We all know that alcohol has many uses in pharmacy, medicine and cosmetics, in industry, and in the production of chemical compounds. Some fond gardeners are also trying it as an insecticide, though the ultimate benefit there is not certain.
There is, however, one other use of alcohol that green-thumbers might find fascinating – it can reduce stem and leaf growth without any impact on the flowers in one special bulb very popular for indoor blooms in the fall and winter months. This is the paperwhite narcissus.
Bill Miller, Professor at Cornell University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, has proven that replacing the water for this plant with a solution of 4% to 6% alcohol can prevent it from growing too tall and flopping over – a common problem with paperwhites.
The research conducted by Miller showed that higher alcohol concentrations result in shorter plants. The key is to stay below 10%. Higher concentrations can damage growth.