Flowers bought from a florist or cut in your garden don't have to be here today and gone tomorrow. You can extend their vase life with a little special care.
Cut garden flowers early in the morning or late in the evening, when they are crisp with water. During the heat of the day, they lose water through transpiration faster than their roots can replace it and may be wilted.
Select flowers that are not yet in full bloom or past it, and cut them with a sharp knife or shears. Avoid tearing or smashing the stems since this can interfere with water uptake.
Carry a container of warm water to the garden and place flowers in it immediately after cutting. Cut flower stems exposed to the air tend to get air bubbles in the passages through which water moves. These bubbles may block the uptake of water. Leave flowers in the warm water for about two hours before arranging them so they can take up as much water as they can hold. If you must keep them a while longer, place them in fresh warm water and set them in the refrigerator. Remove excess foliage and cover them with plastic or paper to slow water loss.
Always use a clean container for cut flower arrangements. Previously used vases may contain bacteria that will quickly multiply and block the water-conducting tubes of the flower stems. Remove foliage below the water line. Foliage decaying in the water hastens the demise of the flowers by contributing to the bacterial buildup.
Add a commercial flower preservative or some Seven-Up and a few drops of chlorine bleach to the water if possible. Either of these provides some food, in the form of sugar, and inhibits bacterial growth.
When you buy cut flowers, re-cut the stems, removing 1/2 to 1 inch, and place the flowers in warm water. Then treat them as outlined above.
Any cut flower arrangement will last longer if it's kept cool. Place it where it won't be exposed to direct sun, heat from appliances or electric lights, or hot or cold drafts. If possible, move it to a cool spot or place it in the refrigerator at night. Both heat and moving air take moisture from the flowers at an accelerated rate.
Re-cut stems every third day and change the water, adding more flower preservative each time.
by Don Janssen, UNL Extension Educator