University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Anytime Article


Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor

Have you ever thought about buying flowers, such as for Valentine's Day or other special occasions, but don't because they last so short a time?  Perhaps the problem is how you treat them.  Proper care and handling of roses, daffodils, chrysanthemums, and other cut flowers can add hours and even days to their life.

The key to successful flower care and long life begins before you buy them.  Many cut flowers are grown in distant lands and flown to your store via various brokers and flower dealers.  So the fresher you can get the flowers the better.  This is the reason many people like to buy directly from growers or at farmer's markets during the summer.

Such suppliers obviously aren't an option this time of the year, so look for the freshest flowers possible.   These are often from florists, where you may pay more but may get double the life or more of the flowers.  Or buy from markets that have fast turnover, so thus, always have fresh products.

Taking a peek at the water the flowers are in is one way to assess the freshness of the blooms. Is the water clean?  Dirty water may mean that the flowers are more than a few days old. Leaves and blossoms that are "off-color" may indicate disease.

Check to see if any leaves are below the water level. They shouldn't be.  You also want to avoid flowers that are not in water. Finally, choose flowers at the proper stage of bloom.  Those with buds that are just opening will buds last the longest.  Wide-open flowers may look nice now, but will be gone in a couple days.

If the weather is cold, keep flowers covered or wrapped in paper on the way home from the store to prevent them from freezing.  Don't leave them out in a cold car for very long.

Once home, cut the flower stems under water.  A freshly cut stem absorbs water freely.  Use a sharp knife or sharp shears and cut either on a slant or straight across.  Remove at least one-half inch of stem to expose a fresh surface.

Remove excess foliage and any leaves that will be below the water line.  Excess foliage increases water loss.  Submerged foliage decays and hastens cut flower fading.

Warm water moves into the stem faster and more easily than cold water, so place stems in water about 110 degrees F.  Be sure to use a clean container.

Adding a commercial flower food to the water lengthens the life of flowers.  That's because these foods combine sugars, acidifiers, and a mild fungicide to prevent diseases from growing in the water.

Avoid excessive heat.  Don't place flowers in direct sunlight, over a radiator, on a wood stove or television set, or in a draft.  Heat reduces the life of flowers.  Warm or moving air takes water from flowers faster than it is absorbed through the stems.

Double the life of your flowers by placing them in a cold room at night or when you are not at home.  Most flowers benefit from temperatures as low as 35 degrees F with the exception of orchids and gladiolus, which require warmer temperatures.

Finally, do not mix flowers with fruit or vegetables in an arrangement.  Both fruits and vegetables give off ethylene gas that shortens flower life. This is also the reason you should not place flowers in the refrigerator overnight.

Want to add hours to your flowers?  Then remember that if harvested and transported properly, bought fresh, and treated properly many flowers may last up to two weeks depending on the variety.

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