Flower Care

Tips on Caring for Cut Flowers

Almost everyone loves flowers. The tradition of giving plants and flowers as gifts dates back to prehistoric times when botanical arrangements were given for their medicinal properties. Evidence of flowers being used as gifts has been documented as far back as 2000 years ago in Chinese and Egyptian writings, as well as Roman and Greek mythology. More recently, the custom of flower giving flourished throughout the 15th century, when the strict religious regulations of the times prohibited lovers from showing affection in public. As a result, they used a gift of flowers to show emotions which could not be overtly displayed. Sometimes, even the way in which the flowers were arranged contained an encrypted message. A Persian custom called the "Language of Flowers" was used in the country of Turkey on a regular basis in the 1700s. This tradition was started by Sweden's King Charles II. Books were written in the Victorian era depicting how to arrange certain flowers in order to create a message for their recipient. In the theater world, flowers played a superstitious role. If they were handed to the leading lady at the end of the show, it was considered a lucky sign. In modern times, the gift of flowers is more popular than ever. A standard gift for anniversaries and birthdays, flowers may not offer encrypted messages anymore, but they say more than words ever could. When caring for cut flowers one has received as a gift, he or she may wish to consider the following tips:

Preventing Bacteria

It is essential to use only vases that are sparkling clean. Floral containers should be disinfected with bleach, as this kills the bacteria that can result in the quick demise of one's cut flower arrangement. Bacteria is notorious for clogging the flower's stem, which subsequently blocks the flow of water and dehydrates the flower. For this reason, the water in the container must be changed every few days, and more frequently if any unusual smell or cloudiness is present, as this is a sure sign of bacterial growth. The leaves that will fall below the water line of the vase should be discarded. Leaves that are submerged in water will quickly rot, which is yet another example of something that creates bacteria. One must be cautious with metal containers, as well, as certain of them can leach nutrients from the plant food that is put into the water.

Plant Food

We provide plant food with all of our arrangements, and it never hurts to have a few extra packets around. For those who do not have plant food, an aspirin can be dropped into the water to help prolong the life of the cut flowers.

Is Sugar Really Beneficial?

This absorption of water into the stem of a cut flower is accomplished by the salt and sugar which the cells of the plant contain. Many individuals who grow flowers for a hobby believe sugar water will help keep cut flowers alive longer. However, plants' cells contain adequate amounts of sugar already, from the natural process of photosynthesis that took place while the flower was still rooted. Flowers make all their required sugar this way, and adding more, even after they are cut, can result in their decreased longevity.

Trimming the Stems

Every time the water in the vase is changed, a fresh cut should be given to each stem. Ideally, the stem should be cut at an angle, as this allows a greater amount of water to be absorbed. This method of cutting also prevents the stem from absorbing air, which can ultimately result in the flow of water being cut off from the part of the stem closest to the flower. One should also hold the stem under running water when making the angled cut. Another method for accomplishing this task is filling a bowl with water, and submerging the stem before cutting. The stems should be cut at least one inch from the bottom unless the arrangement calls for an alternate cut.

Preserving Single Flowers

If a person is given a single flower for a memorable occasion or event, and wishes to make the flower last longer than usual, he or she should place it in tissue paper and store it in the refrigerate at night. This action will result in prolonging the flower's life, in some cases, up to twice as long as the normal lifespan of a single cut flower. Even moving the flower to a cooler part of the home, at least at night, will increase its longevity. Many people are unaware of the fact that it is primarily heat that causes flowers to wilt, more so than cooler air. Of course, frost will damage most plants, so care should be taken not to place cut flowers outside if temperatures are too cold.

Cut Flower Arrangements

Just as in the case of the single cut flower, arrangements must be kept from heat, and direct sunlight. They should not be placed on windowsills, or appliances such as TVs that heat up after they are in use for awhile. Another little known fact is that cut flowers should also be kept away from tobacco smoke, fruit, and motor vehicle fumes. This is because all of these items emit various levels of ethylene--a substance that is known to considerably shorten the life of certain flowers.

When arranging cut flowers, cellophane can be used to help support the stems in the desired position. While this will not result in increasing the flower's lifespan, it will provide a more attractive visual of the cut flower arrangement. Another tip for making a pleasing arrangement is to use colored cellophane that coordinates with the color scheme of the room. This will result in the flower arrangement blending perfectly with the rest of the room's decor. Naturally, when utilizing this tip, one must use a transparent vase so that the color of the cellophane can be clearly seen.

When properly cared for, cut flowers should stay healthy and attractive for 5-10 days. Obviously, this will vary significantly depending on the type of bouquet one has received. Carnations and mums are a bit sturdier, and live a bit longer than roses or lilacs. Sunflowers have excellent longevity when they are given the appropriate care, however, they require proper support as they are naturally a bit top heavy. Orchids are tropical flowers, and as such, need a humid environment. One must make sure to keep them moistened, or display them in a room where a humidifier is running.

Caring for cut flowers requires some time and effort, but ultimately, one will be proud of his or her accomplishment of increasing the longevity of this thoughtful gift. Sometimes, when a person receives flowers for a special occasion or event, the bouquet becomes an inspiration to begin growing his or her own flowers as a hobby, or even for profit. No matter what someone's personal taste is in flowers, a beautiful cut flower arrangement is sure to please the eye and warm the heart.