By Chris Freeburn, Master Gardener
Many will be receiving a beautiful bouquet of flowers today in celebration of Valentine’s Day. If you are one of the lucky ones who has a sweetheart who will bring you flowers,here are some tips to help you keep your Valentine flowers fresher longer.
Cut flowers need food in the form of carbohydrates or sugar to last for one to two weeks in your home. They also need citric acid to get the pH level correct allowing the stems to draw up water. It has been scientifically proven that water travels faster through the xylem (tissues that carry water through the plant) when the pH is around 3.5. Flowers also need to keep their stems clear of bacteria that can clog and prevent the uptake of water. This can be addressed with bleach. When you add the small package of floral preservative you receive with your bouquet you are giving your flowers the food, pH level and bacterial killing agent they need to stay fresh longer. You don’t necessarily have to use the entire package. Save some to add when you need to refresh your arrangement. You can also buy floral preservative if you bring in flowers from your own garden. Home remedies using vodka, aspirin, pennies or bleach may work, but the little package you get with your bouquet is effective and easy. One good home remedy is 1 tsp. of bleach and 1 tsp. of sugar in 1 litre of water.
- When you get your flowers, unwrap them as soon as possible and get them into water.
- Use a clean vase filled with warm or room temperature water. If you have hard water, let it sit for 24 hours before using. Add your preservative and mix until dissolved.
- Using a sharp knife or pair of scissors or pruners, cut stems under warm running water and place immediately into the vase. Cutting stems on an angle will give more surface for stems to draw water and the stems won’t lay flat on the bottom of the vase cutting off that ability.
- Remove any leaves that will go below the water line. These will rot and can cause bacterial problems.
- Keep your flowers out of direct sunlight and in a cooler rather than warmer room.
- Keep the water topped up daily. Your flowers will drink if they are happy.
You may find that flowers wilt or droop. If this happens, re-cut the stems at least half an inch and move to another clean prepared vase. I suggest that you remember this when you do your first cut on your flowers and keep the stems longer, so you are able to re-cut and move your bouquet to smaller and shorter vases a few times before they are totally spent.
Some types of flowers will last longer than others, so if you have a mixed bouquet, you will probably lose some blooms before others. Zinnia, carnations, larkspur and glads all should last longer than two weeks.
One of our Peterborough Master Gardeners wrote a great article last summer on growing and harvesting flowers for cutting. For that article go to Reaping the Flower Harvest.
The reason we love fresh flowers is they are with us for only a short time. Accept that fact and enjoy your bouquet!