Over the last decade in this industry we’ve learned that to the floral customer the only thing more important than the beauty of flowers, is their longevity. Flowers are only worth their price when they bring lasting enjoyment to their recipients. Day in and day our my customers say, “How long will they last?” and “How do I take care of these?” Well, more often, ‘How does SHE take care of these?’ But, our answer is always the same, with a little bit of attention every few days fresh flowers can last weeks, and it’s as simple as re-cutting and changing the water. That’s it. Really. We’ll tell you why it’s just that easy, and a few other hints as well. Whether it’s a romantic bouquet of roses or a basket of wildflowers, with this little bit of know-how and just a few minutes you can extend the life of your fresh flowers too.
Let’s say you just received a fresh flower arrangement, here’s what you should do: Unwrap and discard all packaging. Read the card; get all warm and fuzzy, call to thank the sender! Now, let’s get back to those flowers! Leaving flowers wrapped too long will cause condensation to collect on the petals and foliage, leading to premature spoilage and mold. Mold is gross, not to mention bad for flowers.
Fill a vase or container to the top with cool water. Flowers in vases are often cut at different lengths to achieve a large, showy look. Keep the container filled to the brim to insure all stems have the best chance possible to hydrate. Flowers in other decorative containers are usually arranged in green floral foam that sits inside a clear plastic liner within the decorative container. Fill this inner liner. But do so carefully; not all containers are watertight. Baskets for example don’t hold the overflow water, nor do some metal buckets, etc. Take a peek at the mechanics of the piece, if there isn’t a liner inside then the container must be watertight and should be filled to the top. Whenever possible fill your floral containers over the sink to keep the furniture safe from the possible water damage. Check the arrangement daily and add water as needed.
Now, you should display your fresh arrangement in a cool location, and out of direct sunlight. Whenever possible, flowers should be kept away from heat registers, ceiling fans, TV sets, and refrigerators. The heat and drying air in these locations will cause the water in the container to evaporate quickly and the flowers to dry and wilt rapidly. It’s a good idea to keep fresh flowers away from fruit as well. Fruit produces a natural ethylene gas that puts the flowers to sleep, over-ripens them if you will. Apples are the worst offender. Flowers are beautiful in the kitchen; just keep them far from the fruit bow. (This is also true when putting small personal florals like corsages in the refrigerator with fruit, again, especially apples. Don’t mix these two, even in the fridge.)
Over the first few days the flowers and greenery sitting undisturbed will naturally form some bacteria. And bacteria are the enemy of your fresh arrangements. When flowers are hydrating in fresh, clean water they have an easy time drawing up that water to stay hydrated and healthy. When the liquid in the vase becomes full of bacteria the stems get clogged and cannot draw the water up. It’s like first trying to drink lemonade through a thin straw, but then trying to drink a milkshake through that same straw. Very little makes it to the top. So after a while the flower isn’t properly hydrating and will not last more than a couple of days on the water it already has stored. So the key is to keep that stem drinking by keeping it’s end free and clear of bacteria. On day two or three of the arrangement just do 3 quick and easy steps.
1. Carefully remove all flowers and greenery from container
If your arrangement is in a vase and you are not confident about dismantling the whole thing and then rearranging it, here’s a simple trick: Use a length of string or ribbon to tie the flowers into a bunch. Wrap the string around the flowers just above the lip of the vase and loosely knot the string. Don’t over tighten; you don’t want to break any stems. Remove the flowers as one bunch and lay gently on a clean work surface.
If your arrangement is in a vase and you are comfortable dismantling and redesigning it, changing up the look of your bouquet: Remove each floral stem and place gently on a clean work surface, and then do the same with each stem of greenery.
2. Wash vase, Rinse stems
Pour all of the water out of the container, WASH it, making sure to rinse all soap out. Refill it with clean, cool water. Floral food can be used here as well, but be sure to read the directions on the packet and mix it accordingly. Too much flower food can be a bad thing! Rinse all stems with cold water to wash off excess bacteria. Take a quick look at each stem. If there are dead heads, slimy greenery, or broken brackets remove these troublemakers by carefully cutting or pulling them off.
