The famous impressionist painter Claude Monet once said, “I must have flowers, always, and always.” While we can’t claim to be art connoisseurs, we admit that this quote left quite an impression on me, pun intended. Flowers are one of nature’s greatest gifts and have enamoured humans since the beginning of time. Part of their charm comes from the fact that they are ephemeral. It seems that these beautiful plants take forever to bloom but are gone in the blink of an eye, leaving only memories behind.
While most of us would prefer to have our own gardens with endless flower blooms to realize our floral dreams, city life has confined us to get our fill with cut flowers from florists. The only problem is that, for all their beauty, freshly-cut flowers have an even shorter lifespan than flowers that haven’t been cut. Mix in some negligence, and this time is cut down even more. Part of it is that people do not know how to properly care for their flowers. Flowers that have been cut have particular needs for maintaining their freshness. If not met, your precious blossoms can fall prey to wilting and wither away. If this sounds like something you want to avoid, you’re in the right place!
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Keeping cut flowers
Some people chop flowers to grow their own plants. Others hang them from the ceiling. And then there are those who reached the bonsai tree level. But what about the people that just enjoy a nice bouquet of flowers?
If you’ve ever gotten a bouquet of roses from a secret admirer on Valentine’s Day, made sunflower crowns with your best friends, or bought a Christmas wreath, you should know that flowers are one of the best gifts to give and receive. But, once we have them, it becomes hard to let them go because of what they represent to us.
Blooms are timeless symbols of love, friendship, happiness, sympathy, and almost every other expression out there. Flowers aren’t just foolproof gifts to delight recipients but also make excellent decorative pieces. A few strategically placed vases liven up any room and are, quite literally, a breath of fresh air. They look beautiful and smell even better and are bound to bring positive energy and good vibes anywhere they’re placed.
Everything you’re going to need
Now that we’ve established that we want to keep fresh-cut as fresh as possible let’s look into how we can make that happen. The good news is that plants are generally low maintenance, and keeping flowers fresh won’t put a dent in your pocket. You can easily find everything you’re going to need to prepare and maintain your flowers inside your home or in your local supermarket. Not all of these are required, and we’ll elaborate on why we need each in the following sections, so stay tuned!
- Pruning shears and scissors – for making the cleanest cuts and sprucing up your flowers. If you don’t have these, a clean, sharp knife will do the trick.
- Vase – to give the flowers a home, provide support and structure, and move them around easily.
- Fizzy drinks – to give your flowers an instant pick-me-up.
- Acidifiers like aspirin or ACV (apple cider vinegar)- to lower the pH of the water and keep flowers perky.
How to prepare your flowers DIY style
Imagine you’ve just gotten a flower arrangement or have picked some flowers from your garden. What are the first steps you should take? Some florists prepare your flowers for you or give them with a vase, so you don’t have to worry about what to do. However, this isn’t always the case, and making mistakes at this stage can affect your flowers down the line. Therefore, you should condition your flowers before you do anything else.
When you get your flowers, you should cut about 2-5 cm off the stems as a standard practice. The logic behind this is that flowers take up water through the stems, and when the stems are out of the water, air bubbles can get into the flower stems and block water absorption.
You need to cut a few cms off the stem, preferably underwater, to prevent air bubbles’ formation, to ensure the flowers can take in water and stay perky. Remember to cut up flowers with woody stems using pruning shears and other flowers with scissors/knives. Cut at a 45-degree angle so that the cut stems don’t rest against the bottom of the vase, which would’ve limited their capacity for water intake. Re-cut stems every five or so days for maximum freshness.
Remove any dead petals and leaves that fall and rest below the waterline in the vase. These are breeding grounds for bacteria that will kill your flowers.
Flowers that have been cut need to be placed in water with their stems generously covered so that they retain freshness. For this purpose, you need to select a large vase that can comfortably hold your flowers. Larger and heavier blossoms should be cut and placed in a low vase to have adequate room and remain supported. You should place lighter blooms in longer vases.
Out with the old, in with the new. Changing the water in the vase every few days can counter the buildup of harmful bacteria, so be sure to regularly replace the water with fresh water. If you’re using preservatives or additives, make sure that they’re fully dissolved in the water before placing the flowers in the vase.
Certain environmental factors can speed up flower wilting, so it is imperative to limit your flowers’ exposure to them. Keep them in a well-lit area, but avoid direct sunlight. Blooms should be placed in a cool room and away from windows, heat-generating appliances like stoves, and even air conditioners.
