By Katie Winslow, University of Minn. Extension
Valentine’s Day is a day of love and gifts. Chocolates and jewelry are common gifts, along with cut flowers. Flowers bring a burst of color, and sometimes, fragrance into your surroundings. If you’re given fresh cut flowers at any time of the year, there are a few tips to keep them beautiful as long as possible.
The lifespan of the flowers is most affected by its ability to draw-up water, and the food supply of the flower. Wilting occurs when the flower is unable to take up enough water to replenish that lost through the stem, leaves, and flower. Air or bacteria can block the small openings in the vascular system from taking in the water.
The first step after receiving flowers that come in a box or sleeve, instead of a vase of water, is to remove any leaves that will be below the water line in the vase you choose. Leaves will rot and deteriorate in the water and make good conditions for bacteria and fungi which in turn will block the vascular system from continuing to uptake water. Use a clean vase, and rinse thoroughly before adding flowers. Fill the vase with warm water (100 degrees) and add the preservative packet if provided. The preservatives are a mixture of microorganism and respiratory inhibitors, and an energy source for the flowers. Home remedies such as adding aspirin or pennies to the water do not prolong the life of the flower.
Recut the flower stems under water before placing and arranging them in the vase. Cut the stems at an angle using a sharp knife or scissors. Using a sharp tool will avoid crushing the vascular system, and cutting at a slant will open more stem area for water absorption and prevent the stem from sitting flush on the bottom of the vase hindering water uptake.
Once you have made the perfect arrangement, place the flowers in a cool location out of direct sunlight, hot spots or heat drafts to prolong their life. At night you may want to place the arrangement in a cool place or even the fridge to extend its life; temperatures must be above 35 degrees. However, flowers and fruit should not be stored together, apples produce ethylene gas that cause aging in flowers. Check the water level daily and replenish as needed. If the water levels become cloudy or leaves fall into the water, empty the vase, rinse, and replace with fresh warm water.
A little care can go a long way with cut flowers, so take care of your Valentine’s Day flowers or any other cut flowers you receive throughout the year to extend your enjoyment. For more information, feel free to call the Stearns County Extension Office at (320) 255-6169.