Gardening: Fresh cut flowers

Fresh cut flowers were once considered an extravagance that was only afforded by the wealthy. Flowers are more readily available but they still give the allusion of luxury. For this illusion to be supported the flowers need to look fresh, just picked. To get the most out of a bouquet of flowers they need to be properly maintained in the home or office.

Sanitation plays a large role in the longevity of flowers. Containers from the florist will be new unless the store recycles in which case the container will be sterilized. Containers from home should be washed with soap and water between each use.

To keep the water clean, remove all leaves and flowers that are submerged in water. Plant parts submerged in water for any period of time start to rot.

When changing water, cut a small portion off the bottom of each stem as it opens the xylem tubes which transport moisture upwards to the flowers. The plants protective mechanism tries to seal cut stems to prevent the loss of moisture. In the case of cut flowers it slows and can stop the uptake of moisture.

Changing the water daily is not always practical when dealing with large arrangements. The best one can do is especially with large arrangements is to insure that the floral container is always full of water.

Adding floral food, commercial or homemade to the water prolongs the flowers life as it contains chemicals that slow down bacterial growth and keep the water and stems healthier.

Where the floral display is positioned effects the length of time the flowers will last. Flowers age quicker in the heat, lasting much longer in a cool environment. Cut flowers should never be placed in direct sunlight. Cut flowers, like plants are also sensitive to the cold and should be kept out of drafts.

Different varieties of flowers last longer than others. Always remove flowers that become tattered as they will spoil the overall look of the arrangement. At some point it will be best to remove the healthier flowers, recut their stems and place them in a new container.

Chrysanthemums can last up to a month as a cut flower if their stems are trimmed and given fresh water daily. In less than ideal conditions they should still be attractive after two weeks.

Cut Carnations should look attractive for two to three weeks. As these plants have two leaves on each node, take care to remove all leaves below the water line to keep the water clean.

Orchid flowers are exotic and last up to three weeks. These flowers are used as the focal point and often the only flower in an arrangement.

Lilies stems usually have a number of flowers which open at different times. To keep them fresh longer, remove the stigma which holds the pollen. As lily pollen stains whatever it touches, it a good idea to remove the stigma before it falls.

Gladiolas can easily last two weeks if spent flowers are removed immediately. The dead flowers detract from the arrangement.

Roses have a relatively short life span of approximately a week. If the flowers are caught before they shatter, they can be hung upside down until they dry and be used as dried flowers.

Flowers age faster in a warmer environment. It is best to place them out of direct sunlight in cooler locations.

Take care of the flowers given as a gift or bought to insure that they last longer.

Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist that lives near Rocky Mountain House. She can be reached at

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