Every year about this time I always start a big crop of paperwhites. And every year three weeks later, I go around the house with a packet of stakes and string, tying the paperwhites up because they're falling over on their spindly stems.
Apparently other people have this problem too, because some Nice People at the Cornell University Flower Bulb Research Program have come up with a solution--getting your paperwhites drunk.
Nope, not kidding. Researchers discovered that, when watered with a solution that's 4-6% alcohol, paperwhite growth is stunted by 30-50%. The flowers aren't effected, just the stems. From the Cornell report:
"We suggest planting your paperwhite bulbs in stones, gravel, marbles, glass beads, etc. as usual. Add water as you normally would, then wait about 1 week until roots are growing, and the shoot is green and growing about 1-2” above the top of the bulb. At this point, pour off the water and replace it with a solution of 4 to 6% alcohol, made from just about any “hard” liquor. You can do the calculations to figure the dilution, but, as an example, to get a 5% solution from a 40% distilled spirit (e.g., gin, vodka, whiskey, rum, tequila), you add 1 part of the booze to 7 parts of water. This is an 8-fold dilution yielding 5% alcohol."
The report goes on to say you can also use a solution of 1 part rubbing alcohol to 10 or 11 parts water to get the same effect. That's what I'm going to try this year--it's cheaper than the good stuff--and hopefully I'll be reporting back in a few weeks with some pretty, mini-paperwhites.