Cut-Flower Care

Prolong the beauty of your bouquets with these expert tips.

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The flowers at your local florist may look as though they were just picked, but many of them were actually cut days ago, then moved thousands of miles, and possibly stored in a warehouse for a few more days.

The goal of growers and florists is to figure out ways to extend the life of cut flowers. They spend millions of dollars on research aimed at finding out just how to do that. But once the flowers leave the florist, it's up to you to keep them looking good.

Buying Cut Flowers

  • Don't buy cut flowers early in the day and then leave them in your car while you go shopping or run errands. Instead, go straight home.

  • When you do get home, if you're not quite ready to put the flowers in a vase, then stick them in the refrigerator, but only if you don't have any fruit in the fridge. If you do have fruit in the fridge, place a layer of ice in a cooler, place a towel over the ice, and place the flowers on the towel.

Arranging Flowers

  • When you are ready to arrange your flowers, the most important thing you should do is give the stems a fresh cut. The calloused ends of cut flowers won't absorb water as readily as those with a fresh cut and won't last nearly as long.

  • Working quickly, place a stem next to the vase and strip any leaves that would actually be submerged in the water. (Underwater leaves cause the growth of harmful bacteria that shorten the flowers' life.) Place the flowers in a vase or other container filled with cool water, and put them in a cool, dimly lit area. Heat and bright light are the enemies of cut flowers. Both will cause them to fade faster. And remember, heat can come from such things as the television set, so never put flowers on top of the TV.

  • Although the dining room table may be your favorite spot for flowers, it may not be their favorite spot, especially if the light from the window is too bright. It's OK to set them there while you entertain, but move them to a more hospitable spot once the party's over.

    Keep flowers Away From Fruits

    • Various fruits, especially apples, give off ethylene gas, and ethylene is the enemy of cut flowers, because it hastens their demise.

    • Many of you no doubt know that to ripen a green banana, all you need do is stick it in a bag with an apple inside. The ethylene given off by the apple causes the banana — or avocado or peach — to ripen quickly. That same ethylene will also cause a cut flower to wither. So, despite all the still-life paintings you may have seen that feature cut flowers and apples side by side, it's best to give the two as much distance as possible.

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