Your spectacular prize roses would give the Dowager Countess of Grantham palpitations. Your daisies are the delight of overnight guests. Fresh-cut flowers are the ultimate reward for those hours of mulching, pruning and watering, so make them last. Cut flowers need to chill to exhibit full blooming potential and avoid stem sag and woeful wilting before their time.
Chilly or Warm?
Your flowers may have come from your sunny garden, but they were attached to the plant there, with a continual source of nutrition and water. Once they are cut, temperature is a critical factor in getting them to bloom fully and hang around for a while.
Why Cut Flowers Wilt
Higher temperatures -- even room temperature -- cause flowers to breathe and release moisture more quickly. The water loss results in wilting; stems sag at the neck, petals refuse to unfurl, edges go brown, and the flower has a short, unhappy life.
The higher the temperature, the faster blooms will fade. Even a few degrees makes a difference.
What Perks Them Up
Get cut flowers into cool temperatures as quickly as possible to preserve them. Ideally, place flowers in 32 to 35 degrees Fahrenheit until you are ready to display them.
Stick a bouquet in the refrigerator before an event to ensure it will be fresh and lively longer.
Is It Humid in Here?
Cut flowers thrive in about 90 percent humidity, but they feel just like you do at 100 percent, listless and drooping. Relative humidity plays the same role that temperature does; it lengthens the life of the flower by slowing the process of dehydration and wilting.
Signs of High Humidity
You do want flowers in moist, not dry air, but water droplets forming on the leaves or petals are signs that the humidity is out of balance and too high.
How to Fix It
Allow air to circulate around your flowers, both when they are chilled and when they are sitting on the sideboard or the coffee table, to help any excess moisture evaporate.
Flowers are susceptible to fungus, which reacts opportunistically to excessive humidity with a rapid increase.
A perfect balance of cold temperature and high humidity gives your cut flowers a shot at longevity. But taking a couple of other precautions will increase their odds dramatically.
Ethylene Gas Exposure
Smoking and vehicle exhaust produce ethylene gas, which will cause even climate-controlled blooms to wilt.
- Fresh fruit also produces ethylene gas. If you stick your roses in the fridge to keep them cool until you're ready to display them, don't park them next to any apples or oranges.
- Discourage smoking around your flowers for all the obvious reasons and for flower safety as well.
- Delivery trucks may "gas" your flowers en route, so give that box of cut stems from the florist emergency first-aid as soon as it arrives.
First Aid for Flowers
As soon as you get your flowers inside, here are two things you can do immediately:
- Feed them a florist's preservative, which contains sucrose, acidifiers and a bacteria inhibitor
- Place cut stems immediately in 110-degree Fahrenheit water with sugar dissolved in it.
Aspirin, wine or pennies in the water are no benefit to flowers and could even contaminate them.
Benna Crawford has been a journalist and New York-based writer since 1997. Her work has appeared in USA Today, the San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, and in professional journals and trade publications. Crawford has a degree in theater, is a certified Prana Yoga instructor, and writes about fitness, performing and decorative arts, culture, sports, business and education .