paperwhite season.

December 8, 2021

It’s paperwhite season, which means it’s time for setting bulbs in jam jars or bowls or any small vessel you happen to have, and sticking them on a windowsill so you have something to look forward to in the New Year.

I’d be remiss not to mention that a handful of paperwhite bulbs tucked into a little handmade basket make a very lovely gift indeed, but I’ve probably made enough suggestions of what to give other people this season. Consider this my plea to practice just a bit of selfishness in month that has too many folks feeling harried and in a season where there’s too little green.

For my part, I brought home five paperwhite bulbs after seeing them on a last-minute jaunt to the hardware store get an extra string of Christmas lights last night. Today, they’re dotting windowsills and tabletops and hanging from a floral twine basket, taking in the winter sun that will have them blooming by New Years.

It’s been more than a few years since I shared my favorite paperwhite pushing method and I’ve culled my bottle collection a bit since then, so this year I decided to use one bottle and some lid-less Weck jars that have been floating around my cabinet. In the bottom of the jars I put a small handful of broken seashells that I found under the kids’ bunkbed earlier in the week, but if you don’t have children squirreling shells away for safe-keeping, small stones or marbles would also work.

If you have a smaller-necked bottle like the one above, you might not need anything at all. Note: the optics are strange in that shot, but the water level is right up to the top of the bottle which will allow those dry roots to start to drink. If you follow this method, try to choose a bulb that fits snuggly into your bottleneck and check your water level daily for the first few days as the roots start to grow.

That’s it. Now we wait and take our Vitamin D and think about how sweet our apartments will smell once these suckers bloom.

For the curious:

Our white candlestick is from Notary Ceramics.

Beeswax tapers are made by James.

The complete handmade gift guide is here.

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  • Reply El December 8, 2021 at 4:11 pm

    Beeswax taper question– how do you deal with the amount of drips with beeswax tapers? The dripping can be beautiful, of course, but it’s also kind of a pain to remove from a table, candlestick, placemat, etc. Last winter we took to having a square of parchment paper between stick and candle, which caught most drips and wasn’t too aesthetically weird. But I wonder if there are other solutions?

    Lovely post, as always πŸ™‚

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE December 8, 2021 at 4:27 pm

      oh, thanks so much! do you make your own tapers? we typically have pretty limited drips, but i wonder if it could be a question of the size wick that you (or your candlemaker!) is using! when we do have accumulated drips on the candlesticks (a few times year) I just put the candlestick on a parchment lined try in the oven for a few minutes on low heat and wipe with a cloth once melted!

      • Reply El December 8, 2021 at 5:42 pm

        Oh that’s super interesting! I hadn’t even thought about wick size. I’m actually about to crack into a new set– I’d been using some random beeswax tapers from whole foods, but I just finished that supply up. I have some pretty hand-dipped ones that someone gave me as a gift, and maybe they’ll have a different sized wick! The oven method is a good one, too– thank you. πŸ™‚

        • Reply toyosi oyelola December 14, 2021 at 3:07 pm

          I’ve noticed if my tapers aren’t super straight they will drip! If you’re noticing drips, try adjusting the candle slightly in whatever it’s sitting in and see if it stops. Some candles just need to be nudged a few millimeters in one direction to burn beautifully.

          • ERIN BOYLE December 15, 2021 at 11:46 am

            true! (also avoid placing near a draft!)

  • Reply Megan December 8, 2021 at 5:40 pm

    Lovely reminder. Thank you. Also reminded me to check my basil sprig I have propagating, fingers crossed it’s thriving.

  • Reply Bree December 8, 2021 at 10:35 pm

    Really love and appreciate all your crafts with Rose! Thanks guys. Happy holidays πŸ™‚

  • Reply Mary December 9, 2021 at 8:27 am

    But the smell! Paperwhites are beautiful but (to me) they smell like feet.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE December 9, 2021 at 9:34 am

      Feet?! So funny! I think they smell wonderful, if very strong!

      • Reply Mary December 9, 2021 at 9:53 am

        I think it’s like how cilantro tastes like soap to some people. Just one of those quirks of humanity.

  • Reply Sarah December 9, 2021 at 12:02 pm

    I remember the original paperwhites article – thank you for reminding us! I might go out this weekend and see where I can find bulbs here – another beautiful green home experiment to add πŸ™‚ In the meantime, I will stick to my daily therapy which is going around the flat every evening and checking in on each of my plants, admiring their green juicy leaves – they are giving me life these days!

    • Reply steph December 10, 2021 at 1:50 pm

      me too! sometimes weirdly reassuring them/myself that we’ll make it through the winter.
      i may need to find some of these for myself/gifts! so sweet and bright and there really is nothing like caring for a living thing during these cold/dark days – i’ve definitely been missing plants as part of my winter care kit.

  • Reply Alice December 9, 2021 at 12:58 pm

    Last year we had paperwhites all over the house, and we labeled each one with different stickers. ( I happened to have a page of state stickers) and then we measured and tracked and graphed them, with the ability to say that ‘Utah and Rhode Island have really grown a lot since Tuesday!’ It was great fun.

  • Reply Lea December 9, 2021 at 1:54 pm

    Have you ever used the vodka trick to keep them short? It seems to work, although I haven’t done a/b testing to confirm it for certain.

  • Reply Susana Correia Galli December 9, 2021 at 7:10 pm

    I thought that all these bulbs needed a cold period to bloom inside? Do you know if that’s the case? Or can you only do this with paperwhites?

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE December 10, 2021 at 9:18 am

      Paperwhites are great for indoor forcing because they don’t require a sustained cold period to bloom! More from the University of Vermont Extension program here:

      • Reply Susana Correia Galli December 11, 2021 at 2:16 pm

        ah, ok, so not all bulbs. Thank you! a few months ago I bought a few bags of bulbs thinking I was saving money instead of buying them in pots in the New Year, and I still haven’t done anything with them….


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