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How to make cut flowers last longer

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Flowers are a wonderful addition to any home; a vase of flowers in the room adds elegance but also makes people happier. If you have a garden of flowers waiting to be cut for the vase, have access to a farmers market where flowers are sold, or know a good florist, you may be wondering how to make the flowers last longer after you’ve arranged them in a vase.

You wouldn’t think of Iran of all places, would be researching how to make cut flowers last longer- but there it is- the Department of Horticulture at Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, Iran, has just published their research on using silver nano-particles to make cut flowers last twice as long. Silver has antibiotic properties that keep bacteria from growing on cut flower stems.

The average person might not be able to get silver nano-particles and seeing how much damage we are finding that nano-particles do to the environment, washing them down the drain when you dump the vase isn’t a responsible environmental action anyway. Even florists might do well to skip the nano-particles. Flowers aren’t meant to last forever and if florists add them to vases they might be cutting their own throats if consumers needed to buy flowers less often.

So what can prolong the life of cut flowers outside of adding silver nano-particles? First start with a very clean vase, scrubbed with hot water and soap. Bacteria are the biggest cause of early flower wilt and that awful smelling vase water. Don’t inoculate the water of a new batch of flowers by using a dirty vase. Don’t combine some older flowers that have been in a vase with new ones because you will bring bacteria clinging to the stems.

Fill vases with cold, clean water. If you have “city water” that’s probably ok to use. If you use a water softener at home you should use bottled water. Well water that isn’t softened may be ok- but if it has its own smell or looks bad use bottled water. If you use well water put a drop or two of unscented chlorine bleach in the vase. The bleach helps keep bacteria from growing.

Another choice for filling vases is one part 7-Up or another lemon-lime soda to 3 parts water. Use regular, not diet soda. The citric acid in the soda acidifies the water and inhibits bacterial growth. The sugar in the soda feeds the flowers just a bit. Research has shown that this soda treatment really does extend the vase life of flowers.

If you bought the flowers and you got a little package of “flower food” use it. It’s a combination of a number of things that lower the bacteria count and feed flowers and really does extend vase life.

Always remove all foliage that will be beneath the water in a vase. Every few days dump the water in the vase and refill with clean water or water- pop solution. Keep the vase full to the top with water.

When you cut flowers in the garden you should carry a bucket of water with you to immediately pop the stems into. If you bought the flowers make a fresh cut on each stem before putting them in the vase. Make stem cuts on a slant instead of straight across to expose more xylem tubes which take up water. Some people suggest cutting flower stems under water so no air bubbles get in the stem but this hasn’t be shown to be very effective in most research.

What not to add to vases

Things not to add to flower vases are aspirin tablets or vitamin tablets, (didn’t work in research tests), pennies, (the copper isn’t water soluble in our pennies) plain sugar (increases bacteria), vinegar, (no results in research) or alcohol like vodka or gin, which don’t have any benefit according to research. Never use anti-bacterial soaps in the water, they may cause a shorter life span for cut flowers.

Putting your flower arrangement in the refrigerator at night will prolong its life. Misting flowers once a day seems to help. Keep arrangements out of the sun and away from heat sources. Remove wilted or dead flowers or foliage frequently.

Remember that some flowers just don’t last long in the vase. An open daylily will be gone the next day regardless of what you do, (but daylily buds on a stem may continue to open). Some flowers require special treatment to remain pretty for even a few days. Long lasting cut flowers are roses, Asiatic and oriental lilies, glads, dahlias, Peruvian lilies, daisies, zinnias, mums, carnations, sunflowers, liatris, coreopsis, lavender, salvias, yarrow, phlox, asters, Echinacea, iris, bellflowers, daffodils, strawflowers, coral bells, obedient plant, gaillardia, and veronica.

Even a short lived bouget brings joy but being able to enjoy your beautiful flowers for even longer times is great too. Just a few simple things, clean vase, clean water, no underwater foliage do wonders but you may want to try the other tips too.

Here are some additional articles you may want to read.

How to dry flowers

http://www.examiner.com/article/how-to-dry-flowers

Growing annual flowers

http://www.examiner.com/article/growing-annual-flowers-michigan-gardens

Edible landscaping that provides fall color

http://www.examiner.com/article/edible-landscaping-that-also-provides-fall-color

You can read the authors weekly garden blog at http://gardeninggrannysgardenpages.blogspot.com/

You can contact the author at kimwillis151@gmail.com

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