Flowers are beautiful and professionally designed bouquets are especially attractive. Flowers can also carry huge sentimental meaning because they are often given as gifts from people close to us. So it's little wonder that we would want to extend the life of our flowers and enjoy their aesthetic and sentimental beauty for as long as possible.
With proper care and attention most flowers will last around 7 days with some varieties lasting for as long as 14 days. Here are some practical steps to help extend the life of your cut flowers.
Get flowers into water
After only a short time out of water flowers will begin to dehydrate. Therefore it is essential to get flowers into a vase or container of water as quickly as possible. When you first get the flowers home use warm water, not cold or hot, as this is the quickest way to rehydrate the flowers. Warm water will also promote opening of the blooms as most flowers are shipped with the blooms in a closed or tight stage.
Technically speaking the optimum temperature is 37.5C (99.5F), which is roughly body temperature. At this temperature air bubbles, which may have formed in the stem, tend to breakup. Also water that is warmer than the surrounding air is more readily taken up by the flowers.
Change the water regularly
Try to change the water every two days. The flowers should be well hydrated by now so you can use cold water instead of warm. This helps keep the flowers cool which is a key part of keeping flowers in good condition.
Use flower preservatives
Each consignment of Affinity Flowers comes with a sachet of flower preservative. Flower preservative contains two main components, carbohydrates and anti-bacterial additives.
The carbohydrates act as food which helps to sustain the flowers. The carbohydrates will also stimulate flower heads to open quicker. This is handy when you're trying to open flowers that usually ship with tight blooms like lilies.
The bactericide component inhibits bacteria developing in the water. Bacteria laden water will cause flowers to deteriorate quicker. Bacteria is also a problem because it can block flower stems and hinder the uptake of water. If left long enough the bacteria will also discolour the vase water and produce an unpleasant odour.
Simply empty the contents of the flower preservative sachet into the vase water.
If you don't have flower preservative you could add 1-2 drops of bleach to the water instead. The bleach will act as an anti-bacterial just like the additives in commercial flower preservatives.
Remove leaves that will be under water
This is important as leaves that are below the waterline will deteriorate quickly and become a breeding ground for bacteria. If you have a professionally arranged bouquet you'll find that the leaves have already been removed by the florist. But flowers bought loose or unarranged might still have leaves low on the stem.
Trim the stems
Take a pair of scissors or a sharp knife and trim 2-3cm (1 inch) from the bottom of the stem. Try not to crush the stem while you're doing this. Cut the stem on an angle to increase the surface area exposed to the water. Cutting on an angle also stops the stem sitting flat on the bottom of the vase and blocking water uptake. Once cut immediately place the flowers into water.
Water is sucked up the stem like a straw. If there is anything blocking the straw then it will impede water flow to the head. Over time the end of a stem can become blocked with impurities from the water and bacteria. Also, if a flower has been out of water for any period of time, air will be drawn into the stem which will block its ability to draw water.
Some florists recommend cutting the stems underwater which prevents air being drawn up the stem.
Re-cut stems every two days or when you change the water.
Keep flowers cool
Flowers should be kept in cool conditions. Keep them away from direct sunlight, heaters, lamps and other heat sources. Also try not to leave flowers in a hot vehicle when transporting them. This is why specialist flower delivery couriers have chilled storage on-board their vehicles.
Each variety has its own optimal holding temperature but the ideal temperature for most flowers is a chilly 4-5C (39-41F), about the temperature inside your refrigerator. Obviously these aren't ideal temperatures for people but if you really wanted to extend the life of your flowers you could place them in the refrigerator overnight or if you were going to be away for an extended period.
Keep flowers away from fruit
Fruit and vegetables produce ethylene gas which is detrimental to flowers. Carnations and Delphiniums are particularly susceptible. Try to keep flowers away from fruit and vegetables to keep them in good shape.
Similarly domestic gas is also damaging to flowers. There is a story of a flower grower who found it difficult to keep cut flowers on his farm. He suspected his gas supply may have been the cause and a check by a specialist confirmed he had a gas leak on his property.
Keep daffodils separate
The sap exuded from the cut stems of narcissus varieties like daffodils is detrimental to other flowers. No other flowers should share the same water with daffodils or any narcissus varieties.
Bill Koia is Managing Director of Affinity Flowers [http://www.affinityflowers.co.nz], a New Zeland flower company specialising in Roses and NZ native fauna. Bill writes helpful articles about fresh flowers and his experiences building an online flower business.