04 November 2015

Boozing Up The Indoor Bulbs

My paperwhites tied to the stake
When it's cold and snowing outside, some of us appreciate a nip of rum or Irish Whiskey added to our drink, providing warmth and comfort. It has been found that paperwhite narcissus also would respond favorably to this libation.

It is common for amaryllis and paperwhites to need support or stakes to keep them from flopping over. I usually used the green wire (that everyone has for wreaths during the holidays) to form a ring that kept the paperwhites together. Each plant leaned on each other for support. This usually worked for a while until one decided it had enough and flopped over, pulling down the entire brood with it.

Cornell University found that giving them alcohol after they began growing tended to reduce this long, leggy growth and prevented the need for stakes and supports. This has worked (so far) on amaryllis and paperwhite narcissus, according to the researchers.

Cornell's results
There was no effect on the blooms -- only the leaves and stems were affected. The belief is that a 5-8% solution of alcohol in water (rubbing alcohol also works) reduces uptake of water, limiting the green growth. Alcohols with sugars like cordials, rums, and wines are not advised, as the sugars negatively affect the plants. Something with more pure alcohol probably works best, like gin or vodka. An alcohol concentration over 10% is also not advised -- everything in moderation applies to paperwhites, too.

I have heard about this, but never tried it. Giving it a go this year with tequila and vodka, and will post the results next month.

So in the cold winter months, take a little hooch, and share some with your indoor bulbs, too. You will both be happy.

The Cornell University report: Pickling Your Paperwhites


Alana said...
Considering that I live an hour from Ithaca, I have not heard at all about this study. I have four amaryllis started and I am intrigued.
Swimray said...
I am giving it a try this year. Vodka for the paperwhites! So far they are growing. . . .