How to Maintain Cut Flowers Fresh (Almost) Indefinitely

No space can resist the immediate lift that fresh flowers can provide. Flowers—or even green stems, for that matter—can make any room feel cozy and welcoming, whether it’s an enormous arrangement you’re fortunate enough to get or a bunch you picked yourself from Trader Joe’s.

Tossing a wilted bouquet can also be upsetting because it always seems like it was just yesterday when you were fluffing up your ranunculus, which was still unopened. Now their nasty water is filling the kitchen. How, therefore, can one maintain lovely blossoms for longer than a few days?

The owner of Farmgirl Flowers, Christina Stembel, offers her top advice for preserving stems below, along with a recipe for homemade flower food that works similarly to the tiny packets included with bouquets.

1. Use A Dark Vase 

First, Stembel advises using either a ceramic vessel or a dark glass vase. Darker porcelain or glass will prevent sunlight from penetrating the water, speeding up the decomposition of the stems. Mason jars are cute, but choose a darker container if you want to place the bouquet where indirect sunlight would shine.

2. Add homemade flower food.

When we began producing flower food, Stembel recalls, “we used an older recipe from Martha Stewart (the queen!). Since then, we’ve changed a few things to fit our production and the supplies we have on hand. The industrial recipe for Farmgirl consists of 1 gallon of water, four teaspoons of bleach, four teaspoons of vinegar, and four tablespoons of sugar. Reduce that to 1-quart water and one teaspoon each of vinegar, bleach, and sugar for your bouquet.

Remember that fresh-cut flowers receive the maximum benefit from flower food, according to Stembel. The homemade food, however, continues to boost the flowers as they age, and the bleach component also helps combat bacteria. Some people even use Sprite and other clear sodas for sugary flower feeding. If you choose this route, Stembel still advises mixing one part clear soda with three parts water with a small amount of bleach (in the same proportions as previously specified). Use clear soda, such as Sprite, and avoid diet soda because it contains no sugar. Ginger ale or even cola won’t work for this.

3. Daily Stem Trim

Stems that are kept fresh are better able to absorb water. When stems arrive at the house, they should be clipped with clean, sharp clippers by at least half an inch before being dropped back into the water. The stems will start to close up after being sliced. Stembel cautions that delaying placing them in the vase will prevent them from adequately hydrating.

4. Maintain Flowers In A Cool Area

Your flowers won’t age more quickly and won’t build up and harbor bacteria in the vase if you keep them away from excessive temperatures (like extremely hot window sills). Keep flowers away from radiators during the winter as most prefer to grow in cool, shaded areas.

5. Alternate The Water Each Day

Flowers don’t flourish when they drink stagnant, contaminated water, just like people don’t. Daily water changes eradicate any odors associated with rotting plants and wipe out any bacteria flowers may be sitting in.

6. Cut off any dying stems.

Since decaying flowers emit bacteria into the water more quickly than fresh stems, cutting off dead branches will eliminate sources of excessive bacteria. Every time you change the water, you should also stop any leaves that land below the waterline.

7. Scrub the vase

This must be completed after a dying bouquet has been removed to create room for a fresh one. Many individuals overlook the possibility of bacteria in the vase before placing the flowers inside. The flowers will start cleaned with soap and a good rinse in warm water.

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