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How to Care for a Bouquet of Flowers

Spring bouquetA beautiful bouquet of flowers can brighten even the grayest days. Whether you buy a bouquet for yourself or receive one in celebration of Valentines Day, your birthday, anniversary, or any other occasion, you will probably want to extend the life of the arrangement. When the bouquet comes from the florist it will probably be in clean water containing preservative and the flowers and foliage will have been conditioned to maximize their vase life. But the flowers are living organisms and are in a constant state of change. They need food and water to maintain their beauty but environmental conditions and microorganisms like fungi and bacteria are at work and will cause wilting and deterioration. By following a few suggestions you can slow this process down and enjoy the flowers for more than a week or two.

Six Steps to Long Lasting Bouquests

1. Check the water level and add water to the vase if necessary. Many florists will keep the water level low for ease of delivery so make sure the vase is full. You will be surprised at how much water a bouquet of flowers drinks in a day so check the water level daily.

2. Place the bouquet out of direct sunlight in a relatively cool area away from drafts, vents, ripe fruits, vegetables and other sources of ethylene. Apples are an especially big source of ethylene.

3. Every 2-3 days change the water entirely, using warm water (cold water for bulb flowers like daffodils and tulips) and adding preservative with each change. This is a fairly easy process if the flowers are in a vase of water; the whole arrangement can be lifted out, the vase cleaned and refilled, and the arrangement replaced, without disturbing the arrangement. Having someone help you can greatly facilitate this process. If the flowers are in florist foam you will not be able to remove the flowers easily and can only pour out as much water as possible, and then replace the water with preservative.

4. A packet of preservative usually accompanies the bouquet but if you need to use a home preparation try this one:

1 quart of water
1 teaspoon sugar (for food)
1 teaspoon household bleach such as Clorax (to kill the microorganisms that block the cells transporting food and water.)

Copper pennies, aspirin and soda will not be as effective.

5. The second time you change the water recut the stems removing 1-2”. Use sharp clippers or knife so as not to crush or damage the water and food conducting cells. Cut the stems on the diagonal to increase the size of the area of water uptake. If at all possible, cut the stem while they are under water. Stems cut underwater will retain a drop of water on the cut surface that prevents air bubbles from entering the stem and blocking the flow of water to the flowers. This is especially important for roses.

6. Discard wilted flowers or foliage. The vase life of a stem depends on many factors including heredity. Irises, for example, have a short vase life and will probably be among the first flowers to wilt. Carnations, on the other hand, have a very long vase life (up to 3 weeks), and can be a lovely bouquet on their own when the other flowers have died and been discarded. At some point so many flowers will have died that you may have to redo the arrangement but if you like to arrange flowers this can be a great opportunity.

All it takes is a few minutes every couple of days to enjoy a bouquet longer. It is a good investment in time if you love flowers.

Meaning of Roses pointer

Floristry pointer

Recommended Reading:

Flowers: The Book of Floral Design
Tussie-Mussies: The Language of Flowers
The Complete Flower Arranging Book