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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. Read More »


paperwhitesLast year I confirmed that after a week-long foot bath in fresh water, bulbs grown in a mix of 7:1 water:alcohol (80 proof, 40% by volume) grow to maturity, shorter but stronger, bloom almost as big and are equally long lasting. This overcomes the problem of growing them indoors, in water, where they grow tall and lanky, eventually falling over. That was true for Amaryllis. At the office this year I’m experimenting with paperwhite narcissus — which usually need bracing in their pots, typically shored up with bamboo scaffolding or bound in a broad bow.

Caption: A bowl of paperwhites grown at home: Short and sweet. Read More »

milk tartMelk Tert is the Afrikaans name of a South African custard pie, a dessert typically served at a braai (barbecue) or at tea time — this is not that!

Milk Tart is a road-side concoction bikers brew up from ingredients obtained from almost any convenience and liquor store in sub-saharan Africa.

Every year since his passing I shake up a fresh batch of my brother Alf’s recipe for Milk Tart, take a hit and sleep soundly on fond memories of our time together.

This is an alcohol based drink reminiscent of Bailey’s Irish Cream, only younger, stronger and tastes like more. Sublime on the rocks — which are the hardest things to find on the road: Ice, not rocks!

Recipe, Ingredients & Method:
One medium can of sweetened condensed milk (approx 300g).
Half a bottle of vodka (375ml).
Optional extras are a teaspoon of vanilla essence and/or a shot of espresso.
Pour can of condensed milk into half a bottle of vodka.
Shake up well and serve over ice (e.g. frozen cubes of strong coffee)

Suggested reading Wikipedia’s entry on Bailey’s Irish Cream | Melk Tert recipe

Suggested reading: Amaryllis on Alcohol Revisited | The Amaryllis Experiment: Part I (introduction) | The Amaryllis Experiment: Part II (the movie)

These footnotes to the amaryllis series provides some additional anecdotal information to round out the experiment …

Amaryllis leaves fall over

Why bother with alcohol? Because amaryllis grown indoors, especially in water, often grow tall and fall over. Here the leaves of the water fed bulb fall down and had to be tied back up. At various times in the time lapse movie seen in an earlier post you’ll notice that the water fed bulb was rearranged to stand upright.

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UPDATE 10/23/2009: I’ll be repeating the experiment with a slightly more diluted alcohol to see how much bigger I can grow the bulbs before they fall over! Watch for updates in November and December of 2009 in a follow up post: Amaryllis on Alcohol: Revisited …

This frame grab pretty much sums up the experiment’s results: The alcohol fed bulb on the left is shorter and has smaller blooms compared with the water fed bulb on the right. Blooms from each bulb lasted equally long.

Comparitive bloom size

Watch the time lapse movie* comparing the growth of an alcohol fed bulb (left) with a water fed bulb (right)…

Read More »

UPDATE 10/23/2009: I’ll be repeating the experiment with a slightly more diluted alcohol to see how much bigger I can grow the bulbs before they fall over! Watch for updates in November and December of 2009 in a follow up post: Amaryllis on Alcohol: Revisited …

I’ve been growing a pair of amaryllis bulbs as an experiment. One bulb has been drinking water, as it aught to. The other has been taking a tipple of vodka.

The hypothesis is that the height of alcohol fed amaryllis bulbs will be shorter — but that the blooms will be of equal size and last as long as water fed bulbs.

I’ll be wrapping up that experiment and posting the results — which includes time lapse video and a growth chart/graph. Links to the research on paperwhite narcissis that prompted me to do this experiment follow below the photographs.

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.

amaryllis alcohol vs water

ABOVE: These are the amaryllis I’m growing at the office which feature in the time lapse movie you’ll see in an upcoming post.

amaryllis in alcohol

ABOVE: This short little fellow was fed a 7:1 water:alcohol mix from day one and remained alarmingly short, so when the flower head was near fully formed, but not opening, we switched back to 100% water and were rewarded with this diminutive display.

The Amaryllis Experiment: Part II (the movie)
The Amaryllis Experiment: Part III (footnotes)

FOLLOW UP: Repeating the water vs alcohol experiment on paperwhite narcissus.

Suggested reading: Amaryllis on Alcohol Revisited | Cornell’s Research Newsletter Using Alcohol to Reduce Growth of Paperwhite Narcissus dated February 2006 | Easy to Grow Bulbs article Pickling your Paperwhites