Asked on Nov 07, 2013

Stinky Paperwhites - Help!

B.J. B
by B.J. B
First of all, I love the look of the paperwhite flowers for the holiday. I have been seeing blogs and articles on how to force them for Christmas and I would really like to do this but I have a problem. I had paperwhites several years ago and all my family who visited said it smelled like garbage in my house. I don't know if the flowers smelled like garbage but they definitely didn't smell pleasant. Is this a genetic thing with the paperwhites? It was only family members that had a problem. Could I have somehow gotten an aberrant paperwhite? Is my family just crazy? Can anyone help me?
  10 answers
  • Jessica C Jessica C on Nov 07, 2013
    The blossoms have a strong odor when they get old. Be sure and remove any of the flowers that change color and begin to brown. Also, do not over water them as the roots will smell if they begin to rot. Amaryllis is another bulb that is very easy to force but doesn't have the strong odor, you may consider using those instead.
  • Shari Shari on Nov 07, 2013
    Before I started seeing so many paperwhites on blogs, I was not familiar with them so I tried growing paperwhites two years ago. My bulbs didn't do so well and were really slow to sprout so I searched the internet trying to figure out what I was doing wrong. Long story short... in my research, I remember reading that people seem to either love the fragrance of paperwhites, or they hate the smell, which I thought was weird. How can such a pretty, delicate flower smell bad? When 1 of my 5 paperwhite bulbs finally flowered, I decided I fell somewhere in the middle--didn't hate the smell but I didn't find it particularly pleasing either. Needless to say, I haven't bothered to try again since I felt it was way too much work for something that doesn't even smell that good. Maybe you and I would do better to find a realistic looking faux paperwhite plant. :)
    • See 1 previous
    • GrandmaCarol Speight GrandmaCarol Speight on Nov 09, 2013
      @B.J. B could always try and "make" yer own arrangement...literally?...lolol
  • 360 Sod (Donna Dixson) 360 Sod (Donna Dixson) on Nov 07, 2013
    Shhh , don't tell anyone ...... I think they smell like cat urine.
  • Tessa Zundel Tessa Zundel on Nov 07, 2013
    No, you're not crazy - paperwhites stink! You can force hyacinth and they have a nicer smell but still strong for indoors, I think. What about crocus? They are only lightly fragrant and usually will come up for you. White tulips? I've never forced a daff but it's possible you could get something like a Winston Churchill to come up and they are small like whites but they smell divine.
  • Douglas Hunt Douglas Hunt on Nov 08, 2013
    The fragrance of paperwhites is like the taste of cilantro, you're either in the love it or hate it camp. There doesn't seem to be any middle ground. But there is actually a range of fragrance depending on the cultivar. The most common ones, "Ziva" and "Galilee" are definitely strong, but "Inbal" and "Ariel" are quite mild. This is also true of some of the yellow ones like Grand Soleil d'Or. Brent and Becky's Bulbs describes that one as having a "wonderful, delicate, sweet fragrance," not words you would use to describe the common paperwhite.
    • See 4 previous
    • Ellesmith Fagan Ellesmith Fagan on Jan 12, 2014
      @Douglas Hunt :-D
  • Tessa Zundel Tessa Zundel on Nov 08, 2013
  • Debbie Darche Debbie Darche on Nov 09, 2013
    I agree with you Donna D. When I have tried the usual ones in the past, I would walk in and my first thought would be who couldn't hold it as the dogs watched me searching the house, looking for the accident! The yellow one called Grand Soleil d'Or does have a nice fragrance like regular daffodils. It is the only one I can tolerate but hard to find locally for me.
  • Sandy valencour Sandy valencour on Jan 12, 2014
    I tried to regrow my paperwhites and all I got was green! I looked every place for information and found one site that said they only bloom once. Well bought some more for this past xmas, they were ok and were Ziva, smelled nothing. Now, since Mr Hunt knows much more than I do, can you regrow these bulbs? Do I have to refrigerate the bulbs, just let them dry, plant outside or what. I am so confused. Since I had a hard time finding this site, could you please email me at sandyvalencour@
    • Douglas Hunt Douglas Hunt on Jan 12, 2014
      @Sandy valencour Paperwhites do not require a chilling period and if you live where the climate is mild enough (zone 9 or 10) you can plant them in the ground after they bloom. Do not cut the foliage as that is what feeds the bulb for next year. They may not bloom the first year after you transplant them, but after they settle in your garden they should.
  • Sandy valencour Sandy valencour on Jan 12, 2014
    Thank you, Mr Hunt. I didn't cut off the greens and didn't last year. As soon as it warms up, I'll be planting them outside. Thanks, again
  • Cynthia E Cynthia E on Jan 12, 2014
    I have all mine planted outside so the fragrance is not overwhelming, but I believe I fall in the category of love them-- although I have them in a white and a yellow I have no idea of their variety. I'm in zone 8B