Paperwhites are a form of Narcissus, closely related to daffodils. The plants are common winter gift bulbs which do not need chilling and are available year around. Getting paperwhites to rebloom after the first flowering is a tricky proposition. Some thoughts on how to get paperwhites to flower again follows.
Can Paperwhite Flowers Rebloom?
Paperwhites are often found in homes, blooming with starry white flowers that help dispel the cobwebs of winter. They grow quickly in either soil or on a bed of water submerged gravel. Once the bulbs have flowered, it can be difficult to get another bloom in the same season. Sometimes if you plant them outside in USDA zone 10, you may get another bloom the next year but usually paperwhite bulb reblooming will take up to three years.
Bulbs are plant storage structures that hold the embryo and the carbohydrates necessary to start the plant. If this is the case, can paperwhite flowers rebloom from a spent bulb? Once the bulb has flowered, it has pretty much used up all its stored energy.
In order to make more energy, the greens or leaves need to be allowed to grow and collect solar energy, which is then converted into plant sugar and stored in the bulb. If the foliage is allowed to grow until it turns yellow and dies back, the bulb may have stored enough energy for reblooming. You can help this process along by giving the plant some bloom food when it is actively growing.
How to Get Paperwhites to Flower Again
Unlike many bulbs, paperwhites need no chilling to force blooms and are only hardy in USDA zone 10. This means that in California you can plant the bulb outdoors and you may get a bloom the next year if you fed it and let its foliage persist. More likely, however, you will not get a bloom for two or three years.
In other regions, you will probably not have any success with a rebloom and the bulbs should be composted.
It is quite common to grow paperwhites in a glass container with marbles or gravel at the bottom. The bulb is suspended on this medium and water provides the remainder of the growing situation. However, when bulbs are grown this way, they cannot gather and store any additional nutrients from their roots. This makes them energy deficient and there is no way you can get another bloom.
In a nutshell, getting paperwhites to rebloom is not probable. The cost of the bulbs is minimal, so the best idea for flowering is to purchase another set of bulbs. Remember, paperwhite bulb reblooming in zone 10 may be possible, but even this ideal condition is not a sure-fire prospect. However, it never hurts to try and the worst that can happen is the bulb rots and provides organic material for your garden.