more bulb fibre covering the shoulders of the bulbs but leaving the tips uncovered,' he adds. 

'Water them well and keep in a warm greenhouse, conservatory or sunny windowsill keeping an eye on the watering regularly to keep them moist but not waterlogged.'

When is the best time to plant paperwhite daffodils?

Paperwhite daffodils will flower about 6 weeks after you plant them, so plant them in early November to have them in flower as your Christmas table centrepiece.

'To be sure of having your fragrant paperwhites perfectly ready for Christmas, you could plant 3 sets of bulbs a week apart from the very beginning of November,' says Morris.

'That's three times as many to enjoy!'

Do paperwhites come back every year?

'Paperwhite daffodil blooms will typically last for three weeks after they open,' says Tristan. 

'To extend the bloom time, keep your daffodils in a cool location away from direct sunlight. Keep an eye on your plant as it flowers as you may need to use small twines to support the weight of the blooms on the delicate flower stems.'

While it's possible to replant paperwhites in soil to grow new flowers once their blooms have died, it will take at least two to three years for new growth to occur. 

So, there we have it: it's incredibly easy, as promised, to learn how to grow paperwhite daffodils.

Anyone else thinking they might oust their trusty poinsettia in favour of some fragrant Christmas daffs this year, then? No? You want both?!

Hey, it's Christmas and a time for one and all, we suppose. Why shouldn't the same be true of indoor flowers...

Kayleigh Dray
Acting Content Editor

Kayleigh Dray became Ideal Home’s Acting Content Editor in the spring of 2023, and is very excited to get to work. She joins the team after a decade-long career working as a journalist and editor across a number of leading lifestyle brands, both in-house and as a freelancer.