I understand that we want to buy flowers, put them in a vase and leave them there to enjoy, but the reality is they need a little maintenance. Let’s walk through the myths, facts, and should-do tips to enjoy your flowers for as long as possible.
Does sugar and bleach really work?
This is the age-old question. There are many tips, tricks and magical potions out there claiming to make flowers last the longest. And yes some do work, and some do not, all depending on the bloom variety, where it came from and its current conditions. There are a lot of variables that go into how long flowers live in a vase, and not many are the same. There isn’t a one-way-for-everything solution.
We’ve all heard, add a penny to the water, or bleach or sugar, or bleach and sugar and yes some of those do work sometimes for some flowers. But what the bleach is really doing is keeping bacteria out of the water and the stems from getting clogged and unable to drink. The sugar is used to create nutrition for the flowers, a carbohydrate, and can definitely benefit a stem, but the nuance of how to use the sugar is not the same stem to stem. Thus, it creates a conundrum: which flower needs which and how much?
Which brings me to what’s actually going on.
How to get your flowers to last
I understand that we want to buy flowers, put them in a vase and leave them there to enjoy, but the reality is they need a little maintenance. To get great results, cut the stems when you get home, put them in fresh water in a cool part of your home, and refresh and recut the water over the course of their life. The refreshing of the water is going to keep the bacteria out, i.e. what the bleach would do, and the snipping of the stems starts the drinking process again, for some stems warm to almost hot water also helps.
Make sure to use a clean vase and if the vase gets cloudy and gross over the course of the flower's life, clean the vase with a natural soap. We use a diluted bleach-water solution and spray that into our buckets after washing to help avoid mildew and bacteria.
Where you buy your blooms from also makes a difference.
Local farmers will process your stems on the farm. With the right natural processes, they will cut at the appropriate time the bloom needs to be harvested, and process them to give you the longest vase life possible. So buying local flowers helps a lot.
We’ve all bought daisies or tulips from the grocery store and they’ve lasted 2 weeks, unfortunately, this is not the standard for most stems. And shouldn’t be used as the baseline. Certain flowers last longer than others and that’s just a fact. But buying a stem that has had less travel time, and more proper care post-harvest will definitely impact the vase life of your flowers.
Should I use flower food?
Yes and no. I personally am in the camp and it's not necessary. It's going to provide biocide (bleach) and sugar which can help, but is not guaranteed for every bloom. Hydrangea benefits from this at times, but there are alternatives as well. Woody stems need to be cut across and then cut up into the stem, giving it the most surface area to drink, they prefer room temperature water and do not like to be in direct sunlight.
No cut flower will last long in a hot room or in direct sunlight, so do yourself a favor and don’t even try it. Natural sugar could be worth trying but there is no need to use flower food packets, which are toxic and unnecessary. As a flower shop owner, we use very little to no flower food and have great success with our blooms. It's about nurturing and maintaining, as any living thing. Refresh and clean the water, cut your flowers day to day and they will last.
Being able to enjoy fresh flowers in your home for as long as they last, whether that's 4 days or 10, is the gift.