Boxes of the sweetest milk chocolates, greeting cards expressing thoughts of love and tenderness, bouquets of fresh-cut flowers that brighten the heart and home - these are just a few of the many ways Americans say "I love you" on Valentine's Day. Caring for flowers and plants received on this day will help make the gifts last for weeks. Here are some tips to help the blooms and foliage stay fresh.
l Many times bouquets of fresh-cut flowers arrive without a vase. If so, fill a bucket or sink with 6 to 8 inches of warm water. Place the stems in the water and proceed to cut the bottom 2 inches off while keeping the cut ends submerged. Strip away all of the foliage that remains under water to help prevent the growth of bacteria. After a few moments, move the flowers to a clean vase full of fresh water.
l For cut flowers already in a vase, most florists process and prepare their flowers such that you should not have to recut the stems. In fact, more damage can be done by trying to remove the flowers to recut them than if just left alone and enjoyed.
l 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.
l Some florists promote the use of a flower preservative to help prolong the life of cut flowers. If you use a preservative to fill or top off a vase or cut-flower arrangement, mix it according to the directions.
l If too diluted, it will not kill the bacteria that will grow in the water. If mixed too strongly, you waste money, and the flowers may be burned. Avoid using homemade vase preservatives as they are not as effective as commercial ones.
l Potted flowering plants are treated differently. Provide them with as much light as possible, but not direct sunlight - bright, indirect light is best. Provide protection from 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 arrangements 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.