Here’s how you can keep cut flowers alive even if the relationship doesn’t last longer than the weekend.
First Important Step
The most important thing to do after you’ve unwrapped those gorgeous messages of romance is recut the stems while keeping the stem-ends under water.
Stems that are dried out, even for an instant, will kill the cells at the stem end, preventing the flower from drawing water and shortening bloom life.
Cutting on a diagonal increases the surface area from which the flowers can absorb water up.
Moving to a Vase
Once you have made the cut under water, immediately move the stem to the water-filled vase.
Remove all foliage that will be underwater.
Underwater foliage will rot quite quickly, allowing bacteria to grow in the water and these, in turn, reduce the bouquet’s bloom time.
Plan on changing the water daily (at the very least every second to the third day) to reduce the water bacterial counts.
Each time you change the water, do snip a short bit off the end of each stem (underwater) – this will further extend the life of the cut flower.
Floral preservative is good stuff for flowers. It contains anti-bacterial water conditioners along with flower food and acidifying agents.
If your florist gave you some, use it.
If you don’t have it, a dash of clear sugar-based drink like Sprite will work.
Aspirins, contrary to most popular lore, don’t do anything for cut flowers although they may work very well on post-Valentine Day party heads.
Placing the Vase for Success
In placing the vase to admire, avoid full hot sunshine, drafty, too-warm places, next to heat ducts or the top of appliances such as televisions.
Any place that has heat or sucks moisture out of the bloom is to be avoided.
Grocery Store Cut Flowers
If you buy the flowers yourself from the grocery store (always a good idea because it shows you’ve spent the time yourself and you can get several for the same price as a florist arrangement) do think about the vase you’re going to put them in. I note that old jam jars and peanut butter jars work well but yogurt containers are too light and wide-mouthed to hold up a good bouquet.
If you have decided on one of those really tall arrangements, don’t insist on placing it on the dining room table during dinner. Nobody can see through it and eye-to-eye contact is the rule over a flowery yet meaningful dinner.
The old rule of thumb was that one-third of the height should be the vase and two thirds the flowers. I’m reliably told that designers ignore this rule now but our grandmothers never would have. You choose – modern designers or your grandmother.
One tip I will suggest you follow is to make sure the vase is the appropriate size for the flower. For example, if you try to force a single gladiola bloom into one of those tall, thin rose-bud vase thingies, you’ll find you have to water the darn glad every hour on the hour or it will wilt.
Ensure your vase contains enough water for at least 24 hours.
The corollary to this is not to squeeze so many flowers into a vase that there is no air space between the stems. This squeezing also supports bacterial growth and shortens flower life.
Having said all that, the flowers and the thought are the thing here. I’ve never had a complaint when I bring flowers no matter if I use an old mason jar to hold them.
Designing for Neophytes
Now I know that every reader is a designer at heart and doesn’t need to get instructions from me.
However, for those non-designers, let me make a few suggestions.
If you have a tall flower such as a delphinium, snapdragon or gladiola, use a tall vase. The lines of the flowers should be extended by the long lines of the vase. Short, dumpy vases make the tall flowers look out of proportion.
On the other hand, if you have a wild bunch of varied height flowers, use one of the shorter vases with a bulbous bottom or heavier bottom to allow flowers to appear wider and full in the arrangement.
There are a few special rules for cut tulips and daffodils:
Recut under water like all other cut flowers. Unlike most other cut flowers, tulips keep growing in the vase and over their lifespan on your kitchen table they’ll grow about an inch taller.
They’ll also move around in search of the light creating a ballet of slow-motion. While I think this is part of their charm, some folks like to keep them straight and here’s the trick for doing that.
Remove the tulips from the vase and roll the tulips in a newspaper so that the paper extends above the flowers but leaves the bottom third of the stems bare.
Recut the stems under water and, still wrapped-up, place in a container of cool water for an hour or two. This will allow the tulips to soak up some water and being held in place, the stems will straighten up.
An interesting bit of floral magic!
Don’t bother using cut flower food on tulips. Research has shown they don’t need the food but they do require lots of fresh clean water.
Change that water every two days and your tulips will last significantly longer than if you don’t change the water.
Longest Life Trick for Cut Tulips
For the longest life, keep the tulips in a cool spot away from direct sunlight or heat sources.
Don’t put them next to radiators or heat vents for sure.
And if you decide to add some daffodils to your cut flower mix, you have to “prep” the daffodils before you use them in a mixed arrangement. A cut daffodil secretes gummy substances from the cut stems and this gum blocks the stems of other flowers causing them to die early.
If you use daffodils, cut their stems under water and soak them in a vase all by themselves for an hour or three. After this soaking, they can be added to the mixed cut flower bouquet with no danger.