If you receive a flower arrangement or a bouquet of roses for Valentine's Day, you may wonder how to take care of them. Even though cut flowers are not attached to the plant anymore, they are still alive. Just like a living plant, they need water. Just like when they were attached to the plant, they will use water faster and wilt quicker if placed in bright sunlight and drafty locations. The cooler they are kept, the longer they will last. That's why they are kept in a refrigerator at the florist shop. Misting them every so often will also help them last longer.
Do not let the cut flowers wilt. If they do, air bubbles trapped in the stem may not let the stems absorb any water. Another reason the stems can't take up any water is when bacteria plug up the cut end. Changing the water daily helps prevent bacteria because of the chlorine in tap water. Commercial floral preservatives also work and quite often come with the bouquet. Check the water daily so that it does not go below the ends of the stems. Many cut flowers will last for two weeks if kept cool and the water is kept fresh.
If your flowers do wilt, it may be possible to revive them. If they have not wilted much, wrap them in a sheet of newspaper so the stem is straight. Stick the stem and paper in a vase filled with water until the stem can stand on its own. If they are wilted a lot, more drastic measures are needed. Submerge the entire stem and flower underwater in a tub large enough that the stem can lie down flat and straight. A half an hour or more may be necessary for results. Warm water should be used on roses, and cool water on tulips, daffodils and irises.
For all cut flowers in a vase, the lower leaves that would be in the water should be removed to prevent bacteria growth. If the flower stems have been out of water for a while, it is a good idea to cut off the bottom inch or so for a cleaner cut. Doing the cut underwater is also beneficial. Make the cut at an angle so the stem won't sit flat on the bottom of the vase, which wouldn't let in as much water.
Flower arrangements can contain many other flowers besides roses. They may include carnations, chrysanthemums, lilies, freesia, ferns, anemones, tulips, daffodils, baby's breath and eucalyptus. These plants may last a few days or a few weeks, so as they die, pluck them out of the arrangement and it will look nice longer.
Several potted flowering plants are given as gifts from Valentine's Day through Easter until Mother's Day. Azaleas, calceolarias, cinerarias, cyclamens and hydrangeas all make nice blooming gift plants. One of the reasons they are all available at this time of year is they grow in the same conditions. They all prefer to have a fluorescent light or a bright light from an east window. A daytime temperature in the 60- to 70-degree F range is best, and a little cooler at night is fine.
Azaleas and hydrangeas are both shrubs that can be set outdoors in the summer but may not survive the winter if planted outside in cool climates. They can be brought in during the winter, where they might re-bloom. I have had gift azaleas last several years when taken out in the summer and brought indoors in the fall. They tend to bloom in the fall, and sometimes again in midwinter. If they are not repotted, they need some fertilizer. Either way, they do tend to fade out over time, as they get fewer leaves and some of the branches die.
Email questions to Jeff Rugg at [email protected] To find out more about Jeff Rugg and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.