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Flower Meanings


A symbol of faithfulness, good wishes, and respect, Paperwhite narcissus blooms in the winter, making it the perfect birth month flower for December.

The Meaning of Narcissus

What’s the narcissus flower meaning? Paperwhite Narcissus flowers and the daffodil flower (or yellow narcissus flowers) are extremely similar blooms, so it makes sense that a lot of their meanings overlap, too!

Some popular paperwhite narcissus flower meanings are:

  • Prosperity and wealth, especially in the future
  • March birthdays, as the birth flower of the month
  • The arrival of spring
  • Rebirth and renewal
  • Good luck and happiness
  • Future misfortune
  • Narcissism and egotism
  • The austerity and challenges of Lent ( also known as Lent lilies!)
  • Clarity and inspiration
  • The Chinese New Year [1]

A wide variety of narcissus flower symbolism makes for a wide variety of gifts!

The name narcissus is a Greek name that’s been associated with these blooms for thousands of years. Not only is Narcissus the common name, it’s the biological name for about 50 different flower varieties, including all common daffodils.

The name Narcissus hails from the Greek word for narcotic, but is more commonly associated with the Greek mythological figure, Narcissus.

In Greek mythology, Narcissus was the young son of the river god Cephissus and nymph Liriope who fell deeply in love with his own reflection. While, yes, it is said that he was immensely beautiful, we can all agree we’re already not off to a super great start. 

In fact, his fate was technically written in the sand since his birth. Narcissus’ mother was told by the blind seer Tiresias that he would have a long life, so long as he never recognized himself.

When Narcissus was eventually rejected by the nymph Echo, and went on to fall in love with his own reflection in the waters of a spring and killed himself.

It’s believed that the narcissus bloom sprang from the ground where he died. [2]

December Birth Flower

These pretty, fragrant beauties make the perfect gift for holidays and December babies—or even for a December newborn’s first flowers.

What Does Narcissus Smell Like?

The scent is reminiscent of jasmine and hyacinth—sweet and heavy. [3]

"A tulip doesn’t strive to impress anyone. It doesn’t struggle to be different than a rose. It doesn’t have to. It is different. And there’s room in the garden for every flower."

Marianne Williamson

The History of the Narcissus

Native to the Western Mediterranean, Narcissus is a part of the Amaryllidaceae family, which is why they may have a similar appearance to the amaryllis bloom. Narcissus has been naturalized in many regions including North America, Asia, and Europe. The name paperwhite came from the bloom’s delicate white petals, which are often described as being as thin as a piece of paper.

The Paperwhite Narcissus is also the oldest and most widely distributed genus within the Narcissus genus, making it among the most popular flowering bulbs in the world.

Since Paperwhites can bloom in the winter, these festive blooms are sometimes associated with Christmas and the Chinese New Year. They arrived in China during the Late Sung period, about 1,000 years ago, probably introduced by Arab traders. So versatile!

Due to its strong fragrance, paperwhites have been used in perfumes—however, each part of the paperwhite is poisonous. So be sure to keep them away from pets and children. [4]

The tradition of forcing Paperwhite narcissus in a bowl of gravel filled with water is a Chinese custom. The Chinese name for paperwhites is ‘shuixian,’ meaning “water fairy.”

During the late Victoria period, Chinese art and style was increasing in popularity. Throughout the late 1800s, the Dutch began growing the polyantha narcissus and made many introductions of new hybrids and promoted the idea of forcing these bulbs indoors, as is the Chinese fashion, to Victorian ladies of the day. [5]

Narcissus is also the national flower of Wales.

DID YOU KNOW - Narcissus Fun Fact

As with amaryllis, Paperwhites don’t need a chilling period in order to bloom. [6]

How to Grow Narcissus

Similar to daffodil bulbs, Paperwhite narcissus bulbs can be planted both indoor and outdoors.

If you’re planning on planting your fresh narcissus plants outdoors:

  • Follow the same rough guidelines for planting most fall bulbs.
  • Ensure your soil is well-drained and your planting spot gets partial sun to full sun.
  • Plant your bulbs 6 inches deep and cover with soil and water to reduce air pockets.
  • Enjoy come early spring!

If you’re planting your paperwhites indoors:

  • You can purchase them in a kit that will come with a pot, soil, and bulbs. If not, be sure you choose a pot with draining-holes and purchase soil suitable to container gardens.
  • Fill your container with your loose and well-drained soil to about ⅓ full.
  • Place the bulbs with the pointed end facing up.
  • Add more soil to the top, leaving the top of the bulb still visible.
  • Add water until you see water coming through the bottom of the pot.
  • Keep the soil slightly damp until sprouts form (be sure to not over-water.)

You can also choose to grow your paperwhites in a decorative vase with stones and water.

Vases specifically designed specifically for forcing bulbs work well since the top of the container will be the perfect size to support the bulb and allow air to flow between the bottom of the bulb and the water.

Many choose tall glass vases with decorative stones or pebbles at the bottom, as you can watch the roots, leaves, stems, and flowers grow.

Unlike other narcissus varieties, paperwhites don’t require a chilling period, so forcing them to bloom indoors is as easy as putting the bulbs in water and waiting for your beautiful blooms to grow.

  • Position the bulbs with the pointed end on top of the layer of stones.
  • Add another layer of stones to fill any gaps and cover the bulbs (leave the pointed tips of the bumps showing).
  • Add water to your containers to just under where you’re bulbs sit.
    • Keeping the bottom of the bulb in water will stimulate root growth, but covering the root entirely can cause root-rot.
  • Keep your growing bulbs in an open location so you can easily keep an eye on the water level.
  • Be sure the water is always touching the base of the bulb.
  • Move your growing bulbs into sunlight when you begin to see roots developing.

One day you’ll look over and see that your narcissus flower bloomed! [7]

DID YOU KNOW - Narcissus Fun Fact

Paperwhite narcissus are the cilantro of the flower world. While some people can’t get enough of their heady fragrance, to others they smell like a cross between dirty socks. [8]

How to Care for Narcissus

Paperwhites are popularly grown in a vase for a stunning indoor display throughout the winter season. (Finally, the ultimate long-lasting bloom!)

Here are some tips to help keep your Paperwhites thriving:

  • Keep your plant in a bright spot
  • Keep their water topped up

That’s it – talk about easy.

When to Give Narcissus as a Gift

These pretty white flowers make the perfect winter gift. Whether it be a December birthday, holiday gift, or a thoughtful surprise to help warm up the cold winter months.

Flower Meanings — keep discovering

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