Extension Educator, Local Food Systems and Small Farms
Extension Educator, Horticulture
December 23, 2009
Flowers are a favorite way to say, "You are special," or just to perk up any room in the house. However, once cut, flowers start to fade. There are some techniques for extending the beauty of fresh flowers. It does not make much difference if you get flowers from your yard or a florist; the basic care is the same.
For garden grown flowers, cut them in the day. They will be turgid, or filled with water, and less likely to wilt. Take a bucket or container of lukewarm water with you and immediately place the flower stems in the container. Warm water absorbs faster than cold and limits air bubbles in the stems.
When you get ready to place the flowers in a container, re-cut the stems under water. This again allows a fresh cut to absorb the warm water and limits air bubbles in the stem. Some professionals will recommend cutting stems at an angle to help absorb water. A fresh cut, clean container and fresh water are more important.
Strip off all leaves that will be under water. This is a must. Leaves harbor many of the bacteria that cause stems to plug and flowers to wilt faster. Take care not to break the stem.
Place stems in a clean, sanitized container or vase with a warm water preservative solution. Vases can be sterilized with a 10 percent bleach solution. The bleach will kill the bacteria that cause the water to turn murky, smelly and ultimately reduce the life of the flowers.
It is always a good idea to make sure all containers are rinsed with a bleach solution after being used to display flowers. Rinse with warm water afterwards to remove the bleach.
Use a commercially prepared preservative available at most florist shops. The floral preservative makes the water more acidic, which inhibits the evil bacterial growth. If none is available, you can add some clear carbonated soda to the water.
The best way to make sure flowers last is to change the water daily or at least every other day in the container. Every third or fourth day, re-cut the stems to expose fresh water carrying tissues.
Keep flowers out of direct sunlight. Sunlight can encourage bacterial growth. Also, keep flowers away from apples, which will cause them to mature and turn brown quickly. Once the flowers start fading and wilting, remove them from the container and throw them away.
December 18, 2009
Are your houseplants becoming overgrown, leggy, crowded? Do you wish you had more of your favorite varieties? Many kinds of houseplants are easily propagated using simple materials found around your home, states David Robson, University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator, Springfield Center.
A number of techniques can be used to propagate houseplants. Some plants can be increased in number by leaf or stem cuttings; some require division.
A cutting is that part of the plant that can produce roots and develop a new plant. Stem cuttings are made by using a sharp knife to remove 3 or 4 inches of the terminal or end growth just below a node. A node is the place where a leaf grew. Some common plants that can be started this way are the coleus, geranium, ivy, begonia and many of the philodendrons.
Plants that are commonly started using only a small part of a leaf are sansevaria and Rex begonia. Leaf petiole (leaf stem) cuttings are used to start African violets, gloxinias and peperomias. Besides these methods, sansevaria and African violets can be increased by dividing the plants.
A mixture of half sand and half brown peat moss is a good rooting medium for use at home. Some of the artificial soil mixes sold under a variety of trade names in garden centers will work nicely too. Vermiculite and perlite are the most common ones.
Large growing plants such as dumbcane, cut-leaf philodendron, rubber plant, croton and dracaena often lose their lower leaves. They become tall and ungainly. These plants can be restarted by a process called air layering.
Make a one-inch vertical cut through the stem 5 to 7 inches below the lowest leaf. 7 Keep this cut open by inserting a matchstick. Place a large handful of moist sphagnum moss around this portion of the stem, and tie it with string to hold it in place. Then wrap with polyethylene film to make it airtight. Make sure all the moss is under the plastic wrap. Otherwise, the moss will dry out and the plants will not root.
Within a few weeks, roots will begin in develop at the cut. When the roots are about an inch long, remove the plastic and cut the new plant off below the new root system. Then pot the plant in a good, light soil mixture.
Often the remaining lower stem of the parent plant can be kept and will sprout new leaves—sometimes developing into a branched plant rather than a single-stemmed tree.
December 2, 2009