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Columns

Down the Garden Path: Help Your Valentine’s Flowers Last Longer

Richard Hentschel
Richard Hentschel

Whether you receive or give a gift of cut flowers, it is nice to know how to make them last. A few simple steps will keep your Valentine’s Day blooms fresher, longer.

Clean start

Pick your vase based on the size of the bouquet, be sure to remove any debris from previous arrangements and thoroughly clean the inside of the vase. This prevents the water from quickly being contaminated, which jeopardizes the health and longevity of your cut flowers.

Fill the container with clean, cool water and add the provided packet of floral preservative or a half-cap of regular bleach. Either one will help keep the water free of contamination.

Make the cut

Before you place those flowers in the vase, a new cut needs to be made. Cuts should be made underwater, using a large, clean container filled with water to prevent any air bubbles from entering the stem and disrupting water uptake to the flowers themselves. Do not use the kitchen sink as it is not as clean as you think.

The clean cut will need to remove at least one inch of stem, possibly longer depending on how they fit the vase. It is important not to crush or splinter the stem in the process. Soft stems, such as carnations, can be cut using kitchen shears, while woody stems, such as those of a rose, may need a pair of pruners to get the job done.

Immediately cut or strip away any foliage that would be below the container’s water level, and add the stem to the vase of water. Leaves underwater will die quickly, contaminating the water in the vase.

Keep it fresh

To maximize the beauty of your fresh flowers, change the water every two to three days, removing any wilting flowers and fallen leaves. You can make new cuts to remaining stems and add in any remaining preservative or a new half-cap of bleach to the water.

Flowers vary greatly on how long they will last in an arrangement. There are multiple factors that impact longevity, but there are general estimates that may help when choosing or maintaining a bouquet.

Carnations and mums are hardy and may last up to two weeks, while delicate daffodil and narcissus blooms last about four to eight days. Popular choices of Gerberas and roses have a wider range, lasting between four and 12 days. Another thing to note, red roses seem to look better longer over time than white roses.

As time goes on, consider moving the flowers to a smaller vase to help the arrangement look full even after taking away those faded blooms. Proper care allows more time to enjoy this gift of natural beauty.

• Richard Hentschel is a Horticulture Extension educator with University of Illinois Extension, serving DuPage, Kane and Kendall counties. This column originates on his blog at http://go.illinois.edu/overthegardenfence. You also can stay tuned to more garden and yard updates with “This Week in the Garden” videos at http://www.facebook.com/extensiondkk/videos and the “Green Side Up” podcast at http://go.illinois.edu/greensideup . The Kendall County Master Gardener Help Desk is closed for the season and will resume in spring.

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