How to Make Bouquets of Cut Flowers Last Longer
Flowers Brighten the House
Learning how to make your cut flowers last longer will make your house look great for a longer period of time. A big bouquet of cut flowers can brighten the house and make it smell nicer, which really helps lift the mood. But flowers can be very expensive, especially in the winter, so you want to get the most out of them by helping them last as long as possible.
You don't need to be a botanist or even have green thumbs. But, it does help to know a little bit about the actual structure of flowers and their stems. When a flower stem is cut, a tiny bubble of air forms on the base of the stem and covers the small screens that allow water through. If this bubble is not removed, the flower won’t be able to absorb the water in the vase and will dry out and die, so you have to act quickly to stop this drying-out process.
How to Make Cut Flowers Last Longer
1. Trim the Stems
The first thing to do when you get home with your bunch of cut flowers is to trim the stems. This will remove any air bubbles and allow the stems to start taking up water again. Always cut the stems on a slant—this gives the bottom of the stem more surface area for water absorption. Use a sharp knife instead of scissors. If your flowers are wrapped, then cut the stems before you take off the covering as this will keep them in nice shape and give you a level cut.
2. Remove Unnecessary Leaves
Remove any leaves that will be underwater in the vase or container. This will increase the life of your cut flowers and help to keep the water clean and fresh.
3. Do Not Remove the Thorns
You should always leave the thorns on roses because removing them will create scars on the stems, which will shorten the life of the flowers. If you remove the thorns, you might find your beautiful bunch of roses withered the next morning. The leaves will turn brown, and the stems will give off a very unpleasant smell.
4. Avoid Heat
Cut flowers will last far longer and will look better if kept relatively cool, so keep vases away from direct sunlight and away from heat sources, such as fires or radiators. If your fridge is big enough, or empty enough, you can place the vase of flowers in it for a few hours before displaying it in your home. The coolness will make them last longer, but I never seem to have space or time to do this. If it is winter, just place your flowers outside for a while before bringing them inside. It works just as well as putting them in the fridge.
5. Cut Flowers in the Early Evening
If you are going to cut flowers from your own garden, try to cut them in the early evening. Flowers that are cut in the early evening will have had a day to store water and food and will look their best for far longer than flowers cut in the morning. I love cutting one or two stems from my patch of purple Iris. They look very dramatic and stay fresh for over a week.
6. Use a Clean Vase
Always use a very clean vase. A vase that has had a little bleach added to the final rinse water works best. But don’t be tempted to add bleach to the flower water because even a small amount will smell, and it really doesn’t do much for the cut flowers at all. You can, however, add one or two drops of very weak bleach to a large vase to keep the water from turning cloudy.
The Benefits of Using Flower Food
Most of the time, the cut flowers that you buy at the florist or the store come with a small packet of food that can be added to the water. These food packets work just fine, but in my experience, the water in the vase needs changing long before the flowers begin to wilt. Even though one of the main ingredients and main purposes of these plant foods is to reduce the bacteria in the water, they don’t eliminate the smell of stale water. My tip for you is to divide the flower food into two portions. This way, it will last through the first change of water. I have found that this works quite well, especially if it is good-quality plant food.
How to Make Your Own Flower Food
Nothing makes a house smell worse than that slightly damp, musty smell of water that has been standing around too long. It’s like coming home from a vacation and finding a pair of forgotten wet socks hidden by the side of the washing machine. Not a good smell at all!
Most household tap water has a pH level that is a little too high for cut flowers to tolerate for long periods of time, and any plant food—either commercial or homemade—has to include something to lower the pH levels. Citric acid is very effective at lowering pH and is present in citric fruits, such as lemons, oranges, and limes.
1. Use Citrus Fruits
If you use coloured vases, a good squeeze of lemon, orange, or lime juice will work just fine. However, they can stain glass, so they are no good if your vases are clear.
2. Use Lemonade or Sprite
For clear vases, use lemonade or Sprite instead. This is a good way to use up the last drops of your soda as the flowers won’t care if the soda is flat. Don’t use the diet variety though because cut flowers also need sugar. If you only have the diet variety, then add a teaspoon of sugar to the soda and stir well before adding it to the vase. This method works equally as well as using Sprite. Use a half-and-half mixture: half tap water and half soda.
3. Use a Vinegar-and-Sugar Mixture
Another useful homemade flower food is to mix two tablespoons of sugar with two tablespoons of white vinegar in two pints of lukewarm water.
Whether you use commercial or homemade flower food, you should change the water every second or third day as the sugar increases the growth of bacteria. I think this is a fair trade-off to keep your flowers looking good for longer.
Always remember to recut the stems when you change the water. You only need to take off a sliver of stem for it to have an effect, so you won't lose much height from your arrangement.
Tips to Keep Daffodils Fresh
Daffodils are cheap and cheerful, and they are easy to grow from bulbs. They always say spring to me better than any other flower, and they let me know that the long, hot days of summer are just around the corner. Once planted, they multiply and come up year after year. I have so many of them growing around the garden that I have a bowl of them in almost every room in my house. They seem to fit with just about any colour scheme. The following are my tips for keeping them fresh indoors:
- Cut daffodils will keep for a long time if you remember to change the water every other day.
- Pick the flowers when they are still in bud. They will open out in a day or so in a warm room.
- I sometimes plant a few bulbs in a small pot and keep them indoors. The smaller variety, such as Tete-a-Tete, works really well for this.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
© 2010 Galaxy Harvey