Expert-backed ways to keep your Mother’s Day flowers fresher longer
Some of my fondest childhood memories are the times I went to the farmers market with my family and brought home a bunch of sunflowers. I’ve continued this tradition into adulthood by keeping cut flowers around my house — sometimes sunflowers, sometimes whatever amazing bunches the local farmers market is selling that week.
But even after years of buying flowers weekly, I still feel sad when the petals start to wilt, turn brown and fall off, signaling that it’s time to throw them away. Whether you buy yourself flowers at your local supermarket or get a special bouquet for Mother’s Day, you’ll want to extend the life of those flowers for as long as possible.
I spoke to two floral experts to round up tips for buying fresh flowers and how to preserve those blooms longer. I will also share common myths that gardeners say are ineffective. (For more tips, here The best location for your plantsAnd here Best indoor plants for low light and clean air.)
What to look for in cut flowers
You’re in the store, ready to buy flowers for yourself or someone special, but which bouquet should you choose from the dozens on the stand? Believe it or not, this decision can affect the longevity of the flowers you purchase.
Joe Goggia, owner of JP Designs Floral based in Santa Maria, California, has worked more than 45 years in the floral industry. He told me that many of the bouquets are shipped from Ecuador or California, so it’s important to inspect each stem and leaf closely to make sure you’re not buying flowers that are old or damaged in shipping.
Next, once you pull the scoop from the screen, check to make sure the water is clear and the leaves are not yellow, mottled or drooping. You’ll also need to make sure the stems aren’t sticky or broken. You need to check for fuzzy gray mold and damaged, drooping petals, Lucy Bradley, a professor of consumer and community horticulture at North Carolina State University, told me.
“Extend the life of your vase by choosing flowers that are just starting to bloom,” Bradley said. “For roses and other single flowers, choose flowers with only one petal. For tulips and other thistle flowers, choose stems in which only the first two or three flowers open. For daisy-type flowers, such as sunflowers, choose flowers with Centers that are still green.”
Tips on cutting flowers that will actually work
Although there are a number of myths surrounding flower care, Goggia and Bradley revealed some tricks that are guaranteed to work.
Change the water – and do it often
Adding fresh lukewarm water to a clean vase is a surefire way to keep your flowers healthier longer.
“That’s the key for people getting vase arrangements, is to replace the water whenever they can,” Goggia said. “If they took the whole bunch out, poured out the water and put in fresh water, and rearranged it again, it would keep them going for days and days and days.”
Why? Bradley explained that simply shaking off the water will get rid of any bacteria growing in the vase’s water, which may clog the flower’s stem, preventing water absorption.
Trim the ends
Both Guggia and Bradley agree that re-cutting the stems of the bunches once they are brought home is key to longevity. But don’t even think about reaching for those sharp kitchen scissors!
Best practice is to use a sharp knife or scissors to prune the flowers to prevent damaging the stem and reducing its ability to absorb water, Bradley said. Wipe the tool with alcohol first and then carefully make new cuts on all stems at a 45 degree angle at least a half inch from the end of the stem.
Cutting at an angle will cause most of the base of the stem to be outside the bottom of the vase. It removes clogged tissue that no longer transports water to the flower, Bradley said.
Add pennies, but note their age
You’ve probably heard of the coin method or maybe you’ve already tried tossing a coin into the vase containing water and flowers. But before you dig in the bottom of your wallet or jeans pocket, know that only pennies minted before 1982 will work. These are the ones that have natural antimicrobial properties, which come from copper.
“The pennies originally contained copper, which is a fungicide that prevents disease,” Bradley said. “However, pennies are now made mostly of zinc, so they are no longer effective.”
Some cut flower tips don’t do this truly a job
When it comes to flower care, there will also be debate about which methods may work and which may not. You may have tried some of these in the past – no judgment here! However, the experts I spoke with debunked some of the biggest myths when it comes to keeping cut flowers fresher longer.
Adding sugar to a flower vase?
If you paid attention to your high school science lessons, you may remember that flowers make use of sugars produced through photosynthesis. But this mostly applies when the flower or leaves are still attached to the plant, so think twice before throwing all of Sprite into the vase water.
Bradley explained that sometimes one and a half teaspoons of sugar can be added per liter of water or half water and half carbonated lemonade can be used in the vase water as plant food to prolong the flowering period, but none of these are as effective as commercial flowers. Preservative.
Floral preserves are those little packages that often come with your floral arrangements. They often contain sucrose and a biocide—an antibacterial agent—that gives the flower energy, helps the stems absorb more water, and prevents bacterial growth.
Does bleach help flowers stay fresh?
As the saying goes, a little goes a long way when it comes to whitening. A few drops of bleach (one teaspoon per gallon of water) can help kill bacteria and fungi, but adding too much — which is very easy — will also kill plant cells, Bradley explained.
Can vodka, vinegar, or aspirin extend the life of your flowers?
There are many, many tricks online on how to preserve cut flowers longer that involve vinegar, aspirin, vodka – you name it. Although these methods may work on a case-by-case basis, our experts do not recommend these tricks because they are based on anecdotal evidence and not backed by science.
“Honestly, I wouldn’t do any of those things because in most cases the arrangement will be a mix of flower types, which might be vulnerable to not accepting anything related to that item you’re putting in the water.” Gogia said. “Keeping the water clean is the best thing.”