Whether they come from your garden, the market, or florist, you can persuade cut flowers to remain beautiful for weeks longer when you are careful to follow a few fabulous flower secrets.
Know thy enemy
The first thing is to know your enemy. Actually, there are two: 1) bacteria and 2) drought. Defeat both and your flowers will last and last. You will be amazed!
Start with a clean vase
Scrub it with soap and hot water, rinse well. This will guarantee a clean, bacteria-free vessel and give those beautiful flowers the best environment possible in which to extend their life.
Add 1/4 teaspoon of liquid bleach for each quart of water. This will slow down the growth of bacteria and fungus in the water without harming or affecting the flowers. Not anxious to use bleach? Hydrogen peroxide is a reasonable substitute.
Change the water frequently
The moment the vase water turns cloudy you know bacteria is present. Cloudy water is proof positive that bacteria are having a field day in that vase. Change it every day or as needed with the same formula of 1/4 teaspoon bleach (or hydrogen peroxide) per quart of water or a new batch of homemade flower food (above) and quickly snip a bit from the end of each stem before plunging them back into the water.
Homemade flower food
Taking time to make nutritious food for your beautiful cut flowers is so worth the effort. They’ll return the favor by staying beautiful without the need for you to change the water every day (only as necessary).
- 1 teaspoon white granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon liquid household bleach
- 2 teaspoons lemon (or lime) juice
- 1 quart water, lukewarm
Add the quart of lukewarm water to the vase. In a small cup or bowl, mix the sugar, bleach, and lemon or lime juice together until the sugar looks almost dissolved. Add this mixture to your vase of water. Stir, and immediately add freshly cut flowers. Enjoy their beauty all week long, possibly even longer!
This flower food is super easy to make using common pantry items. Try it! You’ll never see prematurely drooping blooms ever again and that means much longer last fragrant cut flower bouquets.
Remove leaves below the waterline
You want to remove any leaves on the stems of cut flowers that will be below the waterline once in the vase, using a sharp knife or by stripping them off with your fingers. But first, fill your sink with enough warm water to immerse the stems. Now remove the leaves as necessary while underwater.
The reason that it is so important to remove those leaves is that if left intact, submerged leaves will quickly rot and promote bacteria and algae growth.
Condition the stems
Cut flowers will die of thirst even when standing in water if the stems have not been conditioned to draw that water all the way to the blooms. That’s because when cut, a flower stem quickly seals its “wound,” preventing it from drawing water.
Before plunging the stems into the vase of water, fill your sink with enough warm water to immerse the stems. Now, using a sharp knife (not scissors, as this will crush the veins and immediately close them off) cut each stem at a 45-degree angle while underwater to allow for the least harm while keeping that stem open to draw the greatest amount of water possible up through the stem and all the way to the flower itself.
Some flowers like lilacs, dogwood, crab apple, azalea, camellia, and forsythia have “woody” stems. They look more like branches than stems and require a specific treatment to help them draw water.
Split the last two inches of the stem with a sharp knife. Next, pound that part of the woody stem with a hammer until it is well frayed. Now, that stem will allow water to draw all the way to the blooms.
Stems with nodes
Certain types of flowers require different, yet specific stem treatments. For example, when cutting carnations and similar flowers with spaced bumps on the stems, make your cut between the nodes of the stalk. This allows the flower to more easily draw the water it needs.
Lilies and their stamen
Lilies, particularly the Stargazer and Asiatic varieties, have dark orange pollen nodes on their stamen that will leave a permanent stain on anything they touch, especially clothing and table linens.
Carefully remove that part of the stamen with small sharp scissors before conditioning the stems for placement in the vase. This will lengthen bloom time and also protect your hands, clothes, and linens.
When you purchase roses from a florist, the thorns have most likely been removed. When you purchase cut flowers in bulk from a flower mart or other bulk source—sometimes called a “grower’s bunch”—or you cut them from your own garden, you will need to remove the thorns from the stems with a sharp knife, working from the top down to put less stress on the stem. Don’t attempt to pull them off or use scissors or pliers. A sharp knife is your best option.
Ah … Flowers!
There’s nothing quite so lovely as a bouquet of beautiful cut flowers. Follow these simple tips and you’ll be able to display cut flowers with confidence and pride for much longer than only a few days. A few weeks sounds a lot better to me.
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