A tipsy tip for paperwhites that don't topple

House Plants 06.23.15
Several Hometalkers have posted recently about potting up paperwhites (Narcissus tazetta), one of the most popular, and easiest, plants for indoor forcing. Simply put them in a bowl with some pebbles, add a little water, and, two to three weeks later, voila. But one recurrent problem is the tendency of these fragrant bloomers to flop over. The solution: alcohol. Yes, by irrigating your plants with a diluted solution of alcohol (you can use vodka, gin, tequila, rum or even rubbing alcohol) you will end up with plants that are about one-third less high, but with blooms that are just as fragrant and last just as long. And this isn't just a folk remedy. The folks at the Flowerbulb Research Program at Cornell University have tested it and proven it works. Two caveats: don't use too much alcohol (a 4 to 6 percent solution is optimal) and don't use beer or wine, as the sugars in those will cause major problems for the plants. You'll find complete directions here:


  • On the left, "Ziva" paperwhites growing in pebbles with water. On the right, "Ziva" grown in pebbles and a 5 percent solution of alcohol instead of water. (Photo via Cornell University.)
Douglas Hunt

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