Make cut flowers last by following these helpful care techniques

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We often feel the impulse to present flowers as gifts to express our gratitude or simply to convey a message of love. Others purchase flowers to harmonize and add color and fragrance to their home décor.

How many times do we say “Oh! what stunning flowers and design?” But what happens that is detrimental to that beauty? Senescence. Do you really want this? No.

Consumers must do their part to continue the chain of care. Although some consumers are flower aware and follow the appropriate care procedures, others may not. Becoming educated with some guidance will give you more enjoyment of your fresh flowers.

When buying flowers, some selection pointers include features that indicate healthy and potentially long-lasting products. Some examples are stage of openness, petal, leaf, stem firmness and color. Cut flowers are alive and when cut off from their roots they continue to bloom and mature and eventually fade and die at a faster or slower rate depending on the care given.

Early senescence (death) of flowers includes inability to absorb water, bacterial growth and disease, lack of carbohydrates and excessive transpiration, ethylene gas and improper surroundings. How do we counteract these situations? Simply follow these care tips.

  • Avoid home remedies such as sugar water, aspirin, or soft drinks. This does more harm than good.
  • Don’t leave flowers in a hot or cold vehicle while running other errands. (Pick up flowers last.)
  • A bouquet of cut flowers should be unwrapped immediately.
  • Mix flower food in a clean glass or plastic container instead of metal. Follow the package directions and use the correct amount of water.
  • Remove foliage that will be under water in the container. (Remove foliage carefully.)
  • Re-cut stems using a sharp tool preferably a floral knife or garden shears. (Avoid a kitchen knife or scissors.) Using proper tools will prevent stem blockage and will increase the ability to take up water and nutrients.
  • Re-cut stem ends immersed under water at an angle. Stems should not be smashed or squeezed. Re-cutting in this manner is especially beneficial for roses.
  • Arrange flowers in the prepared container filled with preservative solution.
  • Keep flowers out of direct sunlight, off the television or from having direct exposure to extreme temperature, for example, radiator, air conditioner or ceiling fan. Flowers placed in a cool location will last much longer.
  • It is very important to keep flowers away from fruits and vegetables because they produce ethylene, known as the aging gas. This promotes faster deterioration and shorter longevity.
  • Re-cutting an inch off stem ends every couple of days helps remove clogging that might occur.
  • Remove wilted flowers and foliage daily.
  • Scrub the container with a touch of bleach and rinse thoroughly with warm water. Add a bit of dish washing soap and rinse well again. (Rinsing with plain water will not remove harmful bacteria.
  • If an arrangement is in foam, check the water level and add more water mixed with preservative, if needed. If a flower in the arrangement seems droopy, remove it cut at an angle as in previous directions and place it in water food. Once it revives, cut it again and place it in the same spot.
  • When receiving a vase arrangement in any form of artful design, be prepared to have another vase handy which has been thoroughly disinfected. Follow the same care procedures. Lift and hold the design with one hand. While holding it remove foliage and rinse under water (tepid). This will remove small particles of greenery that may be loose but stuck on the stems. Again, re-cut stems and place in your clean vase.

That added extra care and time will keep your flowers lasting much, much longer. Enjoy.

Francesca Lo Presti is a floral educator at House of Floral Designs in Stoney Creek.