Cut-Flower Care

Prolong the beauty of your bouquets with these expert tips.

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Additives for the Water

  • A lot of people try to extend the life of cut flowers by putting all sorts of things in the water. For example, some people swear by pennies, because what little copper there is in today's pennies is said to prevent the growth of bacteria and fungi.

  • There are also all sorts of preservatives available, and most of them do work, at least somewhat. However, a homemade concoction works just as well: Just add a pinch of sugar and a drop of bleach to the water and mix well before adding the flowers, and repeat the process each time you change the water.

Remove Fading Flowers Fast

  • In a mixed bouquet, some flowers will fade faster than others, and when that happens, be sure to remove the faded ones fast. The reason? Fading flowers often release ethylene, and that will cause the remaining flowers to fade even faster.

  • But the most effective way to extend the life of cut flowers is to change the water often — every day if possible. Give the stems a fresh cut at least every other day. But realize that even if you do all that, most cut flowers won't last more than a week.

Fragrance vs. Longevity

  • What's the first thing someone does when you hand them a batch of cut flowers? They smell them. But cut flowers purchased from a florist rather than cut from your own garden often have no fragrance — even the ones, like roses, that you'd expect to be sweetly scented.

  • Scent has been bred out of many, if not most, cut flowers, because scent uses up a lot of a flower's energy and thus shortens its lifespan. So there's a tradeoff — heady aroma versus a longer shelf life. That's not to say you can't buy flowers that smell good, because you can, but they probably won't last nearly as long as those with no scent.

  • But why is it that when you walk into a florist's shop, the place smells like, well, flowers? It's because florists have a trick or two up their sleeves. You see, they actually fill the air with an artificial spray, usually one that smells like roses. They also use preservatives in the water that release scent.

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