Valentine’s Day Aftermath
How To Make Your Cut Flowers Last Longer
IF your sweetie shelled out big bucks getting a beautiful floral arrangement for you, or your bestie sent you a friendly bunch of peace roses for the Valentine/Love Day’s celebrations, make them last as long as possible. There are 200 million. That is the number of roses typically produced for Valentine’s Day each year, according to the Society of American Florists, and Valentine’s Day is the No.1 holiday for Florist’s sale of fresh flowers. Whether single-stemmed or by the dozen, roses are symbolic of love and affection – an apt gift for a holiday devoted to those exact emotions.
Whether you were on the giving or receiving end of a rose bonquet in mid-February or any other time of the year, you want to get the longest use and enjoyment out of fresh flowers as possible. There are some helpful concrete things you can do that will keep your cut flowers fresh, lasting longer and looking their best. Many species of cut flowers can last for a week or even weeks with the right care, and even short-lived flowers can have their lifespan extended by a couple of days.
To keep cut flowers beautiful longer; because they have been removed from their source of water, the root system, and will wilt fast if not placed in water. Cut stems should be placed in water immediately, as air will rapidly move into the water-conducting tissues and plug the cells. This is why the cut flower that has been out of water more than a few minutes should have a small portion of the lower stem cut off so that water will move up freely when it is returned to water. Cuts can be made under-water to assure no air enters the stem.
A cut flower has also been removed from a major source of food – the leaves on the plant to which it was attached. Although the leaves on the flowering stem make food, once indoors they are in a reduced light situation indoors and this limits available carbohydrates.
Put Flowers in a large, clean container
Use a clean vase or container to reduce risk of bacteria and other micro-organisms infecting your flowers. Choose container with wide neck to easily fit the flower stems. Keep different lengths of stems in separate containers, so that all flowers are clearly visible.
Hardening: Treat freshly cut flowers with hot water (optional)
A process called ‘‘hardening” ensures maximum water uptake. Immediately after cutting the flowers, put the stems in 1100F (43.50C) water plus preservative. Place the container in a cool location for an hour or two. Maximum water uptake is attained because water molecules move rapidly at 1100F (kinetic energy) and quickly move up the stem. The hot water move more quickly up the stem, while the flowers lose less water to cool air. The combination of these effects can provide the flowers with huge increase in the amount of water it consumes, increasing the flowers life span. This process is called ‘hardening.’
Keep Flower stems in Lukewarm Water
The ends of cut flower stems should always have access to water. Lukewarm water may be easier for flowers to absorb, so add room temperature to the container if you are not using the hot water method just described above.
Flowers still attached to bulbs do better in cold water.
Keeping Cut Flowers Fresh
Remove all leaves below the water surface
Leaves kept under water surface will soon deteriorate and provide food for bacteria, which in turn can infect and damage the rest of the plant. Cut any leaves touching the water whenever you notice them.
Change the water
Check the water level of the container or vase daily. Don’t just add water, as you would for a potted plant. Flowers don’t like drinking dirty water, they die quickly. You must replace the vase water with clean solution of fresh water and preservative, make sure all debris is removed from the container to reduce risk of infection.
Water is necessary even if the flowers come with floral foam to hold them in place. Let the foam sink into the water at its own pace, since forcing it down may trap harmful air bubbles in the stems.
Trim stems regularly
You may trim stems every time you change the water, or at least every few days. Use sharp scissors, shears or a sharp knife to cut stems of a slant of 45 degrees angle. An angled cut increases the surface area the flower can use to absorb water. Trim stem of your bought flowers immediately before placing in water. Roses are especially susceptible to getting air bubbles trapped in the stem, which can prevent water uptake. Prevent this by cutting roses underwater.
Use a flower preservative
Flower preservative or ‘‘flower food” for cut flowers are available from florists, gardening supply centers and supermarket. These should have all the ingredients flowers need to thrive, including sugar for energy, acid to stabilize the color and the water pH, and a biocide to kill bacteria and fungi. Use this according to the packaging instructions. If you don’t want to purchase a commercial preservative there are easy home-made alternatives, that will be for the second part of this article.
Keep Plants away from environmental hazards
Keep cut flowers away from hot or cold air drafts and hot spots (radiators, direct sun, heaters, stoves, top of television sets). Drafts and breezes even cool ones, increase water loss, hot spots reduce a flower’s lifespan by speeding transpiration (water loss) and respiration (use of stored food such as sugars) and increasing development (rate of petal unfolding).
Never store fruits and flowers together
Fruits produce ethylene gas, a hormone that causes senescence, or aging in flowers.
Remove wilted flowers
Cut off all wilting flowers whenever you notice them, or the ethylene gas they release may cause a chain reaction in your other flowers.
Compost them, dry them for decoration, or throw them away in a separate room.
Good Choices for Long Lasting Cut Flower
Anthuriums (7-21 days) Anthuriums are long-lasting in the vase, very good for exotic floral arrangements.
Alstroemerias (Peruvian lilies) (6-14 days). A very popular flower, though most people don’t know them by name. however, they are sensitive to fluoride in water and ethylene gas. Keep them away from fresh produce.
Lilies (7-14 days)
Choose bunches with a few slightly opened lower buds. Remove the anthers to prevent allergies and pollen from coming in contact with your clothing and staining them.
Carnations (7-14 days) Carnations are extremely dependable and come in a variety of colors.
Heliconias (7-21 days) Depending on species can last a couple of weeks.
Roses (6-12 days). A classic, and with over 20,000 varieties, they never get boring.
Sunflowers can be top heavy, so use a sturdy vase that can support them.
In summary, to keep cut flowers longer:
Recut the stems and remove excess foliage
Harden the flowers by setting them in warm water in a cool place.
Use a floral preservative.
Keep them cool and avoid drafts, hot spots and television sets.
Use a clean vase or container and check the water level daily.
Roses (other flowers) are indeed a special gift, and they should be given the extra care they need to brighten your day – and not just the day you receive them. Keep caring for them as days go on, and the memory behind receiving the flowers in the first place will continue to bloom as wonderfully as your roses themselves.
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