A mistaken purchase of horrible vodka proves good medicine for bulbs.

Paperwhite Bulbs
Credit: Ralph Anderson

Every winter Judy buys paperwhite narcissus bulbs to force into bloom indoors. And every winter they grow so tall they pull the glass vase over in the middle of the night and smash it to pieces on the floor.

She was all set to repeat this cherished ritual this winter when fate stepped in. She had gone to the liquor store to buy her usual brand of regular vodka, only to discover when she got home she'd bought this horrible, raspberry flavored vodka instead. We briefly considered saving it to kill weeds in the sidewalk. Then I remembered a special quality clear liquor like vodka or gin possesses. The alcohol in it makes paperwhites shorter.

Judy got a vase and placed a couple of inches of small river stones on the bottom. She then added a mixture of one part horrible raspberry vodka to seven parts water until it just covered the stones. Next, she placed four paperwhite bulbs rounded-side down onto the stones. Roots grew from the bottoms of the bulbs down through the stones and absorbed the vodka-water cocktail.

Grumpy's Paperwhites
Credit: Steve Bender

And here is the result – paperwhite narcissus blooming at about 16 inches tall instead of the usual 30. We have no fear of a crash in the night.

WATCH: The Best Way To Force Blooms Indoors

Let this be a lesson to all who purchase horrible, flavored vodka. It is not merely a herbicide. It is a magical elixir for paperwhites.