Everyone loves opening their front door to find that a beautiful floral arrangement has been delivered but many struggle to keep these delicate cut flowers fresh past a few days. This lamentable and widespread issue can be resolved with some professional tips for the home care and maintenance of your flowers, so that you may make your stunning arrangement last longer!
1.) Keep ‘Em Cool
While many may assume that flowers thrive best in warm temperatures (they do, after all, tend to grow during the spring and summer months), this is not true for cut flowers. Once flowers have been cut and removed from their elaborate life-sustaining root system, they naturally begin dying. We of course aim to enjoy their beauty as long as possible, so florists have devised the best techniques for keeping flowers fresh longer. As with most plant life, cut flowers are preserved best by cooler temperatures. The ideal temperature ranges from 1.1°C to 2.2°C (or 34°F – 36°F). Many professional florists recommend storing your arrangement in your fridge overnight in order to extend the flowers’ lifespan. Unless instructed otherwise, you should also store any event flowers or special occasion flowers in your refrigerator if you are not ready to use or present them yet! Just be sure to remove any fruit from your fridge, as fruit naturally produces ethylene gas, which will shorten the lifespan of your flowers. However, tropical flower naturally need higher a temperature range and perform best at 10°C to 12.8°C (or 50°F – 55°F).
2.) Keep the Water Fresh
One of the most important aspects of extending a flower arrangement’s lifespan is maintaining clean and fresh vase water. Like all living organisms, bacteria and fungi thrive best when water is present, and as such they can easily grow within the arrangement’s water source. Most bacteria and fungi are typically not harmful to people, and many exist naturally in the soil. As such, your flowers will always come with microscopic hitchhikers. This is not a problem for you but it can cause issues that result in murky and dirty water. You can expect your flowers to have a significantly reduced lifespan if you do not regularly change the vase water out. Professionals recommend switching your vase water out every two to three days for the best results! Additionally, it is also important to keep leaves and other floral particles out of and above the vase’s water line, as this will speed up the stagnation of the water.
3.) Trim the Stems
Another crucial part of the upkeep of freshly-cut flowers is to trim the stems regularly. John W. Kelley, of the Clemson University Department of Horticulture, claims that having properly trimmed floral stems can extend the life of your vase arrangement anywhere from 18 – 32%! While florists will always freshly trim the stems before they design an arrangement, it is still recommended to re-trim your arrangements’ stems upon receiving the piece and then to repeat the process every three days afterwards. You should also change the vase’s water at the same time, so that the flowers may immediately absorb clean water. While cutting floral stems may seem pretty straight-forward, there are actually some very important tips and techniques to take into consideration when doing so. While professionals vary slightly in their opinion, you should trim your stems anywhere from half a centimeter to two inches above the end. It is important to note that when trimming the stems, you must do so at an angle of approximately 45°. This technique serves two functions – it maximizes surface area so that the flower may absorb as much life-sustaining water as possible, and it raises the flowers’ stems off the bottom of the vase. Making a flat cut on the stem may cause it to rest directly against the vase’s bottom, effectively cutting of the flower’s water supply. When cutting the flower’s stem, make sure to use a sharp, non-serrated knife. Using scissors or a dull knife can crush the stem as you cut it, effectively sealing off the stem’s vascular system, which is vital for drawing water up to its perky petals.
Pro tip – cut the flowers underneath running water! This prevents air embolisms from forming within the flower’s stem, and these air pockets are counterproductive to water absorption and hydration. By trimming the flowers under a running stream of water, you are reducing the chances of air bubbles blocking any water intake.
4.) Make a Home Remedy
Whether you are bringing in fresh cut flowers from your garden, or you have simply lost your florist-provided floral food packet, sometimes you may need a quick remedy to help sustain your floral arrangement’s freshness. There are many classic “old wives’ tales” that provide varying suggestions on how keep flowers fresh, so many floral companies have taken it upon themselves to test these claims. These remedies range from mixing crushed-up aspirin into the flower’s water, to dumping Sprite into the vase. While these remedies have been shown to have varying mixed (generally ineffective) results, one mixture was confirmed to help keep fresh flowers ‘alive’ for longer. The ingredients for this odd mixture can be found in most households – 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and 2 tablespoons of sugar. The sugar serves as food for the flowers, but unfortunately it is also food for the bacteria. To discourage bacterial growth, an acidic compound (here in the form of apple cider vinegar) must be added as well. This combination works well to keep your flowers fresh longer, as it mimics the main ingredients in the professional flower packets.
5.) Use Flower Food
When possible you should use the official flower food packets that were included with your flower delivery. “Flower food” is actually a simple product – while they will vary slightly in ingredients, they usually contain sugar, acid (often citric acid), and bleach. The sugar and acid work in the same manner as listed above, and the bleach is an added preventative for the reduction of bacteria and fungi. Be sure to use your packet as directed, and make sure that each new fresh vase of water has more flower food in it – luckily, if you run out, you now know how to create your own!
Keeping flowers fresh is always a battle, and one that we happily fight for the sake of preserving the beauty of our thoughtful gift or colorful centerpiece. Next time you become frustrated to find your floral arrangement drooping, try reviving them with one of these helpful hints! As always, be sure to talk with your local florist if you have any further questions or concerns. Freshness and longevity is often a priority to many customers and recipients, and your florist would be happy to assist you further with tips to keep your cut flowers fresh. If you’re in the Greater Toronto Area, be sure to stop by the Flower Boutique in Brampton and order a beautiful custom-made arrangement of the freshest flowers, or order these fresh flowers online here!