Another blizzard last night, and my Spring Fever is at its absolute peak! I have watched enough television (even American Idol Tryouts which I hate!), definitely eaten enough food for a hibernating grizzly. Hmmm...could clean my house, hold on... lets not go crazy, tomorrow is another day for that kind of exhaustion. I sure hope next week, that damn Pennsylvania ground hog doesn't make a prediction that keeps us in the deep freeze!
What to do!!!!
By George ~ I've got it: PAPERWHITES! My friend, Harlee gave me a present of paperwhites for Christmas and the day has come to plant!
I have been a paperwhite grower for many years and I adore how quickly (4-5 weeks) they bring life and that botanical, ethereal feeling to a room. I would equate it to the way Rice Krispy Treats make you feel like you been slaving in the kitchen all day!
What are Paperwhites?
Narcissus ‘Ziva’ or classic paperwhites are the fastest and easiest forcing narcissus. A warm climate daffodil, paperwhites are native to the Palestine, Israel and parts of the Middle East. Here in North America they are grown indoors between October and April. I particularly love to plant them in time for January and February bloom, that middle time between the magic of Christmas and the miracle of spring when we delight in tulips and other flower bulbs.
How to plant your paperwhites:
The most popular way to grow Paperwhites is to force them to bloom indoors during the winter. Fill a shallow bowl, pot, or container part way with decorative stones. Plain stones, gravel, and even soil works too. The decorative stones allows you to display your personal creativity, and is much more fun. Set Paperwhite bulbs onto the stones, pushing them down just far enough so the bulbs are supported in an upright position. Put several of them together. Don't worry about crowding.
Add water just to the bottom of the bulb. If the water covers too much of the bulb, they can rot. Now put them in a cool, dark place for one to two weeks. When the roots have begin to take hold, and the plant has sprung from the bulb, take the pot out into a brightly lit room.
Now the problem:
Four to six weeks later, your Paperwhites will be in bloom. However, after about the 3-4th week they have to be staked or they are falling out of the container or flopping over. Now studies from Cornell University show that an additive of alcohol will stunt their growth and produce PAPERWHITES THAT GROW SHORTER, STURDIER and MORE LOVELY.
How much alcohol and what kind? (and will my Paperwhites need a 12 step program after this indulging diet?)
This is the formula: Keep in mind: The alcohol content needs to be less than 10%, or your plants will overdose and severe growth problems will occur.
Many liquors are only labeled as "proof", not percentage of alcohol. Don’t confuse the two. To determine what percentage alcohol you have, divide the proof in half, So an 86 proof bourbon is 43% alcohol.
To convert your booze to 5% alcohol, just divide the percentage alcohol by 5 and then subtract 1. That will tell you how many parts water to mix with your 1 part alcohol. Ex: 40 divided by 5 = 8: 8 minus 1 = 7... 7 parts water to 1 part alcohol.
Drug of choice: You can use any hard liquor (vodka, gin,tequila, whiskey...) or rubbing alcohol. Don’t use wine or beer because they are too high in sugar.
In the past, I used bamboo stakes with a narrow metallic ribbon tied about a third of the way down the stems. I like the look of it. But sometimes it works and other times the numerous stems still pull stakes and ribbon down with them. Others suggest planting them in a tall glass cylinder or inserting branches into the pot to support their growth. This time I will try treating my bulbs to a cocktail hour and post the results periodically.
How to stunt the the growth of Paperwhites with Alcohol
Pot your paperwhites in stones and water, as you normally would.
Once the roots begin growing and the green shoot on top reaches about 1-2", pour off the existing water.
Replace the water with a solution of 4 - 6% alcohol
Continue to use the alcohol solution for future watering.
You should see results in a few days.
Paperwhites can also be grown in soil and potted. If planted in soil you can then put them out in the garden. If grown in water and stone they will need to be discarded when flowers are spent.