Preserving Cut Flowers

Increasing the vase life of your cut flowers

Although there is no guarantee that cut flowers will survive a long time afet picking, there are some things you can do about preserving cut flowers, especially the ones form your own garden.

General rule

  • Cut in the early morning
  • Change the water everyday
  • Use lukewarm water
  • Remove all leaves and thorns from stems that are under the waterline
  • Add sugar and bleach

The following guidelines apply to most cut flowers regardless of the species. It is worth noting though that some just last naturally longer than others.

When Harvesting
1. Always cut your flowers early in the morning when the sugar (glucose) content of blossoms is the highest – dew still on the foliage will tell you if it is the right time.
2. Have a bucket of lukewarm water with you and immediately place the flowers in it after cutting.
3. Use sharp secaturs or cutters. Cut at an angle as this allows better uptake of the water
4. If time permits remove all the leaves that will be submerged in the water – you will have to do this anyway, so straight off is better.

If you are buying cut flowers or order flowers online – try to choose the ones that are in bud form rather than open.

When Preparing For The Vase
1. Use lukewarm water as flowers take up warm water more readily than cold.

2. Remove all leaves and thorns (if possible) from the stems that will be submerged

3. If practical it is ideal to do all this in a large sink (e.g. the laundry sink) and cut or remove from the stems while they are under the water… reducing exposure to the air.

4. Re-cut off another half inch or so when you are getting ready to place them in the vase.

5. Flowers with woody stems like hydrangeas (and possibly roses) benefit from crushing the stems to help them take up water. You can do this by splitting the stems about a half inch from the bottom with a knife or mash the last inch or so with a mallet or meat tenderizer.

6. Cut flowers take up water through the stem ends and not the sides. Foliage left below the waterline pollutes the water as they rot. It also increases bacterial presence and this decreases the vase life (see bleach below)

7. If you have the time (and patience) clean the stems with a soft brush as this will remove further impurities and keep the water cleaner

8. The time between cutting flowers in the garden and placing them in water should be kept to a minimum. Unless immersed in water, stems absorb oxygen and the air causes embolisms or air plugs inside the stems, and this disrupts the flow of nutrients inside cut flowers.

Room Temperatures
Warm rooms will affect your cut flowers – so keep them out of direct sunlight and away from heater vents.

Storing your flowers in the fridge will make them last longer, or place them on the floor of the coolest room overnight and then put them back during the day.

1. If possible change the water daily and misting them also helps. If the vase is too heavy or awkward to remove the water – either place it in the laundry sink under the faucet and let the flow of water go into the vase until it has overflowed enough to change the water. Or you could use something like a turkey baster to suck out the water.

2. Adding a small amount of bleach to the water will keep it clean and remove any smells that develop.

3. Add a couple of teaspoons of sugar or even some soda pop/lemonade will help keep them longer

4. Remove dead flowers as soon as possible as they will cause the healthy ones to deteriorate more quickly.

5. Re-cutting the stems every 2 or 3 days will pro-long vase life

6. Don’t overcrowd a vase – allow air to circulate between the flowers and they will last longer.

Other additives To Help Preserve Cut Flowers

  • Aspirin x 2
  • Vinegar – helps the uptake of water
  • Vodka – keeps the water clean – but probably best used by you in a vodka and tonic while you are working on the flowers.
  • Baking soda – helps with the pungent odour flowers such as marigolds
  • Add a few drops of lemon juice to lower the pH in the water.

Preserving cut flowers is more luck than skill or technique. Those purchased at your local supermarket are less likely to last longer than those picked fresh from your garden or bought by you directly from a wholesaler of nursery.

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