Say Goodbye To Floppy Paperwhites With The Help Of A Boozy Beverage

Paperwhite narcissus (Narcissus papyraceus) is a fragrant houseplant that'll make your home smell amazing. These tall, white blooms are ideal for decorating your mantel between the months of October and April and spicing up the holiday décor. However, you'll only be able to enjoy the beautiful flowers for a short period before they flop over due to their lanky stems. But don't worry. You can give them a drink of alcohol instead to restrict the growth of the stems and enjoy the blooms. Choose any hard liquor you have available, like vodka, gin, tequila, rum, and whiskey, but steer clear of beer and wine since their sugar content would harm the houseplant.

While you can use stakes and cages to provide them with some much-needed support and help them stay upright, it's not a fool-proof plan. This is where the boozy beverage comes in. Research conducted by the Flower Bulb Research Program at Cornell University shows that alcohol restricts the water intake of these bulbs, stunting the growth of the stalks and forcing them to get sturdy instead of tall. But this doesn't affect flower growth or lifespan and allows them to remain upright and bloom as usual.

How to force paperwhites to remain upright

Begin by planting the lower half of the bulbs in stones, marble chips, glass beads, or washed gravel to ground your paperwhites and prevent them from falling out of the container. Now, pour water inside as you normally would and let the bulbs be for a week or two. Once the roots begin growing and the stems reach 1 to 2 inches above the bulb, remove the water from the container and prepare a 4 to 6% boozy solution for your paperwhites.

While you can experiment with the alcohol-to-water ratio, a rule of thumb is to mix one part of 40% distilled liquor with seven parts of water to concoct a 5% strong alcoholic medium. You're free to experiment with the ratios as long as they don't exceed the 10% concentration threshold. 

If you don't have any hard liquor handy, rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol works, too. Just combine one part of this 70% alcohol solution with 10 or 11 parts water. After the watering medium is ready, pour it into the container such that it nearly reaches the lower part of the bulbs, but doesn't have direct contact with them, to prevent rotting. This will give you plants that are ⅓ or ½ shorter than usual, but the flowers will be as beautiful and aromatic as usual.