2007-12-07 / Columnists

The Diary Of A Green Thumb

The Cure For Tippy Paper Whites … Tipsy Ones? Researchers Find Proof Alcohol Remedy For Straight-Up Blossoms
Commentary By Danielle McShane Danielle's Rockaway Florist

DANIELLE McSHANE DANIELLE McSHANE Paper whites are one of my favorite winter flowers. They are delicate, indoor bulb plants that grow tall, with long thin leaves and clusters of fragrant white flowers. I have found that often times, paper whites grow tall and their flowers are so heavy, that the stems bend at the middle and the flowers topple over. There are a few ways to prop them up: wooden stakes, or seasonal branches, such as birch or curly willow, can be put into the soil and tied to the stems to hold them. Creating a trellis of birch all around the perimeter of the container adds interest and function, but I was looking for a solution to the problem altogether.

Keeping bulbs such as paper whites or amaryllis in a warm room will actually induce rapid growth, and short-lived flowers. Inadequate sunlight makes the plants stretch and grow tall in search for light. Keep them in a bright room where the heat has been turned down. Sixty degrees is much better than seventy.

I often keep my bulbs (amaryllis, paper whites, and hyacinth) in a square glass vase. I use river rocks to anchor the bulbs down, and to give a traditional plant a modern twist. Keep in mind that these plants drink from the roots, so keep the water line below the bulb to prevent rotting.

Through my research, I came across an interesting cure for tippy bulbs. A study recently conducted at Cornell University explains the success of an old home remedy. Believe it or not, adding a dash of gin to the water actually helps keep the stems of bulb plants shorter. It lowers the center of gravity, and keeps the flowers in place without affecting the size or fragrance of their flowers.

When the roots begin to grow, and the stem is a few inches long, replace water with a mix of seven parts water to one part of 80 proof liquor. Dark rum, vodka, Tequila or gin will do the trick. Stay away from wine or flavored liquors - the sugar is no good for the plant. Imagine… researchers deliver proof of an alcohol remedy, so it may be time for a drink!

Feel free to write to us with gardening questions, or tips for our readers at DaniellesRockawayFlor ist@yahoo.com

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