Preserving Cut Flowers

By Marnie Aasheim

Everyone loves the beauty and aroma of freshly cut flowers in their home. But unfortunately these beautiful bouquets soon deteriorate. What many people don't realize is that there are many simple things that can be done to prolong the life of these flowers.

The most important thing is to choose fresh cut flowers that don't have soft or limp blossoms or discolored, drooping foliage. Stems should be cut under water to prevent air bubbles from being formed in the stem. They should be cut at a 45 degree angle to allow the maximum surface area for water uptake by the flower. It is important to use a sharp knife or shears, not a scissors, which might crush the stems and cause damage to the tiny tube-like vessels that carry water.

A clean vase, that is free from any bacteria or algae, should be used. The bacteria and algae shorten the flower's life by attaching to the stem ends and blocking water uptake. Vases can be cleaned by using bleach to wash the inside. Foliage that would fall below the water level in the vase should be removed to eliminate the decay formed by these rotting leaves. This decay reduces the life of the flowers.

Into the clean vase goes warm water (about 45 degrees Celcius). This warm water is used because the warmer the water the faster the water moves into the stems of the flower. Chemically softened water should not be used.

Next, flower preservatives should be added to the water. These preservatives contain sugars needed for survival and disinfectants that prevent growth of bacteria and fungus in the water. Many commercial products are sold on the market, but there are a few recipes for this also as follows:

After adding the flowers, it is important to change the water frequently and keep an eye on the water levels in the vase. When the water is changed, the stems of the flowers should be re-cut also.

To further prolong the flower life, the arrangement should be kept in a cool environment either at all times or when it is not being displayed. The temperature should never go below four degrees Celcius because the flower cells will become damaged at these low temperatures. A refrigerator works well for keeping the arrangement cool.

The flowers should not be placed in drafty locations, near heat sources, or in direct sunlight. These conditions cause the flowers to dry out very quickly.

Lastly, all dead flowers should be removed because they give off small quantities of ethylene gas which diminishes the life of other flowers around the dead flower.

With these simple steps, fresh cut flowers can stay beautiful and fresh for longer, adding aroma and beauty to people's lives.

For more information click on these links below:

Iowa State Horticulture

Flourish-Cut flower food