Who cares if it’s winter outside? You’ll hardly notice with a windowsill as cheerful as this. Shown here from top left to bottom right are ‘Bethlehem’, ‘Galilee’, Chinese sacred lily (bright yellow cup), ‘Jerusalem’ (pure white flower and the tallest), ‘Cragford’ (orange cup) and ‘Nazareth’ (pale yellow perianth).
Photo/Illustration: Susan Kahn
‘Israel’ (‘Omri’) is, in my opinion, the finest of the new paperwhites. Each 16- to 20-inch-tall stem brings forth 15 to 20 large, creamy yellow flowers with pale yellow centers. ‘Israel’ has a mild, sweet, musky fragrance. It blooms three to five weeks from planting.
‘Nazareth’ (‘Yael’) is a more compact paperwhite, reaching a height of 12 to 14 inches. Each stem is topped by 8 to 10 mildly sweet-scented, creamy white flowers with yellow centers. ‘Nazareth’ blooms about three weeks after planting and sometimes needs to be staked.
‘Jerusalem’ (‘Sheleg’) has the largest flowers of any paperwhite. These white jewels have a texture that seems to sparkle and a mildly sweet fragrance. ‘Jerusalem’ produces two to four very strong stems (16 to 20 inches tall) per bulb, and it blooms three to four weeks from planting.
‘Galilee’ is a vigorous, compact (12- to 14-inch-high) cultivar that blooms three to four weeks after planting. It has 10 to 15 white flowers per stem, and its flowers exude a moderately musky fragrance that I find a bit strong for a small room.
‘Ziva’ is one of the most vigorous paperwhites, blooming two to three weeks from planting. It produces 10 to 15 musk-scented flowers of the purest white atop strong, 16- to 18-inch-tall stems. It has the strongest fragrance of all the paperwhites and is the one found in many garden centers.
‘Bethlehem’ (‘Nony’) has a mild, sweet fragrance. Its flowers, held 8 to 10 inches above the bulbs, are bicolors—creamy white with pale yellow centers. Each ‘Bethlehem’ bulb produces one to four stems having 10 to 15 flowers. They bloom four to five weeks after planting.
‘Cragford’ is a truly multipurpose bulb; it can be forced easily or grown outdoors from USDA Hardiness Zone 5 to Zone 9. Each strong, 12- to 14-inch-tall stem yields several white flowers with orange centers. It has a mild, musky scent and blooms 8 to 10 weeks after planting.
‘Grand Soleil d’Or’ (or ‘Soleil d’Or’) is a cultivar of N. tazetta ssp. aureus, a native of Italy. Ten to 20 bright yellow flowers with orange centers develop on each stem; each bulb generates one to four stems 12 to 14 inches high. ‘Grand Soleil d’Or’ boasts a marvelously sweet fragrance and blooms six to 10 weeks after planting. This cultivar will grow outside from Zone 7 to Zone 9 if it receives at least a half day of full sun.
Chinese sacred lily (Narcissus chinensis) is a bicolor beauty. It is one of my favorites because of its good looks and its delicate fragrance. Three to four weeks after planting, it produces several 14- to 16-inch-tall stems bearing five to 10 white flowers with golden orange centers. Its stems are a bit weak and require staking. ‘Constantinople’ is a lovely double-flowered form.