Fresh flowers

How to keep flowers fresh

By BBC Maestro

You’ve created a beautiful floral display or received one as a gift, and naturally, you want to enjoy it for as long as possible. How do you keep flowers from dying once they’ve been cut? In this article, we look at how to keep flowers fresh in their vase.

How to keep flowers fresh in a vase

There are lots of simple things you can do to make fresh flowers last longer. They do involve a bit of work on your part, but it’ll be worth a bit of daily maintenance to keep that display looking gorgeous.

There are three main things to keep in mind when caring for cut flowers: nutrition, environment and bacterial growth. If we get the first two right and prevent the third, our flowers will stay fresher for longer.

Here are ten essential tips for keeping flowers fresh in a vase.

1. Make your own flower food

Like all plants, cut flowers benefit from getting the right nutrition. You can make your own flower food, which you add to the vase and replenish every time you change the water. Recipes for cut flower food include a wide range of ingredients, from lemonade to bleach (perhaps not how you want your display to smell). Flowers like their water acidic, so you can dissolve an aspirin in the vase, while adding a small amount of sugar provides them with a welcome bit of food.

2. Or, use a commercial sachet

If you’re not sure what to put in water for flowers, simply add the food sachet that comes with your bouquet or pick up some special cut flower food at the florist. These have been designed to give the vase flowers everything they need, and won’t make your sitting room smell like a swimming pool. Just bear in mind that if you’re changing the water regularly, you’ll need a good supply of flower food.

3. Remove leaves below the water line

The best way to ensure your vase flowers have a long life is to prevent a build-up of bacteria; rotting leaves are a common cause. Take some time to trim your stems before they go in the vase, carefully removing any leaves below the water line. Wet leaves will quickly rot, leading to bacterial growth.

4. Choose an opaque vase

While a glass looks elegant and shows off the stems, sunlight can actually shorten the lives of cut flowers – so put them in an opaque vase. If your flowers are going to be displayed in a sunny spot, choose a ceramic vase, or at least go for dark-coloured glass. Because your flowers aren’t growing anymore, they don’t need that extra light.

5. Change the vase water daily

To prevent bacterial growth, change the water in the vase regularly – some florists even recommend a daily refresh. Stagnant water will not only smell unpleasant, but it will also shorten the life of your blooms. It’s worth taking a quick picture of your display before you move it so you can recreate it perfectly and have a second vase ready to pop your flowers in for a couple of minutes.

6. Trim the stems regularly

While you’re changing the water, take the opportunity to trim the stems. We all know to give the stems a quick snip when we first buy the flowers; however, giving them a regular trim will extend their lives by making sure they can take in plenty of water and nutrients. The stem will attempt to heal the cut by sealing up again, which prevents water absorption. Use sharp snips for a clean cut and remove the littlest amount you can – you don’t want to end up with too-short stems after a week.

7. Think about their location

You can extend the life of your blooms by displaying them in a cool, shady spot. Direct sunlight or a too-warm location can dry them out or encourage bacterial growth. Watch out for places where the surrounding environment changes, like near a radiator, fan or window. Ideally, your blooms prefer a cool place (unless they’re orchids, which like to be kept warm), so think about this when you’re choosing a location.

8. Remove wilting blooms

Clean water, plenty of food, and snipped stems… so far, your flowers are doing well. Or at least, most of them are… If you notice one of the blooms is drooping, remove it from the display. Not only will this spoil the look of your arrangement, but a dying flower will encourage bacterial growth that will spread to the others. This particular flower has probably died simply because it has a different vase life to the others. When creating a display, find out how long the flowers last in water, then try to use blooms with a similar vase life.

9. Watch out for floral frenemies

Some flowers will actually hasten the end of their vase mates. Daffodils secrete a slimy substance from their stems that’s harmful to other flowers. If you really want a few daffodils in your mixed display, quarantine them in their own vase for a few days before adding them, without re-cutting the stems. Alternatively, just create a beautifully simple display from a host of golden daffodils.

10. Always use a clean vase

When your display has had its day, clean the vase thoroughly. Any traces of bacteria will affect the flowers in future floral arrangements, so it’s good to get into the habit of always washing and disinfecting the vase immediately after use. That way, you’re always ready to create your next beautiful display.

With just a bit of extra work, you can easily extend the life of your flowers.

If you love flowers and would like to know more about the art of floristry, take a look at Simon Lycett’s fascinating BBC Maestro course, Decorating with Flowers.

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