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Keep Your Paperwhite Narcissus from Getting Tipsy


container gardening picture of blooming paperwhite narcissus

Paperwhite Narcissus

Photo © Kerry Michaels

Who would have thought that the way to keep paperwhite narcissus bulbs from getting tipsy was to give them a stiff drink. This is exactly what researchers at the Cornell University, Flower Bulb Research Center, have discovered. They found that by feeding paperwhite narcissus bulbs a solution of diluted alcohol, you could reduce the stalk and leaf size, and minimize their annoying tendency of flopping over when the narcissus flowers bloom.

By feeding your paperwhite narcissus bulbs some booze, instead of water, you can cut the plants' growth by one third to one half, and that's a good thing. To achieve a tipsy narcissus that won't tip over, simply add water, as you normally would for the first week or until the roots are growing and you have green shoots growing about one to two inches out of the bulb.

Once you have this growth, pour off the water and replace with a solution of 1 part hard liquor (gin, tequila, vodka, whiskey, scotch, rum) to seven parts water. I make a bottle of one cup of alcohol to seven cups of water, which I then use to feed the narcissus bulbs instead of using water.

If you don't have liquor in the house or would prefer to use rubbing or isopropyl alcohol, it will work too. Just use one part rubbing alcohol to 11 parts water.

If you use this technique, your paperwhite narcissus flowers will last just as long and will be just as fragrant, they just won't tip over as easily.

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