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John Fulton

John Fulton
Former County Extension Director

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In The Backyard

Horticulture columns and tips done on a timely basis

Extending the Life of Fresh Flowers - by David Robson

Posted by John Fulton -

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.

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