Today’s DIY is almost too simple to be called that…but since I’ve had this Paperwhite centerpiece on my dining table, everyone who walks in my house asks how I did it! So, thought I’d share with you guys, especially since I have a rather black thumb, and this is one indoor plant I’ve had tremendous success with. For all of you bulb veterans out there, I’ve included one top secret step that prevents that annoying habit that Paperwhites have of toppling over when they get too tall. Enjoy! 

Paperwhite Centerpiece

  • Paperwhite bulbs (they can be stored in a dark place for up to 6 weeks)
  • Wide container with low sides
  • Stones or beach glass
  1. Spread a 2″ layer of stones in the bottom of your container.
  2. Place a layer of Paperwhite bulbs very closely next to each other, root end down.
  3. Add a layer of stones around the bulbs to stabilize them, leaving the tops of the bulbs exposed.
  4. Add water until it reaches the base of the bulbs, and set the container in a spot that does not get direct sunlight. Watch them carefully, and add water every time the level gets 1″ below the surface.
  5. After a few days, the bulbs should be sprouting green. At this point, move them to a sunny spot and change your watering routine with my secret ingredient for preventing the Paperwhites from toppling over…
  6. Hard liquor. You heard me! Using a tiny bit will stunt the growth of the Paperwhites just enough so that they don’t get too tall and fall over. It does not, however, interfere with their big beautiful blooms. In order to determine the amount of liquor (vodka, tequila, whiskey, etc.) you’ll need to use, check the bottle for the percentage of alcohol, then mix with water according to the following chart:
  • 20% Alcohol = 3 Parts Water to 1 Part Alcohol
  • 25% Alcohol = 4 Parts Water to 1 Part Alcohol
  • 30% Alcohol = 5 Parts Water to 1 Part Alcohol
  • 35% Alcohol = 6 Parts Water to 1 Part Alcohol
  • 40% Alcohol = 7 Parts Water to 1 Part Alcohol

I know it’s crazy, but it works. Good luck, and let me know any tips you have for forcing bulbs indoors!

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Comments (32)
  1. 1
    Leah @ Freutcake January 11, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    Oh my goodness what a brilliant little tip! Who knew that hard liquor would be the key to a perfect center piece?

  2. 2
    Jess January 11, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    That’s nuts , I tell you… NUTS! Who would have thought?! Love this tip!!

  3. 3
    Olivia January 11, 2012 at 1:07 pm

    beautiful!! love it

  4. 4
    Lynn January 11, 2012 at 1:56 pm

    I have 2 questions! When you say add water to the base of the bulbs, do you mean the bottom of the bulbs or the base of the plant where it is exposed above the rocks? Yours looks pretty full. And the other question is – Do you have to add alcohol each time you water, or just initially? I want to run right out and get some bulbs! Thanks for the post

    • Camille Styles January 11, 2012 at 4:05 pm

      Good questions… I let the water cover about 1″ of the bottom of the bulbs, because they drink it up pretty fast. And yes, add a bit of the liquor to the water every single time you water after they start sprouting.

  5. 5
    Love This Life January 11, 2012 at 2:42 pm

    They look awesome! I have a hard time remembering to water things. My landscaper has to put all my pots on drip systems or the poor plants are doomed. I’m going to have to try this though. I love white and green and the clean lines of the stems! Thanks for the tutorial 🙂

  6. 6
    Clare Christine January 11, 2012 at 3:02 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing your DIY project…it looks great and relatively easy to make, I will have to try it out! I just happened upon your blog today and I am so happy I found it! I hope you are having a wonderful week!!
    Twirling Clare

    • Camille Styles January 11, 2012 at 4:06 pm

      Welcome Clare, we’re so excited to have you as a new reader! Definitely try the Paperwhite project…it really couldn’t be easier. Even if you don’t do the alcohol trick and they start falling over, you can always just use a piece of twine to tie all the stems together. Still looks super pretty!

  7. 7
    Beth (Hello Lover) January 11, 2012 at 11:48 pm

    That alcohol bit is key! I love paperwhites and plant them every year and inevitably every year about a week after they bloom they start slanting in all sorts of crazy directions – i’m pinning this for next year!

