Everyone loves a little pick-me-up in the form of fresh-cut flowers, but how can you maximize your bouquet’s vase life? Below are 10 tips from some of our favorite Southern florists on how to extend the life of your flowers as well as suggestions for 10 fresh-cut flowers that last the longest.
Pro Tip #1: Shop local.
We’re all about supporting local businesses, but aside from helping to boost the local economy, shopping at local florists can also extend the life of flowers. Sarah Marshall, owner and lead florist of Gaia Florals in Birmingham, AL, says, “The quality [of locally purchased flowers] is typically far superior, and the flowers haven’t traveled across the world before they’re in your home.” We’re sold.
Pro Tip #2: Check for signs of age and mishandling.
When choosing flowers, the first step is checking them for signs of damage. Bruises, yellowed or browning leaves, and crushed or wilted petals are a sign they’ve already been sitting out for an extended period, which dramatically shortens their lifespan in your home. Taking a look at the stems will also offer the best indication of their health since stems and leaves are the first parts of the flower to die. “If they’re already browning or turning yellow when you’re going to purchase them, they will most likely last one or two more days,” says Mattie Bush, owner of Amelia’s Flower Truck in Nashville, TN. “On the other hand, if a flower looks a little sad and droopy, touch the stem and see if it’s sturdy. If the stem is still holding up, the flower will most likely revive once you get it in water and out of direct sunlight.”
Greg Campbell, co-owner of Garden District in Memphis, TN, adds, “Take a look at the water in the bucket holding the flowers you are considering. Is it clean and debris free? If not, there’s a pretty good chance the flowers have been around a while.”
Pro Tip #3: Get your flowers home quickly.
It might go without saying, but get your bouquet home and into a vase as soon as possible. Leaving flowers in a hot car during the summer months is the fastest way to end up with distressed buds.
Pro Tip #4: Trim the stems and remove the leaves.
Our experts unanimously agree that trimming flowers is crucial since it opens their stems back up to drink water more efficiently. Lauren Stanfield, owner of Louisville, KY’s Fleur and Frond flower truck, advises, “With clean floral scissors, trim the stems underwater.” She suggests submerging them and making angled cuts below the water level, allowing the stems to pull in water without getting any air along with it. She also recommends removing any leaves that will be below water level, which helps keep debris out of the vase, leading to less opportunity for bacteria to form.
Pro Tip #5: Use lukewarm water and change it often.
Once you’ve selected the container in which you plan to display your fresh flowers, wash it with soap and water to remove any bacteria from prior use and then add water. Seems pretty simple — you just turn on the sink and fill, right? Not exactly. “Flowers have a preference just like us,” Lauren says. “If you want to get technical, the water should be around 100 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit.” While there are a handful of flowers that prefer colder water temps, mainly those that are grown from a bulb, it’s typically best to stick with lukewarm or room temperature water. Greg adds, “The warmer water helps stimulate the flowers’ absorption and keeps them happy and hydrated.”
Replacing vase water at least every few days, if not more frequently, will extend the life of your blooms, too. “In a perfect world, you would be able to recut the bottom inch or so off the bottom of each stem before placing them in the new water,” suggests Greg. If you do trim them again, be sure to help stems hydrate faster by trimming them at an angle.
Pro Tip #6: Use the powder packet.
You know the little packet that comes with a flower bouquet that you sometimes ignore and toss in the trash? Go ahead and use it. While the packets do not preserve the flowers, they do contribute to a longer vase life by providing nutrients, controlling PH levels, allowing for more water absorption, and fighting off bacteria. “Most of the time, the powder contains citric acid, sugar and a touch of bleach,” Greg explains. “The acid and sugar give the flowers an extra dose of nutrients, and the bleach helps eliminate bacteria in the water.”
And what do you do if you don’t have a packet? Greg says you can try a small amount of Sprite or 7-Up and a drop of bleach in the vase, but he cautions against using flower food for some varietals. “Here at Garden District, we have discovered that bulb plants such as tulips, hyacinths and daffodils are much happier in just clean water,” he says.
Mattie, on the other hand, prefers taking a more natural approach. “We don’t use any flower food in our flowers, and we don’t recommend it,” she says. “If you’re going to use anything, I would use a few drops of Purification Essential Oil. It helps kill any bacteria in the water.”
Pro Tip #7: Keep your flowers fresh and cool.
There’s a reason florists keep flowers refrigerated — the ideal environment is on the colder side. Since heat and sunlight will cause dehydration, it’s best to keep arrangements away from windows, in a well air-conditioned space. Just be sure to avoid placing your bouquet in front of a vent or fan, which can cause them to wilt. As an added measure to extend their life expectancy, Lauren offers a trick. “Place your arrangement in the refrigerator overnight. This will help preserve your blooms while you’re asleep and prolong their lifespan.”
Pro Tip #8: Put a penny in the water. Maybe.
There’s a longstanding myth that putting a penny in the bottom of your vase will help your flowers last longer by preventing the growth of bacteria and fungi. Greg has a different take on it, saying, “I’ve heard that pennies in the bottom of a vase of tulips will make them stand straight and not flop over the side. Personally, I love that tulips are going to do what they want to do. Plus, I’m not sure I want to look at coins in the bottom of a beautiful vase of flowers.” Nevertheless, it’s worth a shot. A penny saved is a penny that might also save your flowers.
Pro Tip #9: Keep your vase out of direct sunlight and away from fruits and vegetables.
Keeping your arrangement out of direct sunlight is a no-brainer since too much heat can cause damage. Surprisingly, keeping the flowers away from fruits and veggies is also helpful. “Ethylene gas is not a friend to your blooms,” Lauren tells us. “Fruits and veggies that are ripe release ethylene gas, which will shorten the lifespan of your flowers if they are too close.”
Pro Tip #10: Enjoy your flowers while they last and, if all else fails, dry them out.
“Nature didn’t design flowers to live indefinitely after being cut,” Sarah says. “I think that’s something that makes them so special. They are meant to be enjoyed and cherished during their short little lives post-harvest.” You can still enjoy them, though, by drying out your blooms or finding another use for them. Greenery and grass such as eucalyptus or bunny tails make for wonderful dried arrangements, as do flowers like roses, billy balls, lavender, thistle and amaranth. Removing the leaves and tying your flowers together will help them stay put during the drying process, and taking the classic approach of hanging them upside down in a dry, cool, dark space will aid in gradual dehydration. With that said, it’s always good to research the most effective method for drying out certain blooms, as it varies according to type.
Drying is great to create a wreath or sachet, but there are plenty of other uses for them, too. “The options are endless!” says Sarah, who suggests a few ideas like saving the petals for soaps, pressing flowers, or making smudge sticks. “If one flower is fading, pull it out, use it for something else, and continue enjoying the rest.”
When you’re ready to shop for your next fresh-cut flower bouquet, make sure you read “10 Fresh-Cut Flowers That Last the Longest.”
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