Home & Garden

Prolong beauty of cut flowers

The second week of July should give you cause to pause as you evaluate what plants need feeding and weeding and what plants are doing well on their own.

This is your last chance to fertilize roses because you don’t want to feed them too late in the summer. Midsummer is the time of year when harvesting home-grown cut flowers makes all of that weeding and pleading worth the work.

When you pick roses for indoor enjoyment, make the cut all the way down to where a five-leaflet grouping is growing from the stem. That way, you’ll encourage more roses to form.

Harvesting summer flowers always takes me back to my florist days, and the tricks and tips florists still use to extend the look of cut flowers. Here’s how to make them last longer:

1. Make every cut a slanting cut with a sharp knife or clippers. When you cut stems at an angle, you allow for more surface area on the cut stem to absorb moisture. A slanting cut means the stems won’t rest flat on the bottom of the vase blocking access to water absorption.

2. The best time to cut flowers is in the morning when they are full of moisture. The magic hour of the morning to harvest herbs and vegetables is when the dew has dried but before the sun is directly overhead. Roses, lilies and other flowers like to be cut in the coolness of the early morning after a good night’s rest and are full of moisture.

3. Don’t wait – hydrate. There’s a reason you see flower growers out in the field with buckets of water when they work. Cut flowers should go directly into water immediately after they are cut. Make it a habit to bring water out to the garden when you clip blooms for a vase and bring a bucket in the car when you purchase cut flowers from the farmer’s market.

4. Learn to condition your flowers for longer vase life. Conditioning means you let the cut flower sit neck deep in cool water away from sun and light. After three or four hours, the cut flowers will have absorbed water fully into their stems and then they can be recut and arranged in a vase. If you happen to buy cut flowers at a farmer’s market or grocery store, condition them for a few hours if they were out of water during the trip home. Florists usually condition flowers for you. Wilted flowers can be revitalized by filling a sink or basin with cool water and submerging wilted blossoms, stems, buds and blooms for a few hours.

5. Change the water in the vase often. Would you feel fresh sitting in dirty water? Replacing the water in an arrangement each day can help cut flowers last twice as long. Bacteria that grows in stale water clogs the stems of cut flowers.


Is it true that adding a penny to a vase of flowers will cause them to last longer? R.T., Sumner

False. A penny earned will not save your flowers. The idea is that copper will kill bacteria in the vase water, but pennies have so little copper that this tale needs to be buried back in the vault.

My grandmother insists that adding a can of 7-UP to her cut roses makes them last longer. It seems to work. Is this correct? W.W., Olympia

Grandma knows best. In university studies, it has been proven that the citric acid found in 7-Up helps the stems of cut flowers absorb moisture. Make a floral preservative by using one part lemon-lime clear soda (no diet) to 3 parts water.

When I am cutting roses for a bud vase, will leaving a few leaves on the stem help the cut rose to last longer? P., e-mail

Maybe, and leaving some foliage makes a single rosebud look better in a vase. Be sure to remove foliage that would be underwater.

Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of several books. She can be reached at www.binettigarden.com.

Meet Marianne

11-12:30 July 12 at Auburn Farmer’s Market: She will speak about fresh flower arranging and cut flower growing. Learn how to make bouquets and vase arrangements and get tips to make cut flowers last longer. Call 253-266-2726.

4 p.m. July 16, 17, 18 at the Enumclaw King Country Fair: She’ll share cheap garden tips and how to grow more color and edible plants. Free plants, products and gardening books will be given to audience members.