How to Keep Your Cut Flowers Fresher for Longer

 


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Keeping cut flowers fresh is simple: just add water. And a little pampering, perhaps. Oh yes, and a brass penny, some bleach, some lemonade and some vinegar, but perhaps not all at once – or perhaps not at all if you’ve any sense.

If you’re overwhelmed by the numerous old wives’ tales, urban legends and internet myths purporting to prolong the longevity of flowers, read on.

Caring for fresh flowers really just requires a bit of role play. How do you feel when you arrive somewhere after a journey? Chances are your flowers feel much the same, so welcome them to their new environment as you’d like to be welcomed (give or take a suffocatingly tight hug and several slobbery kisses).

  1. Just as you like to take off your coat and put down your bag on arrival, your flowers want to get rid of any excess baggage. Carefully peel off any outer guard petals that look a little rugged (these would have been left on by the florist to protect against potential pre-arrival stresses). Likewise, remove any leaves that will be below the waterline of the vase, and untie any bits of string that are holding the stems together (unless, of course, your bouquet is a hand-tie, in which case those bits of string are essential to its good looks).

  2. While relaxation is important, you need to keep your flowers on their toes. Cut about 3cm off the stems, ensuring you make the incision at a 45-degree angle. If you can perform this task while holding each stem under water, all the better.

  3. Drinks and snacks all ’round! Empty the sachet of plant food into a spotlessly clean vase and fill it with fresh water. Not ice cold water, mind you. Water is the red wine of flowers, so they prefer it served at room temperature.

  4. Arrange the flowers in a vase and then settle your guests somewhere they’ll feel welcome – away from bright light and drafts, and somewhere you’ll enjoy their company and remember to take care of them.

Easy as 1 to 4, yes? Not if your florist didn’t think to pack some snacks for your flowers. As much as you might fancy yourself as a dab hand in the kitchen, don’t think about concocting your own special flower cocktail without making sure it’s a recipe that gets the florists’ nod… or order from this menu at your peril:

Sugary Sling
The rumour:
Sweetening the water with sugar or lemonade gives the flowers a boost that keeps them going for days longer.

The truth:
Au contraire, sugar can reduce the lifespan of flowers (think what would happen if you sat in a Jacuzzi with an infinite supply of chocolates). Flowers do need sugar to keep them sustained, but it’s simple sugars they prefer (on growing plants, the leaves produce this special sustaining elixir). Raw sugar and sweet sodas are ultimately just a big drawcard for bacteria and fungi, which shouldn’t be encouraged because they block the stems and prevent the flowers from taking in sufficient water.

Success rating: 3

Caipir-Vinegar
The rumour:
You can keep cut flowers fresher for longer by adding vinegar to the vase.

The truth:
Vinegar is mildly acidic, so it will help to lower the pH balance of the water slightly – a good thing, as it makes it easier for the stems to absorb water. The acidity may also help to keep the stem-blocking fungi at bay. Unfortunately, vinegar has the nutritional value of a Turkey Twizzler, so it’s not going to provide the sustenance a flower needs to live for longer.

Success rating: 2

Harvey Headbanger
The rumour:
Dissolving an aspirin in the water helps keep flower heads from drooping.

The truth:
There’s probably not enough sugar in aspirin for it to be an effective pick-me-up, but the aspirin does slightly lower the pH balance of the water, helping water absorption and inhibiting the growth of bacteria.

Success rating: 3

Bleach Bellini
The rumour:
A capful of bleach a day keeps the germs away from your flowers

The truth:
Bleach is very acidic, so it will dramatically lower the pH balance of the water, encouraging absorption and preventing the growth of bacteria. The trouble is that it could also burn the flower stem – and there’s nothing in the white stuff for the flower to feed on.

Success rating: 2

Rusty Coin
The rumour:
Dropping a penny in a vase will increase the lifespan of flowers.

The truth:
Wishful thinking. Pennies used to have a high copper content, which would lower the acidity of the water, but nowadays they’re so thinly coated they’re about as much use to your flowers as they are to you.

Success rating: 1

Store-cupboard Sidecar
The rumour:
1 teaspoon of bleach, 1 teaspoon of vinegar and 2 teaspoons of sugar in a litre of room-temperature water is a favourite treat of fresh-cut flowers.

The truth:
Will the limitations and negative effect of each ingredient be balanced by the positive effect of another? Well, yes, perhaps, but not enough to make this concoction a viable replacement for commercial flower food. And you’d probably be better off leaving out the bleach.

Success rating: 4

So what’s in commercial flower foods that make them so successful? Quite simply, a combination of the correct nutrients (sucrose or glucose sugars) to sustain the flowers, biocides to kill the germs, and an acidity that lowers the pH balance of the water and helps the flowers to drink more easily.

Commercial plant food manufacturers are very cagy about revealing their secret recipes, but some smart folks in Suffolk have decided that if you can’t join ’em, beat ’em. On 19 June 2006, it was announced that a small company had developed an environmentally friendly product to combat MRSA: Bio-Shield. Not only is their product non-toxic to humans, but, diluted in water, can keep a cut-flower bouquet alive for up to 10 times longer than garden-variety florists’ food.

Scientific advances will indubitably prove a great boon to flower lovers, but they’ll never be able to outdo what flowers like best: a little bit of TLC. Tips and tricks abound, but if you really want your flowers to last longer, simply play the perfect host to your floral guests by changing the water, resnipping the stems and pulling off any wilted leaves every few days. You can also perk up heat-exhausted blossoms by soaking the entire flower in a sink of cold water for about an hour.

And feel free to talk to your flowers, but be careful not to cause unease amongst any other guests who may be visiting.

This article was written by flower enthusiast Ivy Wood who contributes to the official blog for online flower delivery boutique Serenata Flowers. Article reproductions must include a link to http://blog.serenataflowers.com

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