No matter what flower you give for Valentine's Day, you want it to last, said a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator.
"There are a few suggestions that, if followed, can help you enjoy the beauty of your flowers and the expression of love that comes with them for a much longer time," said James Schuster.
"Start with buying young flowers. Young rose buds have just their outer petals open, show no browning, and on red roses there is no noticeable 'blue blush' showing through the red. The flower head stands straight up. The stem just below the flower is not becoming limp so that the flower head leans to one side."
With carnations, the flowers should not be fully expanded and also display no browning or wilting. Spike flowers like snapdragons and gladiolas should have the top third of the spike with flowers still in bud.
"Daisy-like flowers should have the center look like a smooth, flat-to-roundish button rather than a 'fuzzy' looking button," he said.
"Whether the flowers you want to purchase are cut or potted, always check the age of the flowers. Check for browning and other aging/injury problems and check for wilting. Old flowers, diseased flowers, and wilted flowers have a short life expectancy."
Another consideration that can help flowers last as long as possible is to avoid frost or freeze damaged on them.
"Make sure there is adequate protection on the cut flowers and potted plants," he said. "Since heat rises, an opening at the top of wrapped cut flowers or sleeved potted plants lets the heat out and the cold in. Make sure that the wrapping or sleeve folds over to cover this opening before leaving the store.
"Also, consider how cold your car is and how long it will take you to get home. The paper used to protect your plants is only short-term protection. If the cut flowers or potted plants remain in the cold too long, the flowers will not last as long."
Cut flowers need to be placed in water as soon as possible to reduce the chance of wilting, he added.
"The person receiving cut flowers should cut about one to two inches of the stems under water and, if possible, put into a vase while still under water," he said. "This prevents air bubbles from interfering with the uptake of water.
"Change the water frequently--at least once a day. If a packet of preservative is used, do not use all the preservative on the first day. If no preservative is available, it becomes more important to change the water daily."
Changing the water frequently reduces decay and its foul odor.
"Potted plants should be moist but not wet," he noted. "Keep them cool and in lots of bright light but not direct sunlight."
Pull date: February 28, 2009