Fernwood Farm NH
fernwood farm

CUT FLOWER CARE

When you receive your fresh flowers, you want to keep them fresh and beautiful as long as possible.  The life of fresh flowers is primarily affected by limited ability to take up water and loss of food supply.  Air or bacteria can easily block the small openings in the vascular (water conducting) system.  Plants continually lose water through their stems, leaves and blooms.  Wilting occurs when the flowers do not take in water as fast as it is used or lost. 
The following seven steps will improve the lifespan of the flowers and foliage. 

1. Start with a clean vase & good quality water~~!
Always use a clean container for cut flower arrangements. One of the largest deterrents to fresh cut flower life is bacterial. Bacteria and fungi are everywhere and are ready to enter the cut surface of the stem and multiply. Prior to actual decay symptoms, cells of the water-transporting tissues can become blocked with microorganisms, inhibiting water uptake.  A plant's root system serves as a filter to limit dirt, micro-organisms and chemicals from entering and blocking the plant's ability to absorb water. When the flower is cut off from its life-sustaining root system, it loses this vital filter. It is important, therefore, to always start with clean water in order to protect and preserve the flower.

Previously used vases may contain bacteria that will quickly multiply and block the water-conducting tubes of the flower stems. Foliage decaying in the water hastens the demise of the flowers by contributing to the bacterial buildup.  When in doubt, wash the container in a solution of 1 part bleach and 9 parts water or run it through your dishwasher.  Rinse thoroughly before adding flowers. 

2. Cut Stems & Remove Foliage
As flowers sit out of water on your ride home, the ends of the stem dry out and the cells die, making it difficult for the flowers to absorb water. By cutting the stems just before placing them in water again, you expose fresh tissue that can suck up the water much more efficiently. When you trim stems when you change the water in the vase a few days later, you remove tissue at the tips that may be breaking down and once again expose fresh tissue that absorbs more water.
Remove foliage below the water line. Foliage decaying in the water hastens the demise of the flowers by contributing to the bacterial buildup.    Decaying leaves make a good medium for bacteria and fungi, which will plug the vascular system causing death.  DO NOT remove all leaves along the stem length, the flowers require the leaves as part of their hydration process.  Always be "gentle" during the removal of leaves, gashes or breaks in the stem surface are "open wounds" where bacteria may enter.

3. Cutting Tools and Techniques
Always use clean, sharp utensils when cutting flowers. Knives, clippers, or shears can be employed. Never use ordinary household scissors. The gauge on scissors is set for paper or fabric, not for flower stems, which are bulkier. Using scissors will crush their vascular systems and prevent proper water uptake. 
Re-cut the flower and foliage stems at an angle.  Remove at least one half to one inch of the stem.  If possible the stem should be held under warm running water when making the cut.  Avoid crushing the stem and therefore the vascular system.   The slanted cut opens more stem area for water absorption and prevents the end of the stem from resting directly on the bottom of the vase impeding water flow. 

4. Water Temperature
Immediately place stems in a container of warm (100 – 110 degree) clean water containing floral preservative.   Warm water molecules move faster than cold water molecules and so can be absorbed by flowers with greater ease. The objective is to get water and nutrients as quickly as possible to the head of the flower.

5.  Use Flower Food
Adding flower food packets that come with packaged flowers is beneficial. This is especially true if you forget and don’t change your flowers’ water regularly.    Preservatives prevent bacterial and fungal growth and contain sugar to feed the flowers and make them last a day or two longer. 
Since we grow organically, we are not allowed to use the commercial floral preservatives.  We make our own flower food by using either Seven-Up or Sprite (must be non-diet for the sugar content).   Mix equal amounts of soda with water.  This provides some food, in the form of sugar, and inhibits bacterial growth. It is worth noting that there are a few flowers that actually do NOT like flower food in the vase. Some of these are: zinnias, sunflowers and glads.

6. Keep your flowers away from heat and bright light
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.  Do not store the flowers near fruit.  Fruits, especially bananas and apples, release ethylene gas that shortens flower life.  Likewise, dying and damaged flowers and leaves emit ethylene and should be discarded as you notice them. 
Besides drawing water from their stems, almost all flowers benefit from a daily mist of water.

For our Brides, we recommend you refrigerate your bouquets and boutonnieres until you are ready to use them.  Store flowers in the coldest place available that is above freezing. Most flowers keep longest at 35 degrees F. Temperatures of 40 to 50 degrees F are most likely to be available and are satisfactory except for long-term storage.

7.  Last but not least ~~ Flowers drink a lot of water~!!
Replenish the water frequently. Change the water entirely every 2-3 days adding more flower food each time and re-cut the stems at least one-half inch. 

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