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In previous experiments I grew Red Lion amaryllis bulbs in 7:1 ratio of water to vodka 80˚ (40% alcohol by volume) and achieved a pretty stout, self-standing, amaryllis bulb growing indoors on liquid. The control on plain water grew tall, spiked well but — as is typical — the foliage fell over and needed support (see suggested reading links below).

My aim now is to see how much larger and taller I can sprout an amaryllis bulb on a dilution of alcohol before the foliage gets leggy and the leaves topple over: I want to determine the minimum dilution of alcohol to use for maximum results.

The original ratio of 7:1 vodka 80˚ (40% alcohol by volume) to water is 1/8th of 40% or just 5% alcohol. This year I’m trying (a) weaker dilutions of alcohol to put less stress on the growth — 4.1% and 3% respectively — and (b) I’m using less expensive and more easily obtained isopropyl alcohol rather than the ethanol or grain alcohol I used in all my previous experiments.

Using 70% Isopropyl Alcohol, the math looks like this …

  • 13:1 water to 70% Isopropyl Alcohol = 5% alcohol (1/14th of 70%)
  • 16:1 water to 70% Isopropyl Alcohol = 4.1% alcohol (1/17th of 70%)
  • 22:1 water to 70% Isopropyl Alcohol = 3% alcohol (1/23rd of 70%)

Having previously used and proved a 5% dilution I now made up the following solutions to test, respectively, on two large Red Lion amaryllis bulbs …

  • 480ml water plus 30ml 70% Isopropyl Alcohol = 510ml of 4.1% alcohol
  • 440ml water plus 20ml 70% Isopropyl Alcohol = 480ml of 3% alcohol

Both bulbs will sprout on water for ten days before being drained off and put on the booze. That’s where this post begins. It’ll evolve with appended updates describing the progress of these bulbs.


10/22/2009 Thursday: Planted two large Red Lion amaryllis bulbs on water.

11/02/2009 Monday: Drained off the water after 10 days and replaced with dilutions of 3% and 4.1% alcohol respectively. Growth 3%=3.25″, 4.1%=3″ (measured from base to tip of foliage).

11/09/2009 Monday: Pots turned through 90˚ and growth measured at 3%=3.75″ and 4.1%=4″.

11/16/2009 Monday: Pots turned through 90˚ and growth measured at 3%=8″ and 4.1%=4.75″. It’s beginning to look as though 3% alcohol is not retarding flower spikes — but seems to be holding back the foliage. The 4.1% alcohol seems to have both the flower spikes as well as foliage in check.

11/23/2009 Monday: Pots turned through 90˚ (photo taken before pots turned) and growth measured at 3%=10.25″ and 4.1%=9.5″. The spikes on both shot up fast this past week. Curiously and counter intuitively the spurt of growth on the 4.1% specimen has almost closed the gap between the two.

12/01/2009 Tuesday: Pots turned through 90˚ (after photos taken) and growth measured at 3%=11″ and 4.1%=12″. The latter is taller now because the spike hasn’t turned out to bloom, but it looks like the stronger alcohol will yield the taller plant after all.

12/07/2009 Monday: Pots now turned randomly for best presentation throughout the week, no longer just 90˚ each week. Growth measured at 3%=10″ and 4.1%=12.5″. From my measurements it would seem as though the 3% specimen got shorter this week — it didn’t. I’ve been measuring to the tip of the highest bloom and as the tallest trumpets turn down the plant appears to shorten. It doesn’t really. Lesson learned: Next time measure to the top of the spike’s stem — not to the top of the bloom! Both pots are in bloom, both spikes are dwarfed with minimum foliage. The stronger alcohol dilution, unexpectedly, has yielded the taller plant. Why did this year’s plants not have as much foliage as previous years: Is it the isopropyl alcohol? Perhaps next year we’ll need to compare water, vodka, gin, tequila, rum and isopropyl alcohols side by side?

12/11/2009 Friday: Dead headed/removed first spike from the 3% specimen — it has a robust second spike ascending. In contrast the first spike on the 4.1% specimen is still in bloom but there appears to be no second spike on the way.

12/14/2009 Monday: Growth measured at 3%=9.75″ (2nd spike) and 4.1%=12.25 (still on 1st spike)”

12/18/2009 Friday: I leave for a two week vacation at the end of today, the blooms will be done by the time I get back. This experiment is officially over today. The bulb on 3% alcohol was, unexpectedly, shorter and put out two excellent spikes. The bulb on 4.1% is taller and, so far, only spiked once.

Suggested reading: The Amaryllis Experiment: Part I, Part II, Part III | A tipple of Gin at the office … | Crazy Secret For Growing Paperwhites Indoors at Nancy’s Garden Blog | William B. Miller, Professor of Horticulture, Director of the Flowerbulb Research Program at Cornell University Ginning Up Paperwhites That Don’t Flop Over


  1. Yo Slap,
    For a newspaper guy, your research details is very impressive. Of course I noticed a lot of emphasis on alcohol, so maybe you have found a way to get a free drink = bring an Amaryllis with you when you visit a bar.
    Jeff Ball
    geek behind Nancy’s Garden Blog

    • Now there’s an interesting idea! =]

3 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] Amaryllis on Alcohol: Revisited … « slappHappe on 02 Nov 2009 at 12:40 […]

  2. […] related posts: (automatically generated)Amaryllis on Alcohol: Revisited …What the Bleep Do We Know? – My ThoughtsA trip to Docklands « The Amaryllis […]

  3. By The Amaryllis Experiment: Part I « slappHappe on 19 Nov 2009 at 2:02 pm

    […] UPDATE: I have a new experiment going in 2009 using lower dilutions of isopropyl alcohol to optimise growth without going leggy on the foliage. Amaryllis on Alcohol: Revisited. […]

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