If you look around town, retail stores and gift shops are overflowing with heart-shaped candies and bouquets of fresh cut flowers. Both can be used to tell that certain someone just how special they are to you. Unfortunately, the flowers given by a sweetheart may not last as long as their love.
However, with these handling tips, you will admire them for weeks to come.
If your flowers arrived without a vase, it is best to cut the bottom two inches off of the stems and place them immediately in room temperature water. If possible, make the cut with a sharp knife or scissors while holding the stems underwater. For cut flowers already in a vase, most florists process and prepare their flowers such that you should not have to re-cut the stems. In fact, more damage than good will be done by trying to remove and re-cut them. It is best to leave well enough alone.
Cut flower arrangements designed in blocks of green florist foam should be watered daily, not just when the foam feels dry. Water will be lost through the cut flowers and through evaporation. To ensure a longer life, it is best if there is water standing in the holding container. Properly cared for, these arrangements may last up to two weeks.
Most florists promote the use of a floral preservative to help prolong the life of cut flowers. The preservatives help provide needed energy to keep flowers looking nice and slows the growth of harmful bacteria in the water. If you are using a preservative to refill the vase solution, always mix as prescribed. If too diluted, it will not kill the bacteria that will grow in the water. If mixed too strong, you waste money and the flowers may be burned. Mixing homemade floral preservatives is not recommended as they do not work well.
Give potted flowering plants as much light as possible. Do not place them in direct sunlight, but bright, indirect light, is best. Provide protection form large temperature fluctuations. This means placing them away from doors that lead outside, in front of heating vents, and on top of the television. Make sure the pot is well-drained so the roots do not stand in water. If the plant is in a plastic or foil pot cover, temporarily remove the covering while you water. This allows excess water to drain from the pot and prevents the roots from drowning. If well cared for, many potted plants can last four weeks or more.
As a final thought, for all flowers you receive, remove the dead flowers immediately. They make the floral display unattractive and can shorten the life of your arrangement. Place the flowers where you can admire them and think of the loved one who gave them to you. Hopefully, they will help brighten these long winter days.
-- Bruce Chladny is horticulture agent at K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County. For more information, call him at 843-7058 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.