Before you unwrap those pricey declarations of eternal love be sure to get the vase ready. If you tossed it in with the dishes after the last time you used it and it’s been sitting in the china cabinet since then you need to wash it again. Many of the bacteria and algae that can shorten the life of your cut flowers will still be on the inside of the glass. As soon as you add water they will bloom to life. These bacteria attach themselves to the stem ends and block the flow of water up to the flower heads. To avoid this problem wash the inside of your vase out with a 10 per cent bleach solution and then rinse thoroughly.
Fill the vase with clean, tepid water. Not cold or warm like some books suggest. The pH of the water can have an effect. Keeping the pH level low will extend the life of your flowers. An eighth of a teaspoon of citric acid, or a full can of lemon lime soda placed in approximately two quarts of water, will usually reduce a high pH level. Don’t use diet soda because the sugar is needed in the mix. If you use soda change it every couple of days so it doesn’t start to ferment. You won’t need to use the soda if you receive one of those little packets of preservative powder with your flowers. Use that instead in plain water following the directions on the packet.
Now you’re ready to unwrap your flowers and prepare them to go in the vase. Cut the stems at a 45 degree angle. This angle exposes more of the stem end than a straight cut and allows the flower to more easily draw water. Use a very sharp knife or a razor blade. The idea is to avoid crushing the stem in any way. Cut them while the stem is under water. That way you won’t get air bubbles in the cut. Cut off a good three or four inches and remove any leaves that would be below the water line. If you have leaves in the water they will start to rot and shorten the life of your flowers by using up oxygen. I know you paid for those stems but lop them off anyway.
I was talking with one of the professionals at Plantation Flowers and Gifts and she told me that the biggest mistake folks make with cut flowers is letting the water in the vase get too low. Keep it topped right up so the flower head has the shortest distance possible to draw water.
There are other things you want to avoid now that your flowers are safely in the vase. Keep them away from both extreme heat and cold. When flowers are exposed to heat, they respire at a greater rate than at lower temperatures. Flowers have high rates of respiration making them very perishable. The cooler the room or location they are displayed in the longer they will last. On the other end avoid temperatures below 4 degrees Celsius. Keep your cut flowers away from any drafts or heating ducts. The petals will respire more and lets face it, these flowers are dead and can’t suck up water the way they used to. Keep them out of direct sunlight for the same reason. Putting your flowers in a cool basement every night will also help extend their life.
Perhaps one of the biggest enemies of cut flowers is ethylene gas, which is given off by ripening fruit and vegetables. It speeds up the dying process of many flowers. Some of the more sensitive varieties to ethylene gas are carnations, roses, orchids, lilies and Sweet William. This gas is also the reason you should remove any dead flowers as soon as possible because as they start to decompose they will give off ethylene. Don’t set your roses on the table with the bowl of fruit. It might look nice but it will shorten their life.
If you follow these simple precautions your flowers are going to look great and last longer.