Fresh flowers are a great way to brighten up your home, or to gift to a loved one. So it makes sense that you hope to enjoy them for as long as possible, right? Flowers aren't the kind of decorative item you can just plonk in a vase and forget about! The care and handling of fresh cut flowers has a LOT to do with their longevity or "vase life" as we like to say.
Follow these 5 top tips on how to get the longest vase life out of your next bunch of flowers:
1. Treat them Nicely!
You've just purchased a beautiful bunch of flowers from your local florist. You can't wait to get them home to pop into the perfect vase, just after you stop off for a 30 minute appointment. NO! You should NEVER leave fresh flowers in a parked car! Even if it isn't hot, the stuffy environment of an enclosed space will effectively suffocate the flowers and cause them to deteriorate. Even if their stems are in water, they will transpire rapidly through their petals and leaves. Just think, if you wouldn't leave your child or pet in the car, same goes for the flowers. You may not get arrested for leaving your flowers in the car, but they certainly won't last! Similarly, you shouldn't leave flowers out of water in normal conditions for longer than about an hour. The longer they are deprived of water, the shorter their overall vase life will be.
2. Displaying Correctly
You're home now, ready to display your beautiful flowers. If you have purchased an arranged bouquet, we recommend leaving the elastic or tie on the binding point to retain the design. Selecting an appropriate vessel is important for both aesthetic appeal and ensuring longevity. The height of the vase should be at least half the total length of the flower stems, (for balance) and should be filled with water to roughly one third the total length of the stems. This is to ensure that there is enough water to travel up to the tallest tip. It is also essential to display your flowers somewhere they will not be subject to excessive heat, draughts or pollutants (sources of ethylene such as smoke, ripening fruit, or exhaust) all of which will cause flowers to deteriorate rapidly.
3. Trim the Stems
The most important part when putting your flowers in a vase, however, is to trim the stems before placing them in fresh water. Using sharp secateurs or floral snips, trim approximately 1 inch from the ends of the stems on a 45 degree angle, to allow a greater surface area on the stem ends. This allows for more effective absorption, as well as prevents the stems from sitting directly on the bottom of the vase. When flowers are out of water, they start to callous over their stems in an effort to protect themselves from drying out. So if your flowers are out of water for any amount of time, it is good practice to just give them a quick trim when they go back in. You should also remove any foliage from the stems that would sit below the water.
4. Keep It Clean!
It is essential to refresh the vase water at least every second day (trimming the stems again each time of course!) When you do, wash out the entire vase with mild soapy water and a teaspoon of bleach OR vinegar (do NOT mix bleach and vinegar together) to kill any bacteria. You wouldn't like to drink a glass of dirty water, would you? Well flowers don't either! It is essential to keep the vase water crystal clean to prevent flowers ageing from bacterial growth. Plus, it just looks nicer! We've all seen a murky vase slowly brewing a thick layer of scum - not pretty :(
(Extra Tip: Leave a small amount of bleach behind in the vase to slow bacterial growth)
5. Damage Control
Well kind of. Obviously as your fresh flowers age over time, they will gradually deteriorate. Ageing flowers also produce more ethylene which will send the fresher flowers off quicker. Therefore it is best to remove any spent flowers, leaves or stems from an arrangement to prolong the life of the remaining blooms.
Some flower varieties appreciate some extra TLC on top of the care guidelines above. For example:
Hydrangeas: In Greek, 'Hydro' = 'water', and 'angeon' = vessel. The name refers to the plant's need for plenty of water. Therefore, cut stems should not be without water for more than 30mins. Additionally, the flower heads (or 'florets') also absorb water so it is essential to mist the flower heads with fresh water every day to keep them properly hydrated. Even if the flowers become floppy, soaking them in a water bath for approximately 20 minutes can revive them.
Orchids: As orchids are a tropical flower they thrive in humid growing conditions. Therefore the cut flowers appreciate misting every day or, like the hydrangea, a good soak in a water bath if re-hydration is necessary
Sunflowers: Thick, fleshy stems mean thirsty flowers, so keep that vase water level at least half the height of the stems! It also means that the stems are more susceptible to rotting, so refreshing the water every day may be necessary in warm conditions (or you may end up with sunflower soup - yuk!) Adding a preservative (a teaspoon of bleach) to the vase water is a good idea to prevent extra bacterial growth.
Lilies: Lilies are a very thirsty flower, so ensure you keep the vase water topped up as sometimes it can seem they are drinking it before your eyes! As soon as your lilies open, remove the pollen stamens (before they become dusty) to avoid stains. Lilies are also highly toxic to cats, so ensure you either keep them away from your pets or avoid them altogether if you have cats.
Christmas Bush: These flowers absorb just as much moisture through their pretty red flowers as they do through their stems, so Christmas Bush is another flower that loves a misting or soaking. As their stems can be quite woody, it is harder for the water to absorb through them so stripping some of the woody bark from the bottom of the stem can help the water flow more freely. However, this leaves the stems more susceptible to bacterial growth so don't forget to keep that water crystal clean!