3. Re-cut each stem and replace into the clean, water filled container.
The re-cutting step is most important. ALL Re-cutting should be done with a sharp knife or floral shears, NEVER with SCISSORS. Scissors pinch the stem closed before cutting. A stem that’s pinched closed won’t draw up any water, so even though it has a fresh cut it’ll still wilt.
If you have kept your arrangement tied together in one bunch; quickly cut 1” from all of the stems, and place the bunch back into water as soon as possible. Floral shears are best for this application. Remove the string and gently fluff the arrangement as needed.
Otherwise, using a sharp knife or floral shears, you should cut 1” from the end of each stem, quickly and cleanly. Draw the knife through the stem, don’t saw at it. Insert the stems immediately into the water. Do not cut all stems at once and leave them laying on your work surface. The ends of the stems will dry up, just as our skin would try to heal itself if it were cut. It’s best to cut one stem, put into water, cut another stem and put into water, and keep repeating until each flower has been replaced
A good rule of thumb for reassembling the arrangement is to start with the greenery, followed by the focal flowers and then the fillers. Traditionally taller stems in the center, shorter to the outside of the container. It’s easiest to use up the biggest headed flowers first, working down to the smallest ones. Be creative and have fun with this part. There is no right or wrong here. Have fun with the design.
As the days go on and you’re continually re-cutting and some blooms are dieing off, the arrangement will keep getting smaller and smaller. Consider changing up the container. Go from one large vase to shorter and shorter ones, or maybe to several smaller vases. You might split the arrangement up into several bud vases and spread the flowers throughout the house. Or, once you’ve got the hang of things change from a vased arrangement to one in floral foam in a keepsake container.
Continue adding water daily and re-cut as discussed above every 3 days or so. A sure sign that the water should be changed and the flowers re-cut is when the water in the vase becomes cloudy or discolored. If you wouldn’t drink from that vase, then the flowers won’t either!
See? That was easy. With just a little attention your fresh flower arrangements should last at least a week and even upwards of 2 weeks or more. Roses aren’t usually known for their extreme longevity but they too can last if you follow theses tips. The absolute longest lasting flowers are mums, carnations, and alstromeria. Try adding some of these to mixed floral arrangements to insure a bouquet with a long vase life.
It’s just as easy to maintain arrangements in floral foam. Start by adding water daily as described above. But every 3 days it is still a good idea to disassemble the arrangement, re-cut the stems and reinsert them into the wet floral foam. The techniques are basically the same as with the vased arrangements. If you are confident remove all of the flowers and the greenery. Flip the green foam over and re secure to the clean plastic liner or container. Add water. Then proceed cutting each stem one by one, starting with the greenery then larger focal flowers, and move your way through to the smaller blooms, inserting each into the foam as you go.
A note about the freezing of flowers:
Often times we get comments from customers who are trying to keep their flowers fresh by putting them in the freezer. Our advice: Don’t do that, Ever! You may as well have just thrown your money out the window. We understand the logic there, but it is absolutely the wrong way to go. Flowers are delicate; they prefer to be chilly, but never frozen. We keep our coolers at the flower shop at about 34 degrees. It’s hovering right above freezing, but
never dips down below 32. We keep a close eye to make sure that doesn’t happen. The cold helps to keep the flowers fresh and discourages the bacteria to grow, just as we would do with our fresh produce at home. But flowers are most definitely different from produce when it comes to freezing them. Sure, summer strawberries from the freezer are still delicious in February, but there is something about the cell structure of flowers that does not bounce back from freezing temperatures. While the blooms are still frozen they are beautiful, but will thaw into a mushy mess. Your best bet is to keep them cool, like in a refrigerator or cool basement. Be careful, though, not to let the fridge blast them with ice-cold air, I have frozen some roses in my fridge, lesson learned. You also need to be sure to keep fresh flowers and even plants, covered when transporting outdoors. In the winter months be sure the products are wrapped in a few layers of paper or plastic. Don’t leave them in unheated garages, or riding around with you in the car all day. Take them straight home, or to the recipient, from the shop. If you run a few errands they have to go indoors with you. Yes, really. Try to plan on transporting flowers when the rest of your daily running around is done.