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5 Farmer-Florist Secrets for Keeping Cut Flowers Looking Fresh

Part of what makes us appreciate a vase of flowers, I think, is the fact that they are so ephemeral, with some blooms lasting less than a week. But whether you’ve gotten them as a gift, purchased your flowers at the farmers market or the supermarket – or better yet, grown them in your own backyard – you’ll want to keep them looking fresh and colorful for as long as possible. Below is a list of five ways that flower farmer-florists like us do just that.

But before we get to the five steps, here is a picture of a Sweet Piedmont bouquet that was left over from the farmer's market. I used the tricks listed below to keep it looking happy and healthy for well over a week (the picture on the right is what the wrapped bouquet (pictured on the left), looked like more than a week after this initial picture was taken).

Five steps for getting your cut flowers to last:

  1. Cut about half an inch (one centimeter) off the bottoms of the flower stems, right before putting them into fresh water. This clean cut allows the “drinking straw” structures within the stem to more efficiently pull water up into the flower, which is what prevents the bloom from wilting. Also, make sure you’re using a cutting tool that is sharp enough – and strong enough – to give you a clean cut. A mangled, crushed end defeats the whole purpose of making a fresh cut, as it will block the flower’s ability to pull water up into the stem.

  2. Use a clean vase. Flower farmers and florists live by the adage: “if you wouldn’t drink out of it, then it’s not clean enough for your flowers.” We adhere to this practice at every step in the production of a Sweet Piedmont bouquet; bucket washing is serious business here on the farm! Keeping your flowers in fresh, clean water is one of the most important steps you can take to keep your blooms looking beautiful, and that means starting with a scrupulously clean vase.

  3. Use the flower food provided with your bouquet. For some reason, I used to horde those little packets of flower food, back when I (gasp!) bought my flowers at the supermarket. Don’t be like me – use the flower food! Those packets contain ingredients that help flowers hold their color and form and are important enough to the longevity of cut flowers that their use is one of the only non-organic practices we allow here on the farm.

  4. Minimize heat and exposure to sunlight. While I'm certainly not suggesting you keep your flowers in a dark room, minimizing their exposure to direct sunlight and high temperatures will prolong their life. You also want to keep them away from that bunch of bananas on the kitchen counter – ripening fruit gives off ethylene, which also causes flowers to age more quickly.

  5. Keep changing the water that your flowers are in. Doing so every day is ideal and can make a big difference. Re-cutting the stems also helps, and be sure to remove any spent blooms, as dead plant material produces the same compound that ripening fruit does.

After following most of these steps (I admit I didn't change the water every single day), the farmers market bouquet was still going strong after more than a week. A couple of the flowers didn't last as long as the others -- that happens -- so I pulled them out. What remained is, as you can see, still lush and beautiful.

It takes a little bit of effort, but by applying these steps you will get the longest life possible out of your cut flowers, so that they can keep brightening and beautifying your home!

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