Saturday, Apr 21, 2018
One of America's Great Newspapers ~ Toledo, Ohio

Kelly Heidbreder

How to take a short cut to fresher flowers

Nothing says “Congratulations!” “Cheer up!” or “I love you!” like fresh-cut flowers. But why wait for a special occasion to celebrate? Grab a handful for yourself.

When you get the flowers home, give them a fresh cut before putting them in a vase - they will last longer.

“Make a diagonal cut on the ends with the sharp knife while the stem is submerged,” says Jackie McCauley, assistant manager and sales manager at Hill Floral Products, a wholesale flower supplier in downtown Toledo. “Leave the stem under water a few minutes after cutting it so it will draw water up the stem. If you don't cut the stems under water, an air bubble could travel up the stem. That is when your flowers end up with a bent neck.”


Jackie McCauley gives stems a fresh cut under water so that the flowers immediately take in water, not air, and last longer.


Fresh flowers need food as well as water. Follow the directions on the packet of powdered preservative that comes with the flowers. “These preservatives work well and are easy to find at any garden store or florist,” Mrs. McCauley says.

An aspirin or a shot of plain soda also will do the trick. These chemicals keep the feeding tubes in the stem of the flower from closing. The longer the stem takes up water, the longer the flowers will last.

Delphinium and amaryllis have stems that look like a straw. They will last longer if you tip the flower upside down, fill it with water, and plug it with a wad of cotton. “A pipe cleaner also helps draw more water up the stem of the flower and makes it stand straighter,” says Mrs. McCauley.

Some plants, such as Iceland poppies, poinsettia, and hollyhocks, need to be sealed or they will droop. As soon as you cut them, hold the ends of the stems over a flame or dip them into boiling water for a couple of minutes to sear the ends.

Woody plants such as lilac, forsythia, and pussy willow need rougher treatment. Smash their ends with a hammer before putting them in water, or cut the end with a sharp knife. “There are two schools of thought here,” Mrs. McCauley says. “Some people believe you have to crush the ends to get water into the stem. Others say if the end is cut with a sharp utensil, the water will still be able to climb.” Pull off the leaves that would sit under the water. This will keep the water cleaner and help the flowers last longer.

“Roses from a reputable florist can last seven to 10 days. Mini carnations, large carnations, and other flowers can last two or three weeks in a vase if you take good care of them,” Mrs. McCauley says.

Keep the arrangement out of direct sunlight, and away from warm places and heating vents that will make the water evaporate too quickly. “Don't put your flowers on the TV. It may look nice to have them there, but it is too warm,” she says.

Now that you have a beautiful vase of posies, don't forget about them. Change their water every three days. “Look at the water. If it turns cloudy, that is a sign to change the water. Each time, give the stems a fresh cut and more plant food.

Treat yourself to a beautiful bouquet of cut flowers and have fun playing with them at the same time. Next week, we've come up with some fun ways to hold your fresh flowers in place.

Kelly Heidbreder is The Blade's garden writer. E-mail her at

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