  8. 8
    Jen @ pretty plate January 12, 2012 at 5:05 am

    Totally going to try this! Thank you for the great idea!!

    : ))

  9. 9
    desiree {chic coastal living} January 12, 2012 at 8:39 pm

    Love these! I used to plant them every year in a small pot for my home but living in Florida isn’t always the best living condiitons for them.

  10. 10
    Sacha January 16, 2012 at 10:09 am

    I always mean to do this around the holidays, but have never gotten around to it. Definitely going to next year, now that I have moved into a new (entertainment appropriate) house.

    One question – how long does it take for the bulbs to sprout, grow and bloom? I want to time them to be in their full glory when having a party!

  11. 11
    Nicola January 17, 2012 at 4:46 pm

    LOVE it! How on earthickles did you discover the liqor idea?

    Thank you for the share 🙂


    • Camille Styles January 18, 2012 at 7:23 am

      Just some good old fashioned googling!

  12. 12
    Helena Alkhas January 19, 2012 at 11:10 am

    I love paperwhites and the wonderful aroma they leave in the house! I have been planting mine for many years now, but haven’t tried the water container. Now, I will! My next trip to the store has “bulbs” written on it! I’ll post on my blog too! Gorgeous!

  13. 13
    rosie January 19, 2012 at 11:19 am

    My mother and her Garden Club are in heaven rolling their eyes on this but are probably telling St Pete they should try it! Thanks for the tip…mine are about 6 inches tall and I will start today!!

  14. 14
    Maui Sunrise January 19, 2012 at 11:39 am

    Just discovered your blog, courtesy of this article being posted on the Pottery Barn facebook page. Can’t wait to try this idea!

  15. 15
    Mary January 19, 2012 at 11:41 am

    It’s been done before, give me a break!

  16. 16
    Jenny January 19, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    How did they smell? They look great but I’ve had some that smelled so bad I thought never again.

  17. 17
    May January 19, 2012 at 1:30 pm

    Thanks for the anti-tipping tip! I love setting up paperwhites like this every year. Simple and beautiful. Looking forward to more from your beautiful blog. (Now to check out your mini cheesecakes in a jar post…. 🙂

  18. 18
    Jayne January 19, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    Another variation of this is to put the bulbs in a tall hurricane clear glass vase, or any other shape tall clear vase, square, round and the vase will help hold the stems up and looks wonderful!!

  19. 19
    Kristen January 20, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    Can this be done with other bulbs?

  20. 20
    Diana S. January 22, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    Brilliant! Love this!

  21. 21
    siany February 8, 2012 at 4:15 am

    aw so cute! I love this idea. I am not sure you have ‘black’ thumb.. I don’t have the paperwhites, but I’ll try it with shallots and onions.

  22. 22
    Allison March 11, 2012 at 7:04 pm

    I don’t get much direct sunlight, so would this work still or not? Do you have any other ideas on something else I could use?

    • Camille Styles March 11, 2012 at 10:41 pm

      Filtered sunlight actually works really well – I bet the paperwhites will do great!

  23. 23
    Paiko Hawaii June 1, 2013 at 9:17 pm

    Love this for a centerpiece, thank for the great little tutorial!

  24. 24
    imre SY November 25, 2013 at 9:33 am


  25. 25
    Deanna August 25, 2014 at 9:19 am

    Love reading the various comments, and looking forward to adding this beautiful centerpiece to my table 🙂

  26. 26
    Kay April 25, 2015 at 9:13 pm

    Where do you get paperwhites? I have never seen them at local garden store. Do I just need to order online? Can you save bulbs from year to year or do I buy new ones? Thanks.

    • Camille Styles April 26, 2015 at 7:27 am

      Hi kay! They should be at any garden store — and even grocery stores and Target! — but only during a certain season of the year. Here in Texas, you can usually find them in late fall / early winter.

  27. 27
    Sabrina October 18, 2015 at 8:42 pm

    Hello! I’ve wanted to try this with multiple types of bulbs. But my question is. Do I need to put the bulbs in for ‘sleep time’ before I can do the potting. Cause I’ll probably forget by then. 🙁