Roses, sunflowers, zinnias and other pretty flowers make for a wonderful gesture on Valentine’s Day, a birthday, Mother’s Day, a wedding, and any number of other occasions. While you would put your flowers in a vase to keep them fresh for as long as possible, you might notice that they don’t always keep well. Follow these words of advice and your flowers will stay fresh and pretty longer.
Use a Clean Vase
Always use a clean vase. If your vase was used before and not cleaned thoroughly, it probably has bacterial activity on the inside. Bacteria can cause flowers to wilt by finding their way into the stems and blocking the pathways for water flow. A clean vase that was properly scrubbed with soap and plenty of water will sustain flowers better.
Pro Tip: It’s also a good idea to trim away any leaves that will be submerged under the water. They will rot and promote bacterial growth.
Prepare the Vase
To prolong flowering, you should fill the vase halfway full with fresh water and add a packet of commercial cut flower food. Additives for cut flowers contain sugar for energy, an ingredient that lowers the pH and an antibacterial agent to keep the water clean.
If you don’t have access to a nutrient packet, you could use vinegar in a pinch, as long as you don’t add too much — a teaspoonful in the vase of water is usually enough.
Pro Tip: Using a soft drink isn’t a good idea because it contains too much sugar, and can promote bacterial and fungal growth. Aspirin doesn’t do much because it doesn’t contain sugar for energy. Putting copper pennies in the water for its anti-bacterial effect doesn’t do anything because it doesn’t tend to dissolve enough. The best solution is to simply buy flower food.
Use sharp scissors or hand pruners when trimming flowers from your garden to make a bouquet. Then, once you’re indoors and ready to arrange your bouquet we recommend cutting one to two inches (3-5 cm) off the bottoms of the stems. This will remove any mashed or damaged ends that impede water flow and trims away any air pockets that are trapped at the end of the stems. You will have fresh, functioning stems to take up water.
There’s a right way and a wrong way to do the cutting, however. If you simply hold each stem and cut it, air will get into the pathways and block water flow. Instead, you need to cut the stem while holding it under water in a clean basin or sink. Water will get into the stem first and keep air out. Put the freshly trimmed stems in the prepped vase immediately.
Pro Tip: A diagonal cut is best because it makes a larger surface for taking in water.
Minimize Water Loss
Cooler temperature water helps flowers last longer and it rises quickly up the stems. The first three or four hours after you arrange your flowers in water, it’s best to keep them in a cool environment. This ensures minimal loss of water through the petals while as much water as possible is drawn up through the stems.
It isn’t a good idea to put your flowers right next to a window at any point. Sunshine and a breeze will only promote drying. There’s not going to be any photosynthesis going on anyway; these flowers and leaves aren’t part of a growing plant after all.
Pro Tip: You should change the water out twice a week, rinse the vase and mix in more commercial cut flower food.
It’s simple to make cut flowers last. While following all the right tips is important, the crucial step is to act quickly. If getting the vase, cut flower food and everything else lined up takes any longer than a couple of hours, your flowers will be worse off for it. Getting your cut flowers in some plain water should be your priority. This alone should ensure good health for longer than a week. Doing everything else when you can, you’ll make your flowers look good a few days longer.
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