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Extending Life of Cut Flowers (2)

By Sereba Agiobu-Kemmer
27 February 2015   |   11:00 pm
  NOTHING brightens a room quite like a vase of fresh flowers. Also nothing smells quite as nice (with a few exceptions). Floral arrangements can be particularly pricey around holidays like Valentines Day, Mother’s Day, Easter, so you want to get the longest use and enjoyment out of fresh flowers as possible.    Since cut…


NOTHING brightens a room quite like a vase of fresh flowers. Also nothing smells quite as nice (with a few exceptions). Floral arrangements can be particularly pricey around holidays like Valentines Day, Mother’s Day, Easter, so you want to get the longest use and enjoyment out of fresh flowers as possible. 

  Since cut flowers are no longer receiving nutrients from their roots, it becomes your job to keep them fed and happy. This will also help unopened buds bloom. While you can’t bring cut flowers back to life.

Here are some suggestions for keeping them looking fresh longer:

Use a preservative

  Commercial preservatives will increase the life of cut flowers and should be used. It is the same thing the professionals use: commercial flower food in packets. Buy some extras when buying your flowers as each is enough for only 1 pint of water and you want to change the water everyday or every other day. Using commercial preservatives is safer and your best bet from costly mistakes that could happen with home-made brew. Commercial flower preservatives ‘‘flower food” already have all the ingredients flowers need to thrive. A floral preservative is a complex mixture of sucrose (sugar); acidifier, an inhibitor of micro-organisms; and a respiratory inhibitor. Sucrose serves as a source of energy to make up for the loss of the functioning leaves and insures continued development and longevity of the flower. An acidifier makes the pH of the water more near the acid pH of the cell sap (pH of 4 is alright for most plants). Most water supplies are alkaline and can reduce the life of cut flowers. The acidifier also stabilizes the pigment and the color of the flower. This is why red roses turn ‘‘blue” when placed in water without a preservative or acidifier.

  A micro-organism growth inhibitor is perhaps the most important part of a floral preservative. Bacteria and fungi are everywhere and are ready to enter the cut surface of the stem and multiply. Prior to actual decay symptoms, cells of the water – transporting tissues can become blocked with microorganisms, inhibiting water uptake.

Making Flower Preservative at Home

  I gathered some tips and tricks for making flowers last longer. The best part about these helpful tips is that you can preserve your fresh cut flowers using the stuff you probably already have around the house. Making your own mix can be as effective as the commercial preservatives and it’s easy to make. 

Recipe for flower preservative

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon household bleach

2 teaspoon lemon or lime juice

I litre of lukewarm water


3 pinches of citric acid

  Here are a few favorites:


  A tablet of aspirin (not ibufen) can mimic the effects of the traditional flower food that typically comes with a bonquet of flowers. Simply crush an aspirin tablet and dissolve in water before adding flowers. Trim a little bit off the stems every other day to help them absorb water.


  More than just for making martinis, vodka can be used to keep flowers fresh. Scientific American magazine says that a few drops of Vodka may be responsible for inhibiting production of ethylene a gas that causes wilting and ripening. This can be useful but not a replacement for bleach or other substance for killing micro-organisms. Add a few drops of vodka along with one teaspoon of sugar (to one quart or liter of water). At least this use of vodka will not give you a hangover the next day!

Copper Penny (Old Wives Tale or Real Solution)

  Put all the random copper pennies you can still find around placing them in the bottom of vase along with a teaspoon of sugar. The theory is that the copper acts as a natural anti-bacterial agent.

Understand why copper coated coins don’t work

  From Scientific American Copper can kill fungus, but the copper present in copper coated coins is not soluble in water. Dropping a copper coin in your water will not increase your flowers lifespan. In any case, copper coins are no longer in circulation and are hard to find.


  You use it to sanitize your toilets so why wouldn’t you use it to disinfect germs that might be lurking around your flower vase? Not only can bleach sterilize a vase, it can also help keep flowers from wilting too fast and prevent mold from growing in the water and turning it to that nasty, cloudy color. Add ¼ teaspoon of bleach per quart of flower water.

