Flowers can be the perfect accent to a room, particularly in the spring and fall. The perfume that flowers bring, as well as the color they can add, often makes for pleasant atmosphere. However, short of growing flowers inside, the only way to get this result is to cut some flowers and put them in a vase. Cut flowers don't last long, but there are a few simple steps that you can do to extend their decorative effect just a little bit longer.
How long flowers last after being cut is referred to as their vase life. While cut flowers will usually begin to wilt between three and five days after they've been cut if placed in a vase with water, there are many factors involved. The kind of flower, location of the vase and what's added to the water are all factors that determine how long a bouquet remains beautiful.
The best type of flower to cut for maximum shelf life are those which are young and have not yet fully opened their petals. For flowers like roses, though, it's the amount of color that the bud shows before it properly opens. Additionally, flowers should be cut either in the early morning or the late evening, since that's when a flower--or any plant for that matter--contains the maximum amount of water.
The way you cut a flower's stem can also affect its vase life. Cut flower stems with a sharp knife or with pruning shears. A clean cut will leave the stem open to absorb more water, whereas a crushed stem will be like a crushed throat, unable to drink. Additionally, stems should be cut at an angle, as flat stems will sit on the bottom of a vase and not absorb the necessary amount of water.
Before placing a flower into a vase, it's a good idea to trim off lower leaves on the stem which aren't necessary for decoration. This will streamline the water intake so that the flower itself is receiving the nutrients rather than vestigial things like leaves.
Location and Preservatives
Keep vases of flowers out of direct sunlight and in cooler locales. While live flowers need sunlight and warmth, flowers in a vase are dying, and the sun will only make them fade and dry out more quickly. Cooler locales will keep moisture in the flower and preserve it longer. This, combined with changing the water on a daily or bi-daily basis can add greatly to the longevity of a flower's vase life. Additionally, preservatives can be added to the water to increase vase life even further. A good recipe for a homemade preservative is to take 1 tsp. of sugar, 1 tsp. of bleach, 2 tbsp. of lemon or lime juice and mix them all in warm water.
Neal Litherland is an author, blogger and occasional ghostwriter. His experience includes comics, role playing games and a variety of other projects as well. He holds a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from Indiana University, and resides in Northwest Indiana.