Appreciation of flowers is associated with a high culture in society
and we are heartened to see more Americans are buying and growing
more plants and flowers. All the artificial flowers in the world can
not equal the supreme beauty of a single rose bud unfurling its
petals. That is all it takes to cheer up a drab room – a single
blossom and a sprig of green. They are even more
meaningful if they were grown in your backyard or window, although
florist has flowers that will fit into anyone's budget.
Cut flowers are plants
without roots. That means the only food they have is the sugar
stored in the leaves and stems. This sugar is produced during the
daylight hours. That means you make your flowers last longer if you
supply them with extra food. In fact, a rose can be made to last
longer in a vase in your living room, than if it were left on the
If cut flowers are
plants without roots, how does water get up the stem?Top
The cells in the stem
are like a handful of soda straws. As long as the
straw is in a glass of water you can draw water up through it. Take
straws out of the water while sucking and you draw up air. The rose
does the same thing because its demand for water is continuous even
when severed from the mother plant. The big difference is that cells
in the rose stem have "end plates" or small screens that allow water
to pass, but block out the passage of air. A small bubble of air is
formed and trapped at the end of the rose stem when it is cut from
the plant. With the base of the stem blocked with air, water cannot
get up the stem even if you replace that stem in water.
with sodium ions (the "soft"ones).
As the sodium builds up in the soil, it draws the soil particles
together, making it drain poorly. If you use softened water on house
plants, first thoroughly dissolve one half-teaspoon of gypsum
(calcium sulfate) in a gallon of water and apply to your plants two
or three times. Also, avoid distilled water because the lack of salt
in the water pulls normal salts out of the plant cells.
The solution? Make
a new cut. Also use luke warm water in a vase arrangement
because warm water is "thinner" (has fewer air
bubbles) and moves up the stem faster than cold water.
How about soft
water for cut flowers and potted plants?Top
comes up often. We know people who use softened water, and
they say it doesn't affect plants. As you know, most
water-softening systems work by replacing the calcium and
magnesium ions (the "hard" ones)
A myth that needs
debunking is that it is unwise to have cut flowers or plants in a
bedroom or hospital room because they take oxygen out of the night
During the day, plants
give off oxygen necessary for human life. At night, in the absence
of light, they do consume tiny amounts of oxygen, but you should not
worry about it. It would be very difficult to pack enough plants
into a room to lower the oxygen level significantly. It is a far
greater worry to be in a room where several people are smoking,
because smoking produces carbon monoxide.
Another myth is that cut flowers should not be sent to hospital patients because of
dangerousbacteria that may be in the vase water.
A short while ago a research team at the University of Miami Medical
School stated that it had found gram-negative bacteria in
water. The researchers suggested that flowers be kept away from
high-risk patients. Wire services picked this up and flashed it all
over America. David Tapli, professor of epidemiology at the medical
"I don't think there is any danger at all to the average patient in
hospitals or at home. We've no clinical evidence that flowers ever
caused an infection.”
Water and Preservatives:
Are fluoridated and chlorinated water harmful?
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It probably depends on
how concentrated the chlorine is. Household bleach (Sodium
hypochlorite) added to tap water until it's identical with drinking
water, which is injected with chlorine gas, doesn't seem to harm
most plants except violets. We do know that high concentrations of
chlorine will show damage to geraniums, petunias, marigolds, and
kalanchoes. Fortunately, it's easy to avoid chlorine burn. Simply
draw off a pail of water at night and let it
stand until the next day. By that time, the chlorine gas will have
This won't work with fluoridated water, since the fluorine
is not volatile. To prevent injury, put a tablespoon of
ground limestone (for a six-inch pot) around the plant and
water it in. Calcium in the limestone ties up the fluorine,
making it unavailable to plants. Just how damaging chlorine
or fluorine are to cut flowers is not known, but a little of
either doesn't seem to harm them.
Temperature for Keeping Flowers LongerTop
If you want to get more
mileage from cut flowers, keep them as cool as
possible. Flowers at 85 degrees F. respire 45 times faster than at
degrees F., leading to premature aging. Florists know that rapid
removal of heat after cutting is critical to maintain cut flower
quality. They keep floral coolers at 35 degrees F. to 40 degrees F.
