Stem Care

Simple tips for keeping fresh flowers alive

 By Debbie L. Sklar

Flowers. You love them when someone sends them to you, or you pick a beautiful bouquet from your own garden. But after a few days when they go as limp as a wet noodle, what can you do?

Here are some tips that might allow you to salvage your snapdragons, roses and daises for a little while longer.

At the florist

Spend time picking the freshest flowers possible. Take a quick sniff of the water to determine if the flowers are fresh and have been properly tended.

  • Look for upright and perky flowers with lots of firm buds that are just starting to open. Avoid cut flowers with drooping, discolored leaves and slimy stems.
  • Make sure the florist wraps your flowers to protect the blooms from extreme temperatures and jostling during the ride home.
  • Remove the lower leaves so just the leafless portions of the stems are standing in the water. You’ll limit bacterial growth that can shorten the life of cut flowers.
  • Recut the stems and arrange the blossoms in a clean vase filled with fresh water and a floral preservative.
  • Keep your cut flowers in a cool draft-free location to further extend your enjoyment.

From the garden

  • When harvesting cut flowers, place them in a bucket of water in order to keep them fresh. Cut roses early in the morning, just as the top bud is starting to open. Make the cut on a slight angle slightly above an outward facing five-leaflet leaf. This cutting technique will allow the plant to continue to grow new blooms.
  • For younger plants that may not tolerate this amount of pruning, make a less severe cut (back to a three-leaflet leaf).
  • Remove the lower leaves and recut the stem to the proper vase length on a slight angle. This prevents the stem from sitting square on the bottom of the vase, impeding the uptake of water.
  • Add a floral preservative and keep the vase filled with clean water in order to maximize the lifespan of your cut flowers.
  • Perk up droopy roses by submerging them for 30 minutes, stem and all, in warm water.

Flowers — purchased or straight from your garden — can create an ambience of good cheer and beauty in any space.

Source: Gardening expert Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience and has written more than 20 gardening books.