University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Winter News Article
Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont

Although traditional, red roses aren't the only flowers that say "be mine" this February 14. Tulips (cut or in pots), carnations, iris, fragrant freesia, Peruvian lily, potted azaleas, and orchids are alternative flowers for giving to a special person on St. Valentine's Day.

If you want to give roses, but can't afford the high price tag for long-stemmed reds, why not choose sweetheart or miniature roses. They're less expensive, just as lovely, and are available in the same range of colors including red, pale pink, white, lavender, yellow, and peach. Or, simply give one stem in a bouquet with the small white flowers of some baby’s breath, and a green fern leaf.

When choosing roses, you may want to pay attention to the color as different colors may have different meanings to the recipient.  Red, of course, is the most popular and represents romance and love, while lilac-colored roses are said to represent love at first sight.  Yellow, on the other hand, represents friendship and loyalty.  Pink roses can be used to express gratitude and to say thanks.

Or, select red and white carnations which are less expensive than roses. You may consider a mixed bouquet of red, white, and pink flowers. For example, you could ask your florist to make up a bouquet of white tulips, pink carnations, and a few red roses with sprigs of baby's breath for the finishing touch. Or include a few long-lasting and more specialty flowers such as alstroemeria, freesia, or even cut orchid stems.  If you want a large and exotic bouquet, look for the large tropical red anthurium or ginger. Some florists have walk-in coolers where you can pick your own flower combinations.

If you select your own blooms, choose ones that are just beginning to open. Wrap the flowers well to protect them from the cold on your way home. Once you arrive home, recut the stems and immediately place in warm water with floral preservative. You can find this preservative in small packets at florists, or they may be included in pre-made bouquets.  Flowers will last longest if the water in the vase is changed, with new preservative and stems recut, every 3 or 4 days.  Make sure to remove any leaves that may be under water.

A flowering potted plant will provide enjoyment for many weeks, usually longer than cut flowers.   Potted tulips, azaleas, and cyclamen are all easy to care for and are commonly available in shades of pink, white, and red this time of year.

When buying a potted plant for indoors, look for one with many buds about to open rather than one already in full bloom. Inspect buds, flowers, and undersides of leaves for signs of disease or insect pests.

You may want to enclose a note with your gift to ensure that the plant will be given proper care. Mention that the plant needs to be kept well watered, but not overwatered, and out of drafts.  If the foil or paper covering the pot is not removed to allow adequate drainage, make a hole in the bottom to allow excess water to drain and of course place in a saucer to keep water off of indoor surfaces.  Most cut flowers and potted flowers last longest when given cool nights (55 to 60 degrees F) and warm (65 to 70 degrees F) during the day.       

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