It’s fair to say that most women, and even some fortunate men, have received a beautiful, thoughtful flower arrangement from someone special and thought about how great it would be if they could stop time and keep those delicate blooms and buds looking as fresh and vibrant as they do in that moment. Unfortunately of course it is impossible to stop time. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few simple steps you can take to slow it down a notch or two for your new leafy houseguests. What follows are four crucial elements of proper flower care that will extend the life of your arrangement.
Properly Preparing the Flowers
It stands to reason that in order to end up with beautiful, long-lasting flower arrangements you need to start by selecting and preparing the flowers themselves as carefully as possible. In most cases if you are receiving the arrangement as a gift, then of course you don’t have too much a say in the particular flowers chosen, but if you are buying the flowers for yourself or someone else, make sure that use a reputable florist who will sell nothing but the best. Different types of flowers also have different life spans, so if longevity is a primary concern make sure you choose accordingly.
Once you’ve gotten the flowers it’s time to do a little quick work to ensure that you give them every advantage possible. Don’t just grab a vase off the shelf, fill it with water and toss them right in. Instead start by trimming the base of the stems. Though by comparison to the rest of the flower the stems may not be much to look at, they are the fundamental transport and respiration system the flower uses to get much-needed water into those vibrant blossoms. You need to handle the stems very carefully. Don’t crush, split, or burn them, despite what you may have heard in the past about these practices improving the vase-life of arrangements these strategies are actually likely to do more harm than good.
Instead keep the flowers submerged in a bowl or basin of water and cut off about 1’’- 2’’ from the base of the stem. Cut at a 45 degree angle and make sure to use a very sharp knife that will not crush or tear the stem. The reason the stems should be submerged as they are cut is to avoid allowing air bubbles to enter stems. For this reason you should also keep the cut flowers in water while you are preparing the vase and the primary water solution.
Properly Preparing the Vase
Many people overlook the importance of properly preparing the vase before they put the arrangement into it. Take a few minutes to thoroughly wash the vase out with warm, soapy water and make sure to rinse it thoroughly. This prevents bacteria and other microorganisms which may have remained in the vase from the previous batch of flowers from being transferred to the new arrangement. That’s important because these destructive microorganisms can case the new flowers to lose their luster fast.
If you will be using any arranging aids in your vase, such as florist foam for example, it is important to get it properly situated before putting in the flowers to prevent accidental damage to the flowers or their stems. In the case the florist foam mentioned above, make sure to let it soak thoroughly so that it sinks to the bottom of the vase on its own. Do not just shove it down, doing so will leave air bubbles in the foam which could damage the stems.
Finally, once you have determined where the water level in the vase will be, make sure that you remove all lower leaves from the flowers before putting them in the water. This will prevent dead leaves from accumulating in the water which once again could cause the flowers themselves to deteriorate more rapidly.
Properly Preparing the Water
Flowers will continue to absorb water even after they have been cut. That is why it is so important to make sure that the water itself is safe and nurturing for them. Proper water should neither be too hard, nor too soft. Hard water could contain harmful minerals that might damage the flowers. Along the same lines soft water is likely to contain some sodium, which is also bad for the life span of flowers. If your water is overly hard or overly soft, you could consider using demineralized water purchased from a supermarket or grocery store. This type of water is commonly sold for use in steam irons.
The water itself should also be warm, but not overly hot. A good general, initial temperature to shoot for is about 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Consider also adding some type of plant food to the water. Commercial plant food can usually be purchased with the flowers themselves or sold separately in stores, at relatively inexpensive prices. Some florists may even include a couple of free packets with your arrangement. If you don’t have access to commercial plant food or don’t want to use it, then you can also make your own. A common blend includes a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice and a tablespoon of sugar. Some recipes also suggest adding a 1/4 teaspoon of bleach to the water to further help prevent bacterial growth and to keep the water clear. However it is wise to use the bleach sparingly to avoid accidentally damaging the flowers or creating a less than pleasant odor.
Properly Maintaining the Flowers
Once the flowers are set up an arranged inside the vase there are still a few additional things you can do periodically to extend their life. Spritzing the flowers themselves with a fine mist of water on a daily basis is a good way to further ensure that they are getting enough moisture. You should also completely change the water every 2-3 days to help prevent bacterial growth. Each time you change the water make sure to reclean the vase and repeat the aforementioned water preparation steps. Also trim off another ½ inch or so of the stem, repeating the stem care steps mentioned above. Remove any dead leaves or any foliage that would now be submerged by the water due to the flowers being slightly shorter.
A last point to keep in mind is where you display the flowers. For maximum freshness flowers should be kept cool. That means keeping them out of direct sunlight and away from heat releasing appliances. Other household items to keep them away from – fruits and vegetables! As these foods ripen (or begin their own decaying process), they release gases that negatively impact the flowers. In this case the proverb about one rotten apple is particularly apt.
Following the steps outlined in this article will not grant your arrangement eternal freshness. However, it will drastically improve its appearance and vase-life and allow you to enjoy it all the longer. That seems like a fair tradeoff for a little extra care and preparation.