My favourite tip for keeping paperwhites upright

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Do your paperwhite flowers flop? One of my favourite pieces of indoor plant advice that I like to dust off around the holidays concerns preventing your elegant pot of paperwhites from unceremoniously flopping over. I’ve seen a few recommendations over the years, but it seems as though the concept originated from the Flowerbulb Research Program at Cornell University.

Preventing paperwhites from flopping

Rather than allowing paperwhites to grow too tall (which is what leads to the flopping), research has shown you can stunt their growth by adding a surprising ingredient to your watering routine.

Alcohol. Yup, booze will make your paperwhites nice and compact and less likely to droop as a result. Plant the bulbs in stones or glass beads—leave the top half bare and dry. Water normally until the roots start to grow and the shoot is green and about one to two inches long (about one week). Then, replace the water with a four- to six-per cent water/alcohol mix. So, if the spirit is 40 per cent alcohol, you would use one part booze to seven parts water. Stick to the hard stuff—vodka, gin, rum, etc.—as the sugars in beer and wine are not good for the plants.

I’ve heard that you can also do this with amaryllis. Have you tried this tip with any success?

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4 Responses to My favourite tip for keeping paperwhites upright

  1. Dee says:

    Great information! Thanks!

  2. Lynn says:

    I’ve been doing this for years using 1 part vodka to 9 parts water as I learned from a Cornell article titled “Pickled Paperwhites”. It definitely makes them about 1/3 shorter. Your proportions may even work better! I just took mine out of the dark, cool closet and started your regimen. Thank you.

  3. Barbara Joy Laffey says:

    As the water/alcohol mixture evaporates do you continue to refill with the same water/alcohol mix or do you revert back to just water? In other words, do the bulbs need the alcohol hit just once or continually? Thanks!

    • Tara Nolan says:

      Hi Barbara, In reading the Cornell study, it seems as though you would probably continue to use the same alcohol/water mix to prevent the paperwhites from falling over.

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