Drunk Paperwhites: How to grow perfect paper whites with booze

Paperwhites are great bulbs to grow indoors during the winter because they add a nice fragrance and the charm of live plants. Sometimes paperwhite stems and leaves can get too long and flop over. I’ve learned a trick to keep them looking good – give them booze!

Paperwhites can be planted in pots with soil or even in dishes or bowls with gravel, marbles or other decorative material. With just a little water, they quickly put out roots, leaves, and shoots. The flowers usually open up within 2-3 weeks of planting.

Sometimes paperwhites get too tall and they fall over. To keep that from happening, a research study at Cornell recommends giving paperwhites booze!

From the paper:

What to do

We suggest planting your paperwhite bulbs in stones, gravel, marbles, glass beads, etc. as usual. Add water as you normally would, then wait about 1 week until roots are growing, and the shoot is green and growing about 1-2” above the top of the bulb. At this point, pour off the water and replace it with a solution of 4 to 6% alcohol, made from just about any “hard” liquor. You can do the calculations to figure the dilution, but, as an example, to get a 5% solution from a 40% distilled spirit (e.g., gin, vodka, whiskey, rum, tequila), you add 1 part of the booze to 7 parts of water. This is an 8-fold dilution yielding 5% alcohol.

Then, simply use this solution, instead of water, for further irrigation (watering) of your bulbs. It’s as simple as that. The result will be a plant that is 1/3 shorter, but with flowers just as large, fragrant, and long-lasting as usual. But, the plant will be nicely proportioned and won’t need support stakes, wires, or other gizmos to keep it upright. You will see results within just a few days. You can have some fun by doing a simple experiment having one bowl of bulbs given normal water and the other given the alcohol.

Have fun growing drunk paper whites this season!

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