Paperwhites are very fragrant flowers. Most people describe their aroma as perfume, although others feel it is closer to being just plain fumes. And here lies a testament to their versatility. If you find their scent too strong, you can use these bulbs outside as long as the temperature does not fall below freezing.
They work well alone or mixed with violas and pansies. Use in containers near doorways and garden entries to welcome guests. In the Lower and Coastal South, you can even plant the bulbs in your garden, where they'll provide blooms year after year.
Bamboo stakes will keep paperwhite stalks standing tall, but you can use almost anything for support. Try cut branches from your garden. Sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua) works well for a rustic look at Thanksgiving. The red stems of burning bush (Euonymus alata) look great at Christmas. Use willow (Salix sp.) after New Year's, as the yellow-green stems brighten the winter months. Tie raffia or twine to stems, if necessary.
Paperwhites are beautiful through the holidays and beyond, which makes them excellent presents. 'Ziva' is the most popular selection, blooming early. It is the one you'll find before the holidays and the one most often used in prepackaged boxes.
Making Them Last
You can have waves of lovely blooms from now through winter by planting 'Ziva' every few weeks to stagger the bloom times. Other selections come in different colors, heights, and fragrances. 'Galilee' has white flowers and a mild scent. 'Omri' blooms later, likes cooler temperatures, and offers cream flowers with yellow centers. 'Grand Soleil d'Or' performs well into winter and sports bright yellow flowers.
When using paperwhites for the holidays, just match the colors of the containers to the season. Use warm browns and oranges for Thanksgiving. Reds, greens, golds, and silvers look best at Christmas. Whites and yellows will greet the New Year and warm the later winter months.
"Paperwhites: A Holiday Favorite" is from the November 2003 issue of Southern Living.