There is a whole lot of misleading information out there regarding cut flower care. Doing a quick online search on “ways to keep flowers fresher longer,” results in countless old wives tales or “homemade solutions.”As tempting as it is to follow the advice, those remedies may not be the answer. As floral professionals, we would like to dispel those myths. We understand the importance of flower care. With the proper care and conditions, your flowers can last up to 3 weeks, whereas, without the proper care, your flower may only last 4 or 5 days.
Old wives tale #1:
Add a few drops of bleach to control bacteria in the vase.
There is some basis to this; bleach is an excellent disinfectant. However, maintaining the proper concentration is both essential and difficult. Too little, and it won’t be effective. Too much, and the bleach will kill your flowers. As well, household bleach will raise the pH of the water, lose its effectiveness very quickly, and bleach spills can ruin your clothes. That being said, bleach can be useful! You can make a cleaning solution mixed with some warm water to clean the vases before using them.
Old wives tale #2:
A penny in the vase will control bacteria.
While copper does have antimicrobial properties, pennies have not been made from pure copper since 1942! Even if the penny contains copper, copper does not dissolve easily. You would need copper in solution, usually from copper sulfate. A penny made in the last 69 years probably can’t prevent the bacteria from growing on itself, let alone in a vase!
Old wives tale #3:
An aspirin will extend the life of cut flowers.
Aspirin can slightly adjust the pH down, but it does not contain any sugars or other ingredients to control bacteria.
Old wives tale #4:
Lemon-lime soda or gin is good for cut flowers.
Lemon-lime sodas have a slightly acidic pH and sugars, as well as preservatives. However, sodas are not buffered and the pH may rise after adding to a vase. The preservatives are not the best combination for cut flowers – they are overwhelmed easily and may not last long. The alcohol in gin evaporates rapidly, and gin contains little sugar or pH buffers. Besides, sodas and gin are also more costly than packets or solutions of flower foods.
Old wives tale #5:
Mouthwash is good for a vase of flowers.
Mouthwash does contain some of the right ingredients to control bacteria, but usually not sugars. The pH is probably incorrect, and mouthwashes can be pricey.
Don’t mix and match!
So at this point your probably thinking, OK so I’ll just mix two or three of these wives tales together…wrong! Combining some of these together may actually be worse for the flowers than just plain water!
So what should you add to the water to encourage your cut flowers to last longer? Simple, flower food! You know, that little packet that comes with your flowers! These packets contain a solution that has 3 main components; to control the pH, to feed the flowers and to control the growth of bacteria. All measured out into the correct amount of each.
Now last but not least, here’s one more dirty little secret for you: Ask for more than one packet of flower food at the florist. Most packets of flower food only contain 5 grams, which makes 1 pint of solution, which is not enough for most vases. Most vases hold at least one quart of water! As a consumer, insist upon receiving the proper amount of flower food, even if you have to purchase one or two more packets. Doing so means you can double the life of your flowers!