Some people consider cutting flowers and making floral arrangements to be a sublime art form. Others see it as pure science. I think it’s a little bit of both. You use your artistic skills to make the arrangement and you use science to make the cut flowers last longer.
The best time to cut flowers in the garden is in the early morning when the stems are firm with moisture and carbohydrates. Use sterilized shears to cut the stem one inch above the base. Make the cut at a 45-degree angle to increase the stem’s uptake of water. For flowers that last longer in the vase, try growing orchids, lilies, carnations, hydrangeas, and freesias in the garden.
Once you have your floral arrangement designed and brightly lighting the room, that’s when the science comes in. Your task is to keep those flowers looking fresh for as long as you can.
The following tips will help you make the cut flowers last longer.
1. Trim Stems at a 45° Angle
When you cut your flowers, you deprive them of the efficient roots that search for and absorb nutrients to keep the plant healthy. The only part of the stem that can actually absorb moisture is the cut at the bottom.
That’s why you need to make the cut as large as possible by slicing the stem at a 45-degree angle.
This increases the exposed area of the stem that has the ability to absorb water and nutrients from the vase. In turn, this will keep the flower looking fresh for weeks instead of just days.
2. Remove Lower Leaves
The leaves on the stem of the cut flowers, much like the blooms themselves, consume a lot of nutrients to stay fresh. This depletes the nutrients stored in the stem rather quickly which causes the flower to wither and die just a few days after cutting it. So to conserve the carbohydrates in the stem, remove the lower leaves on the stem.
Only keep a few leaves and make sure they’re above the surface of the water. Submerged leaves are more prone to rotting quickly which speeds up the demise of the flower and any other flowers sharing the same water.
3. Choose an Appropriate Size Vase
When it comes to a floral arrangement in a vase, the size of the vase matters. Much like a potted plant overgrowing its pot and getting root bound, too many flowers sharing a small vase limits the uptake of each stem dipped in the water. Without enough nutrients and moisture going up the stem, the flowers will not last long.
Some flowers like tulips continue to grow even in the vase. That means they will consume more resources than the other flowers in the same arrangement. So always make sure the vase can hold at least a quart (1 liter) of water for every 8 to 10 flowers to keep all the flowers sufficiently hydrated and nourished for as long as they stay alive.
4. Use a Dark Vase To Block Light
Cut flowers are not as hardy or resilient as flowers growing on the plant. If they lose moisture, the cut in the stem cannot replenish that moisture fast enough. You should avoid exposing the cut flowers to direct sunlight, sources of heat, vents, or drafts coming from open doors and windows.
In the same vein, it’s recommended that you use a dark vase as opposed to a transparent glass one. This will block the light and keep the water and stems cool inside the vase. The cool conditions mean that the flowers will not lose moisture or wither before their time.
5. Change Water Routinely & Clean Vase
The stagnant water in the vase is an open invitation for bacteria and fungus spores to multiply and infect the stems. If the stems become infected, they won’t be able to provide moisture and nutrients to the blooms which shortens their vase life considerably. This is why you should change the water every other day to prevent bacteria build-up.
Fresh water also contains fresh nutrients that the flowers need to survive and last longer. But before you add the water, make sure to clean the vase from the inside thoroughly to remove any plant debris that could rot and spread diseases among the stems.
6. Add Cut Flower Food/Preservative
Although the market is full of good cut flower preservatives, you can make your own cut flower food at home from ingredients readily available in the kitchen. A good recipe that works for most cut flowers would require one liter of lukewarm water, 2 teaspoons of sugar, 1 teaspoon of lemon juice, and 3 drops of household bleach.
The lemon juice in the water prevents the build-up of bacteria and other pathogens that could infect the stems and speed up their demise. Every time you change the water in the vase, add the same ingredients to nourish the flowers and keep them healthy.
7. Add a Few Drops of Bleach
Bleach sterilizes the water and inhibits germs and pathogens from multiplying. This will keep the water clean and fresh until the next time you change it. However, don’t add more than three drops of bleach for every one liter of water. Otherwise, this would change the pH of the water and impact the stem’s uptake of moisture and nutrients.
8. Add a Small Amount of Sugar and Vinegar
Both sugar and vinegar are indispensable ingredients in the cut flowers diet. You can replace vinegar with lemon juice. Both have the same effect of sterilizing the water and reducing the pH to make it slightly more acidic.
As with the bleach, you should avoid adding too much vinegar to the water. For every liter of water, you should add one teaspoon of vinegar.
Sugar on the other hand is mainly to nourish the flowers and feed the leaves on the stems. You can replace both sugar and vinegar with the same amounts of lemon soda. That is to say, use two teaspoons of lemon soda for every liter of water in the vase.
9. Place in a Cool Location Away From Direct Sunlight
Harsh sunlight can have a devastating effect on the flowers growing in the pot or in the garden. It causes excessive dehydration and wilting of the stems and flowers. So you can imagine the impact on cut flowers with limited nutrients and moisture reserves at their disposal.
Exposing the cut flowers to direct sunlight makes them lose moisture faster than the cut in the stem can absorb it.
So always keep the vase away from direct sunlight and don’t place it on a window sill. If the sun comes through the window, draw the curtains to shield the flowers and keep them fresh for longer.
10. Refrigerate Flowers Every Night
This simple step can add a few more days to the vase life of the cut flowers. All you need to do is keep the flowers in the fridge every night. The flowers have to be in the vase with water filling up about three-quarters of the vase. Then set the fridge temperature to 40 degrees Fahrenheit to slow down the moisture loss and give the flowers a crisp look in the morning.
The main precondition for this to work is that you cannot keep the flowers in the same fridge as other fruits. Ripe fruits tend to emit gasses that speed up the decay of the cut flowers.
11. Remove Faded Blooms Promptly
Not all flowers have the same vase life. Some flowers like tulips and lilies can last for weeks, while others like daffodils tend to wither and die quickly. When a flower starts to wither and fade, take it out of the vase immediately. The fading flower decays quickly which spreads toxins and pathogens in the water that would affect the other flowers.
Speaking of daffodils, never put these bright and cheerful flowers in the same vase as other flowers. They release toxic chemicals from the stem cuttings that would kill other flowers sharing the same water except for the daffodils themselves.
You can spend hours cutting flowers and arranging them in the vase in the most creative ways. But without proper care, the cut flowers will wither and fade quickly.
Change the water in the vase every other day and keep the vase away from direct sunlight, drafts, and sources of heat. Add little sugar, vinegar, and bleach to the water to keep the flowers fresh and nourished.