Don’t overuse bleach

  Bleach sometimes used as a preservative in higher concentrations than a few drops per container. This is risky, as the effects on preservation are highly inconsistent, and may even cause the stems and flowers to lose their color. Please don’t use too much or you’ll damage the flowers you are trying so hard to preserve!


  Perhaps one of the most common ingredients for making homemade flower food is sugar.

  The sweet stuff can help open up buds and keep them blooming  longer by providing nutrients. Sugar can be mixed with white vinegar, vodka, bleach, aspirin or fresh lemon juice to add an extra kick to the flower water.

Alternatively add sugar, lemon juice and bleach

  Try using a small amount of lemon juice instead, about two tablespoons (30 mililiter) in one quart (or litre) of water. Add a tablespoon (15 ml) of sugar to the mix to provide flower food.

  A few drops of bleach can help control bacteria and fungi. For smaller containers, just add a few drops of lemon juice and a couple pinches of sugar. If you have harder water with a significant mineral content, you may wish to add a tiny bit more lemon juice to balance this rut. Be cautious, however, as too much acid can be harmful to the plant. Daisies, sunflowers, and their relatives in the Asteraceae family may release sticky milky material from their stems. Acid is especially important if you are keeping other flowers in the same container as these plants, as it can prevent stems of other flowers from closing.

Add citrus soda and bleach to the water

  Seven up, sprite or another clear soda can provide the sugar and acid necessary to keep flowers fresh. Use one part soda to three parts water, then add a few drops of bleach to kill harmful micro-organisms.  

  Do not use diet sodas, as these do not contain sugar the plant can use for energy. Do not use dark colas and other dark sodas, as these may be too acidic for the plant to handle.

Be cautious with aspirin or vinegar

  Ground up aspirin or white vinegar are alternative sources of acid, but tend to be less effective than lemon juice or citrus soda. If aspirin is overused, it may even wither flowers faster or turn the stems grey.

  Lastly, cut flowers will keep fresh longer if kept at cooler temperature. Remember how florists keep flowers in those large refrigerators? You don’t have to keep your flowers in the fridge, just move them to a cooler spot every night and keep them away from hotspots in your house and from direct sunlight, which can harm the delicate petals.

  Temperature matters also when cutting flowers from the garden, cut in the morning when temperature outside is cooler. I love Easter lilies, Gardenias Anthuriums and blue Hydrangea and I’m glad to share a few tricks on how to keep your cut flowers longer in the vase, and will now be able to enjoy their beauty for that much longer.


  When shopping for roses, gently squeeze the rose where the petals meet the tops of the stem. If it is soft and squishy, the roses are old and you shouldn’t buy them. If it’s firm, the roses are fresh.


Removing rose thorns will reduce the lifespan of the cut rose, although you can remove thorns that will be below the water level.

Cut daffodils and hyacinths can release chemicals that kill flowers sharing the same water. Keep these flowers in their own container for at least 12 hours before arranging them with other flowers.

Hairspray is used to preserve the shape of bouquets while they dry. They will not keep your flowers fresh.

What to do with faded blooms

  First of all, don’t throw them away. At the very least, cut them up and add them to the compost pile. Semi-fresh or partially faded flowers, depending on how you look at them, also have a second life in crafts and as edible flowers. Just remember, if you’re planning to use them in food, make sure they are truly edible and free of chemicals.

Dry flowers and petals for use in sachets, wreaths, and aromatherapy projects.

Bake edible flowers such as roses and calendula in cakes, breads and cookies. For 9 x 13-inch cake, fold 2 cups of loosely packed petals into the batter.

Press flowers for making personalized note cards.

Add flowers to herbal vinegars.

Preserve edible flowers (viola, pansies, roses, marigolds) in sugar and use them to decorate cakes.

Use edible flowers as garnishes, in salads, casseroles, and soup.

  May your flowers bring you joy for a long time.

  Do you have a favorite way of keeping flowers fresh you’d like to share? Send your comment to the email above or sms to 0805 646 2977. Text only.