What can I put in my water to make my flowers last longer?

At a workshop over the weekend I was reminded of the most frequently asked question I get when teaching floral design. What can I put in my water to make my flowers last longer? My students know cut flowers will not last forever, but most are ready to do what it takes to keep their design masterpiece alive just a little bit longer. What if you dissolve an aspirin in the water? Or drop a copper penny into the bottom of the vase? Is it as simple as that? Several years back when I owned a retail flower shop I decided to test 5 additives people commonly put in water to try to make fresh cut flowers last longer along side clean water with a fresh cut bunch of roses.

-a penny: (the tip I hear people refer to the most): copper allegedly acts as an antibacterial agent

-aspirin: to increase the acidity of the water and keep passageways open for flower to drink

-bleach: to kill bacteria

-sugar and vinegar: to feed flower and mitigate bacteria

-conventional flower food

 

Before placing the roses in their trial vases, I used best processing practices essential for the longevity of all flowers. Start with fresh, undamaged blooms. Remove all greenery from the flower’s stem that will fall bellow the water line of the vase. Prepare a clean vase (very important…make sure your vase has been thoroughly cleaned with a bleach/water solution or scrubbed free of slime and run through a cycle in the dishwasher. If you start with a dirty vase that has left over flower goo, your flowers have absolutely no chance of longevity). Cut at least two inches from the bottom of the stem with a sharp knife at a 45 degree angle. Immediately place cut stem in water. Ok….game on!

 

Here’s what I learned…

The aspirin turned the stem gray and the bloom curled by day 3. Yuck! In all other trials, each solution preformed about the same as plain water (what?! All that work for nothing?!). However, while alive, the bloom and foliage looked much nicer in the flower food trial vase. A week later I tried the trial again, and included purified water along the other 6. I was floored to see that the flowers with the purified water lasted about 2 full days longer. Going about daily business in the flower shop, I forgot about our cute little blooms lined up like soldiers in their test tube trial. About 5 days after all blooms had died (oh yes, this was a sad site…drooping rose heads dry and staring at the floor) someone finally got around to cleaning up the test site. Guess what? The conventional flower food vial was mildly hazy. The purified water was amazingly still clear as a bell with no slime ring. Although the bloom was dead and dried well after the trial period, the leaves and stem were green and firm.   The other 5 containers looked and smelled like vomit. In my opinion, the purified water won the test.

 

So, the take away, avoid aspirin. If you have purified water, use it! I always recommend using conventional flower food per packet directions for those of us too busy to add fresh water daily. I tell all clients and students that the most important thing they can do is keep their vessel filled to the brim with clean water (yes, this is a lot of work, you have to check and add daily…you’d be surprised how much water some flowers drink in a day…and no additive in the world can make up for lack of water:), keep flowers out of hot spots (like in direct sunlight, near heat vent or fireplace), and removed dead flowers from the container as they die. Dead flowers pollute the vase and other flowers with increased bacteria growth.

 

Hoping this helps you arrange amazing!