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Cut Flower Arrangement Care

From Ice Cubes to Soda, there are a myriad of home “remedies” for extending the life of your cut flower bouquets in the vase.  In this post we’ll talk a little bit about the preferred method to ensure cut flower longevity.

The first step is to understand the cause of flower wilt.   All flowers are dying when cut from the host plant, it is inevitable.   Floral lovers have gone to great lengths over the past 200 years to master this process in order to create spectacular floral arrangements.  Pr-Refridgeration days, every florist had their own Greenhouse operation in which they grew Carnations, Roses, etc.  The Florist took cuttings as the orders demanded.

stringing-dill road

The original Strange’s Greenhouses at Dill Road with Carnations ready for cutting.

The process from cutting to arrangement is today called “the cold chain.”  The moment the stem is harvested from the original plant, shortly before blooming or at the very beginning of blooming, the stem is placed into a 35 degree Fahrenheit environment to slow the demand of water in the stem and to fight bacteria.  The latter is very important and the root of many variations in cut flower care.

Once a stem enters the cold chain after being cut, the lowest part of the stem begins to harden and seals off the veins of the plant: xylem (up) and phloem (down).  This hardened “plug” section is one reason why much emphasis is placed on the stem length.  To have a statuesque display of Roses, the designer needs at least 18 inches of stem to work with and that is not possible if the cutting was only 12 inches and the “plug” at the end of the stem is 1 inch or more.  This length differs from variety.  Cut flowers will require longer stems while woody ornamental used in design, like willow, can incorporate shorter pieces.

A 45 degree cut on a stem of baker's fern with a very sharp design knife

A 45 degree cut on a stem of baker’s fern with a very sharp design knife

This hard spot is cut with a very sharp knife at a 45 degree angle just prior to the stem being placed into a design or water.  This opens the xylem and phloem back up and allows the stem to drink.  There is less than a minute window between cutting and being placed in water!  This ensures air bubbles do not enter the stem, which would lead eventually do a drooping flower head.  One of the most important factors is keeping the design areas and tools CLEAN.  Imparting bacteria on and around the stems or supplies is the number one way to reduce the longevity of the design and stem.  Our pro-team of designers go to great lengths to ensure surfaces are as clean as possible.  We also focus on ensuring as little foliage as possible falls into the vase or water.

The primary way we do this is by washing buckets that we store the cut flowers in and using an anti-bacterial agent such as Flora-life in our water.  These are the little packets that are sent out with every cut flower arrangement or bouquet, to be used every time fresh water is added to the vase or container.  This halts the growth of bacteria in the water and provides nutrients to the stem.  The sugars in soda provide a small nutrient value to stems, but a purpose designed mixture is much more effective.  Be sure to stop by one of our Florist locations and ask for a few packets of Arrive-A-Alive if you are working on your own floral arrangements at home!


Flora-life brand packets that come with cut flower arrangements.

Bouquets can be deceptively tricky.  There are two main ways to ensure the longevity of a bouquet.  The first is to not cut the stems at the 45 degree until you are just about to place them in a design or vase of water.  The cut taken with this method will depend entirely on how long the stem has been out of water and the type.  The preferred method to ensure bouquet longevity is to use water tubes on every stem or some other means of water application, like Arrive-a-live.  This method affords a smaller cut on the stem prior to design time and some stem varieties may not need to be re-cut.

A water tube keeping this stem alive!

A water tube keeping this stem alive!

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