Flowers are the most extraordinary of gifts in that their ability to illuminate a room, liven someone’s day and deliver a heartfelt message goes unmatched.
Flowers foster smiles and emotions and often give substance to important occasions, all because they combine the best of intentions with the gift of nature’s beauty – a gift that often expires sooner than we’d like, and therein rests our issue.
As valuable as a flower bouquet or flower arrangement then becomes because of its brief shelf life, there are still things you can do to prolong the lifespan of your flowers, even if only for a few more precious days. With only a bit of time and effort on your part, you can easily make this happen using the same techniques as professional florists.
Choose the right flowers
Flower choice is key, and selecting young and only partially developed flowers will undoubtedly provide a head start. You’ll find the vast majority of cut flowers continue their development and opening following their placement into the vase (with, of course, the exception of a few tropical flower species and our beloved orchids).
Blossom inspection will also do you wonders; keep on the particular lookout for limp, mushy and discoloured (yellowed) foliage – avoid these. A crisp, green leaf should be what attracts you.
Feeding your flowers
Immediately upon receiving or bringing home your flowers, you will need to prepare a solution of flower food. Commercially prepared solutions are best for this, and there are numerous brands available to you – simply contact your local florist for their recommendations.
Upon purchasing fresh cut flowers, you’ll usually find several packets of food mix included, and if not, be sure to inquire, since fresh flowers not only benefit from such sustenance, their lives will also be prolonged from its use.
Commercially prepared flower food is valuable primarily for the three main ingredients its contains: firstly, there is an acidifier that lowers the pH of the solution in which the flowers rest to approximately 4.5, which is the ideal level; secondly, there is the food itself, consisting of sugar processed into a form from which the flowers can derive nutrition; and lastly, there is a biocide that keeps bacteria from forming in the flowers’ water. Often, there is a fourth ingredient in the food that acts as a clearing agent and lets the vase water retain its clean, pure look.
Mixing the flower food properly is equally as important to maintaining your flowers’ longevity. If you mix in too little food, you’ll actually leave your flowers malnourished and will instead be feeding any bacterial culture in the water. Adding too much food can be just as harmful in that you risk damaging the petals, known as “burning.”
The water into which the flower food is mixed must also be taken into consideration. Flowers prefer to drink warmer water and do so at a quicker rate, and therefore you should use lukewarm (approximately 43 degrees Celsius) water when mixing food.
As for other traditional remedies of prolonging the life of freshly cut flowers, such as the addition of bleach or dropping pennies into the vase, they are best avoided. Keep in mind that commercially prepared flower food has been scientifically produced and proven to be the healthiest means of feeding your flowers – trust the experts and the advice of your local professional florist.
Assembling the vase
Once you have your flowers home and their food properly mixed, then comes the process of putting all the puzzle pieces together to produce that beautiful floral centerpiece capable of living its maximum lifespan.
The first thing you’ll want to do with your flowers is remove all foliage that would normally fall below the waterline, which prevents such leaves from rotting and fostering bacteria that will ultimately reduce the lifespan of your fresh cut flowers.
At a steep angle and using a sharp knife, cut one or two inches from the stem’s bottom. Make sure you use only a sharp knife to do this and not scissors or any other cutting tool – like humans, flowers have a vascular system that can be damaged through crushing or excessive pressure, and this could harm your flowers’ ability to draw up water and food.
This goes for all stem types, including those that are woody or seem firm. If you are able, carry out the cutting in fresh water, although the most important thing is that the cutting takes place. Despite already being initially cut (after all, they’re fresh cut flowers!), from the time the flowers leave the florist and reach your home they could be afflicted with callusing or air embolisms that result in blockages. A fresh cut gives them a fresh start!
Once cut, gently place your flowers (never drop – you’ll bruise your precious beauties) into the vase containing the solution of food you’ve already mixed.
Safe places for flower display
After your vase is assembled, you’ll want to select an appropriate location for the display of your flowers. The best places have no drafts or sources of heat, and some places you’ll want to avoid include the tops of television sets, near heaters or air conditioners or any other areas of extreme temperature.
The only exception is at night, when you should seek out a cooler place for your flowers. With the obvious exclusion of tropical flower species, most fresh cut flowers can be stored at refrigerator temperatures of about 3 to 4 degrees Celsius – and it would be wise to do so, since not only are the flowers preserved for a greater period, but no one is enjoying their presence at night time anyway, so you might as well take what steps you can to keep them lively.
For all tropical species of fresh cut flowers, make sure they are never in an area whose temperature dips below 13 degrees Celsius. And lastly, what is a little known fact about flower preservation, gases emitted by organic materials such as ripening fruit (known as ethylene) should be kept far away from your flowers, as they are especially susceptible to such gas in that it considerably reduces their life span.
Only a few additional details now separate you from having flowers that last days longer – be sure to check the vase daily and keep track of its water level, and add more food solution as required. Also be sure to mist your fresh cut flowers several times a day with plain water, which moisturizes the petals and foliage.
Lastly, every few days you’ll want to repeat the assembly process, that is, you’ll want to gently remove the flowers from the vase, empty the vase and fill it with fresh food solution, and re-cut the flowers just like you did before. Every time you do so you’ll be giving your flowers a near-fresh start, which will only add to their beauty, health and lifespan!
Should you have any questions or concerns regarding prolonging the life of your fresh cut flowers or other floral needs, always feel free to get in contact with your local professional florist. They’re there to help you and will be more than glad to answer any of your queries and provide you with the assistance you need.
Copyright (c) 2008 Brant Florist
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