Almost there! The very last thing to do before you can sit back and enjoy your fresh flowers for days and days on end is to make sure that they have everything they need to be happy and continue flowering in the vase.
After you have cut your flower stems, be sure to remove the leaves from at least half of the flower stem, with a couple of leaves remaining at the top. The reason for this is two-fold:
- We don’t want any leaves to be under the water level in the vase as this will introduce bacteria and cause your flowers to wilt and degrade prematurely
- Flowers will keep transpiring through their leaves, i.e. they will keep on losing moisture. If you leave too many leaves on the stalk, the leaf surface area is very big, which means a lot of moisture is lost and most likely faster than what the stalk can take up, causing it to wilt.
Hydration and rest
This is the most important step to ensure that your flowers do not wilt. Immediately after cutting and processing, put your flower stems in a clean bucket containing tepid (slightly lukewarm) water and put them aside in the shade for about 4 hours to rest and hydrate before you do anything else with them. After hydration, you can arrange them.
Extra care flowers
It’s no secret that some flowers are more fussy than others, but they more often than not make up for their fussiness with their good looks! Let’s take a look at some of these.
Dirty flowers – some flowers have a tendency to make the water they are standing in murky, even if flower food (see below) is added. You can counter this by adding a few drops of bleach to their vase. Examples are Rudbeckia, Yarrow and Zinnia.
Wimpy drinkers – others are slow drinkers after harvesting, which means they might wilt for a while, but be assured that after a couple of hours or overnight rest, they will be all perked up. Examples are Beebalm, Agrostemma, Dusty miller, Cerinthe and Tickseed.
Short vase life – some flowers have a short vase life and in order to extend their vase life, it is necessary to treat them directly after harvesting. This treatment involves putting the bottom 10cm of their stems into boiling water or using a flame to scorch / seal the bottom of their stems for 7-10 seconds. If using a flame, scorch them until you see the stems change color. Flowers that benefit from this treatment are Cerinthe and Iceland poppies.
Ethylene sensitive – ethylene is a gaseous compound that is important in various biological developmental processes occurring in all plants. Unfortunately for us, one of these aspects is that of flower senescence (the last phase in flower development leading to a flower’s death). The presence of ethylene gas hastens this process of flower senescence causing flowers to wilt prematurely or even unopened flowers to wither and drop from their stem. It is well known that ripening fruit and vegetables gives off ethylene gas, which is why you should never put your flowers in their vicinity. Some plants, however, are more ethylene sensitive than others. Examples of ethylene sensitive flowers are Delphinium and Larkspur.
While your flowers are still growing on their plants, they have uninterrupted access to water and nutrients. Using photosynthesis, plants store food (starch, a carbohydrate) in their leaves, which is why we do not want to remove all the leaves from the flower stalk. Once flowers have been removed, they have been uncoupled from their source of water and food, which means they will now start to convert the stored food into usable sugars. Flowers use this food (to e.g. maintain cellular processes, helping them stay hydrated in the presence of water) and once this food store is depleted, we have to ensure that they receive more food. Luckily we can help them to stay fresh and alive by mimicking the conditions that they are in when they are still growing on their plants, i.e. providing them with continuous access to fresh water and nutrients in a specific environment that discourages bacterial growth. Flower food is made with this goal in mind, providing your flowers with essential food while keeping the water free of organisms. You can generally find flower food at garden stores and your local Agri Mark.
DID YOU KNOW
* If you do not have access to commercial flower food, you can easily make your own at home using household ingredients. In a large measuring jug, add 1L of fresh water and then add 2 tbsp lemon juice, 1 tbsp sugar and 1/2 tsp bleach and mix well (but now vigorously) until the sugar has dissolved.
* The bleach will ensure all organisms are killed, the lemon juice will lower the pH, which helps to inhibit any further bacterial growth and the sugar is the additional food source.
* Check out how we do it here!
And now it is as simple as ensuring that there is enough water for all the flower stems to be covered. If you have added flower food, do not replace the water, but just add more water as needed, which will be more or less every second day.
WATCH OUT FOR
Murky water and/or a foul smelling odor coming from the water in the vase. This means that there is bacteria or other organisms growing in the water and it needs to be changed immediately. If this has happened, take the flowers out, empty the container, wash it properly and fill again with fresh water. Remove any affected leaves and wash off each of the flower stems with a soft sponge. Recut the flower stems, taking off at least 5cm of the stalks and put back into the clean water. Add more flower food if you have any left.
GOAL 2 | KEY TAKEAWAYS
* When cutting your flowers, make sure you have 1) sharp shears and 2) a clean bucket with fresh, tepid water with you.
* After cutting, immediately remove most of the leaves from the flower stem, but not all leaves
* Put your bucket of flowers in the shade for at least 4 hours to rest and hydrate
* Some extra care flowers require additional steps to help them hydrate and increase their vase life
* Following hydration, you can arrange them in a vase and be sure to include some flower food (if not commercial, you can make your own).
We will give you a summarised view of the correct cutting stage and post cutting care requirements of each of the individual flowers soon! In the meantime, happy growing!