You can move your cut flowers to a cool room each night.
Cut Flower FoodTop
When you cut a flower
from the plant, you sever it from its life support
system. And as soon as the cut is made, the flower, like an
(bi-oh-side), a sugar and
an acidifier. Biocides are chemicals that kill the bacteria, yeasts,
and fungi found naturally in vase water. When cut flowers are placed
in plain water, bacteria and yeasts grow astronomically, feeding on
the sap that bleeds from the cut flower stem. It has been shown that
within three hours of placing a freshly cut flower stem in a clean
vase containing water from your kitchen sink there will be 30
million bacteria in the vase! These bacteria plug the tiny stem
tubes that conduct water to the flower. Buds fail to open, necks
bend and leaves wilt as a result. Therefore, all good preservatives
contain biocide. If you don't use a preservative, we recommend
changing the water every two days.
temporary life support system, is in trouble. The components
of the life support system for the cut flower are:
nutrients, sugar, and anti-aging
compound. All these ingredients are dependent on water
because they are soluble. Therefore, you should consider
using a floral preservative in
your vase water.
Floral preservatives ("fresh flower food") are supplied by
many different manufacturers and can be powders, tablets, or
liquid concentrates. They can extend vase life seven days or
more. Nearly all contain similar ingredients - a biocide
Flowers keep best
when cut with a sharp knife and put immediately in water. You may
use florist shears but not scissors. Always make a cut on a slant,
as it exposes more stem surface. Also, remove leaves that will be
under water in the arrangement, but do not remove thorns from roses
- it will shorten their life.
For best results, cut flowers in late afternoon or early evening
when the plant is filled with stored food and flowers are most
Keep in mind that maturity of flowers affects their keeping quality.
Roses, glads, irises, poppies, etc. should be cut in bud stage, but
flowers such as asters, dahlias, zinnias, marigolds, chrysanthemums,
and delphiniums should be well opened.
|When roses and
other flowers wilt fast, blame it on air bubbles (embolism)
in the stem. The bubbles prevent water from going up the
stem and reaching the head of the flower. Make a new
stem-end cut under water in a bowl or large container. After
the new cut is made, a small
droplet of water will cling to the stem end while the flower
is being transferred to the vase. This prevents the bubble
If roses or other cut
flowers wilt as soon as you arrange them, don't think the florist
sold you stale roses. He wouldn't be in business long if he sold you
How Can I Make
Flowers Last Longer?Top
Many things are
used to prolong the life of cut flowers. All have acid. The
acid or acidifier acts like a traffic cop. Getting water to
move through the tiny tubes of cut flowers is not always
easy, especially if the flower has been out of water for
some time, or if water is very "hard" (loaded with lots of
calcium and magnesium). Good "floral foods" have an
acidifier to enable water to move more easily up the cut
stem.Or try “hardening” (or conditioning) your flowers.
Place flowers in warm 100° - 110°F. water for several hours
in a dark room. Why does this work? Since warm water is
“thinner” it travels more quickly up the stem. Warm water
also contains more oxygen than cold water. Protect the heads
from steam. Singeing the lower inch of stem with a candle
Poinsettia blossoms, poppies and dahlias should have stems inserted
in boiling water for 30 seconds, then in warm water.
University of California came out with a recipe for homemade cut
Add one part of lemon-lime soda (not diet) to 3 parts of water and
to each quart of this solution add 1/4 teaspoon of household bleach.
Thereafter add 1/4 teaspoon of bleach after each four days of use.
Here is another similar
homemade cut flower preservative: 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon
juice, 1 tablespoon of white sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon of household
bleach (liquid). Add to 1 quart of water.
An agriculture professor in Texas recommends about two ounces of
Listerine mouthwash per gallon of vase water to extend the life of
cut roses and other cut flowers. Listerine contains, among other
things, sucrose (food for flowers) and a bactericide. Its acidity
promotes quicker uptake of water by the stems.
How about a penny or
aspirin in the water to keep flowers fresh?