This is to prevent them from being dehydrated and withering away. Additionally, avoid placing flowers near veggies and fruits as they produce ethylene gas that can speed up flower maturation. Remember that one bad apple spoils the bunch, and the same stands true for flowers!
Using additives to make cut flowers last longer
Flowers that have been freshly cut are a sight for sore eyes in your home, and there are several tried and tested ways to prevent them from becoming an eyesore in a few days. The idea behind putting additives in the water is to provide the flowers with nutrients and a balanced pH to imitate the environment of a one that hasn’t been cut. A healthy flower is a happy flower, whether it’s in a garden or a vase!
We know it sounds like a counterproductive idea, but hear us out. Most living things have a love-hate relationship with this product because too much is hazardous and can kill your flowers. The right amount, however, can be advantageous in preserving your beautiful arrangement. Once flowers have been cut, they are more susceptible to bacterial growths and germs, speeding up the wilting process.
This product is the holy grail of disinfectants, and if you add a conservative amount of it to your water in the vase, it can make your flowers last longer. 1/4 teaspoon of bleach in a litre of water should do the trick. Make sure to be precise in your measurements, and if you’re worried about the water intake of the stem, you can add a small amount of an acidic substance to promote the flow of water up to the flowers. Commonly used household items are apple cider vinegar or fizzy drinks.
Next time you’re pouring yourself a glass after a long day, make sure to remember your floral friends. Research shows that high alcohol consumption can make humans age faster, but luckily, the effect is reversed for fresh-cut flowers!
We can bring in a bit of science to explain this. A gas called ethylene acts as a ripening agent for fruits, vegetables, and plants. It helps them grow and mature. Alcohol is our anti-ageing hack, as it reduces ethene production in flowers that have been cut. This makes your flower arrangement stay fresh for longer. So put a few drops of vodka in your water in the vase and watch it do its magic.
Flower Food Packets
Florists are aware of your concerns about finding your favourite blossom arrangement starting to wilt a few days after you’ve bought it. To solve this problem, flower shops and some grocery stores sell packets of ‘flower food’. Even though the plant has been cut, it can be nourished and preserved if it is provided nutrients and water. These packets contain biocides, which are important agents that cleanse and protect the flower, carbohydrates which are food for the flowers that have been cut.
These three elements are vital in keeping your flowers alive and fresh, as they promote water uptake in the stems by balancing the pH levels of the water. They also fight off bacteria and provide a good diet for the flowers to keep blooming.
Flower food packets are an easy and effective way to make your flowers last longer. However, you’ll need a moderate quantity of these packs to maintain the bloom of your flowers. The widely recommended method is adding a food packet every time the water is renewed.
Don’t worry if you’ve accidentally misplaced the food for flowers or run out of packets. You can make your own, at home, with only three ingredients! Add a teaspoon of sugar/fizzy drink, a teaspoon of vodka, and two teaspoons of citric acid (found in lemon or lime juice) to a litre of water, and you’ve got yourself DIY food for flowers. Isn’t that neat?
We take aspirin to fight off headaches, but did you know that it also works to preserve flower freshness? This is because aspirin is an acidifier, meaning it lowers the pH of the water it is added to. So crushing one tablet of this medicine and adding it to vase water helps flowers take up water, which allows the blooms to look vigorous and pert.
This is one of the more creative additives. You can add a quarter cup of clear fizzy drinks to the flowers’ water in the vase (it won’t even be noticeable once you’ve mixed the two) to give your flowers an instant sugar rush. This will invigorate the flowers and give them new life.
Some extra flower care tips
Apart from the tips we’ve already covered in the sections above, here are a few nifty hacks used by florists to care for their flowers.
Firstly, be sure to use a clean vase. It’s better to be safe than sorry since you’ll be storing your flowers in there. Add a few drops of bleach to a litre of water and use that to clean it. Rinse, and you’re good to go.
Secondly, keep an eye on the temperature of the vase water. Use room temperature water when in doubt. However, if possible, try and use warm water for flowers that you want to bloom since heat encourages maturation. For flowers that have already bloomed, use cold water to keep them fresh and healthy.
Lastly, try and put your vase of flowers in the refrigerator every night. This will protect the flowers from heat and keep them lively and fresh. You’ll see a difference the very next morning.
You no longer have to preserve your flowers as memories in your mind or as dried petals sandwiched in books. While you can’t keep your cut flowers fresh indefinitely, you can use the tips and tricks in this article to extend their vigour. If you follow the instructions written here, you should be able to appreciate your blossoms to your heart’s content. As long as you take care of them and treasure them while they last, you will have flowers, always, and always.