Mint juleps for your tulips

Giving some potted plants diluted whisky, vodka, gin or tequila stunts the growth of a plant’s leaves and stems, but does not affect the blossoms, according to William Miller, director of Cornell’s Flower Bulb Research Program.

The Cornell horticulturist reported his findings in the April 2006 issue of Hort Technology, a peer-reviewed journal of horticulture.

The study found that plants given booze diluted with water to a concentration of 4 per cent to 6 per cent of alcohol reduce growth by one-third, but with flowers just as “large, fragrant and long-lasting as usual,” Miller said.

Miller’s study focused on paperwhite narcissus and other daffodils, but he also had promising results with tulips. In addition to dry gin, unflavoured vodka, whisky, white rum, gold tequila, and mint schnapps, he also experimented with red and white wine and pale lager beer.

The beer and wine did not work, however, likely because of their sugar content, Miller said.

For home gardeners who want to try Miller’s technique, he advises to add one part 80-proof liquor to seven parts water. When the flower shots are several incs tall, apply the diluted booze.

Miller isn’t sure why the alcohol stunts plant growth, but he has several theories he is exploring.

— Growth is caused when plant cells absorb water and expand. Alcohol may injure the plant roots, preventing the roots from absorbing water as efficiently.

— When alcohol is combined with water, the plant is forced to use more of its growing energy to extract water from the solution.

— More of the plant’s growing energy is used to rid itself of the absorbed alcohol.

Photo © manu10319

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