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Theoretically, they should work. Copper in a penny is a good
fungicide and the aspirin should make the water a bit more
acidic. But most florists say to keep the penny in your
pocket and save the aspirin for the headache you will
develop if you fail to use clean water and scrub the
Can flower gas cause
ethylene gas (a hormone). Just a small amount of it will
trigger more gas, causing the flower to age very quickly. You also
ethylene in smoke and exhaust fumes. Ripening fruits and vegetables
produce a lot of ethylene, which shortens the life of cut flowers.
That is why we caution against putting flowers near fruits or
vegetables. Carnations and orchids can be ruined by the tiniest
amount of gas liberated by vegetables or fruits. As little as one
part in 500 million is harmful. Potatoes have the same effect as
fruit in releasing gas harmful to flowers. Cut flowers also detect
coal gas and artificial gas, even in the tiniest amounts. Carnations
will go to "sleep" (droop) if your gas burner leaks.
Is it possible to
get a rash handling flowers?
Some people suffer skin rashes from handling flowers. A glycosidic
substance found in tulips and alstroemeria causes a skin problem
known as "tulip fingers". A skin rash, sporotrichosis, can be
contracted from handling sphagnum moss, or even a fungus that
thrives in wet floral storage areas. Some people are allergic to
Queen Ann's lace.Top
If you want to be safe, wear surgical gloves, or coat hands with a
good sealant that provides a protective barrier. Don't let that
you! Some people are allergic to milk, strawberries, bread and a
Can florist flowers
be used in salads?Top
If you grow your own,
yes, but if they are purchased I wouldn't try it. In order to
produce perfect blooms, for florists, the flower crop is treated
with pesticides that aren't safe to eat. Some flowers may also be
conditioned in water that contains a preservative or sprayed with
dye. Keep florist flowers in a vase, not in your salad bowl.
Is there any way to
salvage a "sleeping pompon" mum?Top
The cause of a flower
going to sleep is the lack of oxygen. Try to salvage it this way.
Heat a 5% solution of soda water to 110 degree F. and put the "poms"
in it for four hours. Then replace with room temperature water. If
they don't respond in 24 hours, discard.
Why do tulips often
droop after arranging?Top
Tulip stems grow
after they are cut. The stems of cut tulips may grow as much
as 3 inches in the vase. Therefore, when putting tulips into
arrangements, place them a bit deeper into the vase than
other flowers. You can straighten out drooping tulips this
way: roll them quite strongly in paper, put them in water
and place them in a cool spot for a few hours.
Using Floral FoamsTop
Years ago florists used
to "stuff" containers with chicken wire or evergreen branches to
hold flowers in place. With the floral foams, flowers could be held
in place, allowing good water uptake, thus promoting longevity. But
with evergreen "stuffing", decay would often set in, shortening the
life of flowers.
Before use, always soak the floral "blocks" by letting them
float in a bucket of water. Do not try to speed up the
soaking process by holding the foam under water. This
creates air pockets, resulting in poor water retention.
arranging flowers, make sure the stem bases or ends are in contact
with the foam. If the flower is inserted too deeply, remove it
completely and reinsert the stem, making sure there is no gap
between the foam (or block) and the base of the stem.
Not all floral
foams or blocks are the same. Some may cause a reduction in
vase life, although many excellent brands of floral foams
are on the market. Always use a floral preservative. You can
even soak one of the floral foams (or blocks) in water
containing a preservative for longer life of cut flowers.
Tips For Arranging FlowersTop
- Know your friendly
florist. He or she can make your life more pleasant.
These people have prices and flowers to fit your needs.
- To arrange, don’t
get bogged down by a set of rules.
- Be daring. Today’s
trends is to use flowers in new and innovative ways. Everything
old is new again.
- The shabby (and
chic style) that’s so popular today is easy. Try a few stems of
fresh cut flowers in an old porcelain pitcher, mason jar or
- Cut stems to
various heights. It’s more interesting. Remember, just one or
two sprigs can brighten up a room.
- Arrangers mix
colors. Put brilliant yellows, crimson reds, azure blues,
tangerine, lemon, lime, etc. together.
- Have a focal point
for your arrangement. Usually the brightest flowers are centered
with lighter and smaller flowers added on the outside.
- Don’t cram flowers
in a container. Leave space between each stem. Combine flowers
with fruits and vegetables.
