We’re approaching peak time for being presented with a bunch of flowers bought in a hurry from a petrol station forecourt or a supermarket. We may even have done the same ourselves. The flowers have probably spent time in less than ideal conditions (draughty, hot and cold places) so they need some kindly help in order to last. Flower preservative will help but read on for some more guidelines to extending the life of cut flowers.
Take the flowers home immediately
And protect them from draughts and heat as you’re doing so. Put them in the boot of the car, if you're driving.
Prepare the vase
Use a clean vase. If it’s very dirty, fill with warm water, add a few drops of bleach and allow to stand for two or three hours. Otherwise wash carefully using washing up liquid.
Fill with clean water.
Use the flower preservative, if you’ve been given one of those little packets
What on earth is in those little packets? Nothing too mysterious, it turns out. It’s a mixture of:
- Sucrose (sugar) to feed the flowers as they don’t have many leaves for photosynthesis.
- An acidifier to make alkaline tap water more like the flower’s own acid sap. The acidifier also stabilises the flower’s pigment and colour.
- A micro-organism growth inhibitor to stop bacteria and fungi from entering the cut surface of the stem.
Flower preservative really does work. And, for the record, adding aspirin, wine, or pennies to the water does not work!
If you don’t have any flower preservative you could try filling your vase with:
- three parts water
- one part 7-Up (sucrose and acidifier)
- a few drops of bleach (micro-organism inhibitor).
Disclaimer: I haven’t tried this myself yet but I certainly intend to!
Prepare the flowers
Use a sharp, non-serrated knife or secateurs to cut 1/2 cm (¼ inch) off the bottom of the stems. Cut at an angle to maximise the area the flower can use to take up water. Cutting at an angle also means the stem cannot sit flat on the bottom of the vase which restricts take-up of water.
Use the same sharp knife to strip all leaves (home to bacteria and fungi) from the part of the stem that will be underwater.
Place the flowers in water.
Tip. Don’t bash the ends of the stem because it damages the cells which control take-up of water.
Arrange the flowers artistically
Be artistic: big stems at the back, smaller ones at the front.
And a couple of don’ts.
- Don’t jam the stems into the vase.
- Don’t smash the ends of the flowers against the bottom of the vase.
Where to put the vase?
Put it in a cool place – where you can see and enjoy the flowers, of course.
Keep it away from:
- sources of heat like direct sunlight, heaters, lights, televisions.
- hot or cold draughts.
- fruit. Yes, really. That’s because fruit gives off ethylene gas, the ripening hormone, which kills flowers.
Change the water every two or three days. Water arrangements in floral foam (oasis) every day.
Wash the vase with washing up liquid each time or any bacteria clinging to it will contaminate the new water.
Retrim the stems by 1-2 cm (about an inch).
Remove damaged or dying leaves or flowers to prevent fungal infection.
It’s the thought that counts
It is the thought that counts, every time, so make the most of your bunch of flowers. Following these guidelines will give petrol station and all cut flowers a fighting chance of bringing you enjoyment for more than a few days.
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