Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Taming Paperwhites

I love the hint of spring that paperwhite narcissus bring to a cold January day but have never liked the way the plants seem to collapse and fall all over the pot just as they come into bloom.  This year I noticed a sign beside the paperwhites at our local Christmas fair suggesting alcohol would prevent this collapse. When I was given a bunch of paperwhite bulbs for Christmas, I remembered this suggestion and cruised the web. I found many variations, but the most definitive instructions called for pouring off and replacing water surrounding the bulbs with a water-alcohol mix when the shoots are about 2 inches above the bulb.
The high sugar content of beer and wine makes these liquids less optimum than spirits or rubbing alcohol.  The ratio should be about 1 part spirits (I used vodka) to 7 parts water or 1 part rubbing alcohol to 10-11 parts water.  As the photo at left shows this worked for me.  The fragrance was less than usual. whether this was due to the particular bulbs or the added alcohol, I'm not sure. This was fine with Ed who has never been a fan of the paperwhite's "obnoxious" fragrance. Looking forward to paperwhites again next year!

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