- Add a piece of
green or “filler” to some of the holes to soften the
- Plain and
simple...flowers can bring a smile or dry a tear...for you and
your friend. Get the flower habit.
corsage into a covered refrigerator dish or cellophane bag (tightly
fold over to seal in the moisture) and place the flowers in the
warmest part of the refrigerator. The important thing is to keep out
the air. If you are traveling and there is no refrigerator, sprinkle
cold water on the flowers or place moist cotton over the corsage,
and keep it in the coolest part of the room.
Water spots some flowers, such as sweet peas, orchids, delphiniums
and lily blossoms. Nor should water be sprinkled on camellias. Cold
water hardens the petals pf peonies, roses and gardenias. It is
always safe to place moist cotton over flowers. Don’t expect all
corsages to last the same length of time.
One of the
best ways is with glycerine, known chemically as glycerol, a
by-product of the soap industry. It comes in both a synthetic and
natural form. Natural glycerine comes from animal fat (tallow) and
vegetable oil. Most of the tallow glycerine comes from Mexico, and
most vegetable glycerine has no odor and is a “water white” clear
liquid. Occasionally, tallow glycerine has a yellow or brown
discoloration and often has an odor because it is almost impossible
to remove particles of animal fat during the refining process.
Remove dust from leaves, pound lower ends of stems with a hammer to
split bark and loosen wood. Stand material in a jar containing a
solution of 2/3 water and 1/2 glycerine, so it reaches 3 or 4 inches
up the stems. Allow a week or so for the solution to be absorbed.
Leaves and low-growing plants may be laid in the solution so they
are covered. Glycerine will change the foliage to a darker color,
and it will last indefinitely.
Making Lilac Blooms LastTop
are more disappointing than a vase of lilac blossoms that do
not hold up. A reader writes: “We’ve run a flower shop for many
and have found that lilacs hold up much longer if you remove the
crush the stems ends, and place them in a container of wood alcohol.
them stand in a cool place, out of drafts, for about an hour (or a
little longer if branches are large). Remove and put them in cold
water in a refrigerator overnight.
One of the finest weddings we ever did was with lilacs (white)
this way the day before. Even the bride’s bouquet was made of lilac
blossoms and not a single spray of flowers wilted. The ways these
inhaled alcohol was unbelievable. The branches absorbed almost all
alcohol. We’ve handled blossoms of mock orange, weigela, and apples
same way and with success.”
can dry flowers quickly and easily. You need scissors, a
delicate brush, an ice pick (or knitting needle or toothpick), and
boxes or small glass mixing bowls.
From florist or hobby shops, you can get silica gel, florist wire,
floral tape, and plastic spray or artist protective spray. (When
silica gel crystals turn pink, heat them in the oven a few minutes
until blue color returns.)
The flowers that usually work best are brightly colored, half open,
firm and thin petaled. Yellow retains color well, white may become
dull, dark colors may turn darker. Flowers generally should have 1
inch to 2 inch stems; be kept in a cool place or refrigerator until
use; and be used as soon as possible.
flowers in 2 inches of silica gel in a metal-free container. Leave
3/4 inch free around each flower. Make sure gel has complete contact
with all areas of the flower by lifting petals with a toothpick
while gently sifting silica gel over them. Cover completely. Place
uncovered container in the (microwave) oven. Set timer and heat for
specified minutes. If flowers do not seem completely dry, return to
oven for one minute. Remove container and let set, still covered, at
least one half hour, preferably overnight.
Flowers... No CostTop
who don’t want to wait until spring brings out blossoms on
trees and shrubs can enjoy fresh flowers during the winter, without
spending a cent. Anyone can cut twigs of various flowering shrubs
and make these “dry sticks” burst into masses of flowers long before
their normal blooming time. This is the simplest form of gardening
and pays dividends in beauty and enjoyment. All you have to do is
put the twigs in a jar of water and place the jar in indirect
sunlight at ordinary room temperature. Usually, sprays cut a week or
two after Christmas will bloom two or three weeks later under proper
I need flowers?Top
- A Thank You
- Cheer Me Ups
- Every Day (why
- Get Well
- House Warmings
- Mother’s Day
- Patriotic Days
- St. Patrick’s
facts may vary by region. Please check with your local lawn and
garden dealer if concerned about possible variations.