Hoa Thủy Tiên literally translates to "Water Angel/Fairy Flower". It's, or shall I say "her" botanical name is narcissus tazetta and they're a variety of narcissus (daffodil, paper whites, etc...). The bulbs are forced in water to set off graceful flowers for Tết - Chinese/Vietnamese/Lunar New Year. Thus, the name "Water Angel/Fairy".

Angel or Fairy? In Vietnamese, Tiên is a mythical being from the heavens who is beautiful and graceful while possessing supernatural powers. Although Tiên can be either male or female....it usually implies female. For example, Chị Hằng Nga of the mid-autumn festival. Angel for fairy? I'll let you decide.

There are 2 ways to force these bulbs into blooming. One is to simply stick the bulbs in a container filled with water, change the water every few days and in about 6 weeks you'll see angels. The second method is more traditional and complicated. The bulbs are "carved" to expose the flower buds and then placed in water. As the leaves and stems grow, they too are carved to manipulate them into their graceful shapes. With this method, the bulbs should bloom in 20 days (+/-). As with all plants temperature plays an important role, if the temp is too warm, then they'll bloom earlier and vice versa. You can somewhat control how fast they bloom by controlling the temperature of the water. It is desirable to have the flowers bloom exactly at midnight on the eve of the New Year….so plan accordingly.

*Click on the pictures for larger images*

Step 1:  The bulbs will look like this when you buy them from the store.  Look for ones that are plump, white with plenty of bulbs attached (each bulb is a flower stalk); each attached bulb should be at least thumb size (smaller ones won't bloom).

Step 2:  Using a sharp paring knife, begin carving away the outer layers of the bulb (the bulb is made up of many layers like an onion).   Use extreme caution as you get to the center of the bulb.

Step 3:  Only cut away half/one side of the bulb like in the picture above.  Stop once you get to the young shoots in the center (if you look closely you'll notice the flower buds are already set).  It's ok if you damage the leaves but if any of the flower buds are hurt they will not bloom. 

Step 4: Soak the bulb cut side down in cold water.  Soak for 2 days, changing the water and carefully washing the bulbs everyday. 

Step 5: After 2 day, flip the bulb over and soak it for another 2 days, changing the water everyday. 

Step 6: Next step is to place the bulb into a vase/container, use rocks, marbles, etc...to anchor the plant if you need too.

Step 7: Cover the cut surface of the bulb with a wet paper towel or cotton, fill the container with fresh water.  Make sure the towel or cotton touches the water underneath (or else it will dry out, defeating the purpose of using it to keep the top of the bulb moist).   Change the water every few days....sit back, relax and watch your angel bloom.  

**As the plant grows you can trim/carve the leaves and flower stems to turn them into unique patterns.  For the leaves, just trim away a small sliver of the leaf.    The leaf will bend/curl towards the side that's been trimmed.  Same goes for the stems of the flowers.  DO NOT touch the flower heads/buds.  Any damage to them will cause the bulbs to abort the flowers.**

I'll post an update when mine's bloom...but until then...you can google "hoa thuy tien" for a few images, if you're curious.

Comments (6)

On 2:35 PM , Anonymous said...

i loooove your blog!!! i'll def look for these bulbs @ the vietnamese markets this weekend and try the carving method since Tet's coming...hope they'll bloom on time or some days later...oh, n my name's Thuy Tien ^^

On 5:52 AM , Anonymous said...

Hi tt,
Happy New Year. How are your bulbs??

On 11:19 PM , Jackie Thúy said...

I've always wanted to know how they do it. Thanks for the explanation, I will definitely try it. It looks easy now that you've shown it.

On 4:33 AM , queentulip said...

Xin Chao :-) Love it! Thanks for sharing... your blog is great to hang around with!

On 10:59 AM , Unknown said...

Great, great, great!
Thank you for the idea!

On 12:21 AM , Anonymous said...

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