Home & Garden

Brighten your day and freshen your home with inexpensive fresh-cut flowers

KENNEWICK -- Love to have fresh flowers in the house but your thumb's brown, not green?

Fresh cut flowers from the florist, nursery, even the grocery store are an easy and inexpensive way to bring the freshness and beauty of a garden indoors -- without all the work.

All flowers have a limited life span after being cut from the parent plant. But you can extend their vase life by paying attention to how they look at the store and then giving them a little TLC at home.

Whether you're buying a bouquet for yourself, or to brighten someone's Mother's Day, buy the freshest-looking flowers you can find.

Look for:

-- Flower buds showing a hint of color and blooms that are not fully opened.

-- Leaves and petals should be upright, not battered or bruised. Avoid any flowers that look wilted or with leaves turning brown.

-- Stalks, where they've been in water, shouldn't feel slimy and the water they're in should be fresh and clean.

Once you've bought your blooms, here are some tips from two cut flower experts:

Get them home quickly

Heat is an enemy of cut flowers. It speeds their journey from blooming to dead so don't leave them sitting in the car for an extended period of time. This holds true for cut flowers in a vase as well as bouquets transported home in cellophane without water.

"You'll want to get them home as soon as possible but don't worry if you have to stop at the gas station or make another stop or two," said Victoria Larson, floral clerk at the Richland Safeway.

They'll last a while out of water, but not if temperatures are really hot.

Trim off the stems

At home, if the bouquet is not in water make the first stop the kitchen or laundry room where you can trim off the bottom inch or so of stem and quickly get them into a bucket of cool water.

"For flowers this is like taking a deep cleansing breath," Larson said.

Trish Misczuk, floral designer at Heritage Home Accents and Floral in Kennewick, explained that when a flower's stem is cut, it seals off within a few minutes preventing the bloom from drawing water up the stems.

Flowers in water do a better job of pulling in water than those stuck into florists foam (Oasis), Misczuk added.

Keep water clean

Use clean containers and change the water every few days.

"If it's murky, it needs changing," Larson said.

Use a floral preservative, which feeds the flowers and helps prevent bacteria from growing in the water. Removing any foliage that will be underwater also helps inhibit bacterial growth, which shortens the life of blooms.

If you don't have floral preservative, even just putting them in fresh water is good, Misczuk said.


Keep the bouquet away from drafts, direct sunlight and heat sources.

"That includes TVs and audio-visual equipment, which both give off heat," Misczuk said.

If you can, put the bouquet in a cooler spot at night, such as a basement or garage.

"You don't want them to freeze but keeping them cooler at night when you're not awake to enjoy them will make them last longer," Misczuk said.

Also, keep bouquets of cut flowers away from ripening fruits, which emit ethylene gas, a substance that keeps buds from opening and shortens the flowers' life.

Mist them

Take the bouquet into the kitchen once or twice a day and mist it with plain, cool water from a spray bottle.

Larson also recommends refreshing bouquets of tulips, daffodils and roses by dropping an ice cube or two into the water in the vase. For potted tulips and daffodils just put an ice cube or two right on the potting soil.

Life-saving techniques

Bouquets of long-lasting flowers, such as roses, can be refreshed by recutting the stems after a few days.

"Pull one bloom out, if the stem end is brown, cut that part off. That helps the bloom pull water up the stem," Misczuk said.

If after a few hours that doesn't work, try putting the freshly trimmed blooms into a sink full of room temperature water. (Or a tub full if the stems are long.)

"Immerse the entire stalk including the bloom," Misczuk said.

Let them soak for a while, then drain and put them back into the vase.

If they're still drooping florists have one last trick in their apron pocket -- a bucket of hot water.

"That's hot from the tap, not boiling. You don't want to cook the blooms," Misczuk cautioned.

Place the blooms into the bucket and let them sit for a while.

"Sometimes this works and the flower will pull up a lot of water and they'll pick up their heads again," Misczuk said.

If not, there's only one thing left to do: Buy a new bouquet, Larson said.

But if the flowers you buy are in good condition and you follow these tips, your bouquet should last a week or more, Larson said.

* Loretto J. Hulse: 509-582-1513; lhulse@tricityherald.com. See more of the Herald's Home & Garden stories at www.tricityhomeandgarden.com.