There is a way to keep your Mother’s Day flowers fresher for longer

This story is part of try thisCNET’s collection of simple tips to improve your life fast.

One of my fondest childhood memories is when I went to the farmer’s market and brought home a bouquet of sunflowers. I’ve continued this tradition into adulthood by keeping fresh sunflowers in my apartment, but even after years of buying flowers weekly, I still get sad when the petals get too wilted and brown and fall off, signaling it’s time to throw them away.

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Whether you bought flowers for yourself at the local supermarket or received a special bouquet to celebrate graduation or Mother’s DayDo you want to extend the life of these flowers as long as possible?

I spoke to two experts to gather simple tips that will help buy the freshest flowers and make blooms last longer. I’ll also share common myths gardeners say just don’t work. You can find more tips here pit an avocado without poking it with your hand and how Bake a cake in a cup.

Also read: Best flower delivery for Mother’s Day

What should you watch out for with cut flowers?

You’re in the store and ready to buy flowers for yourself or someone special, but which bouquet should you choose from the dozens at the stall? Believe it or not, this decision can impact the longevity of the flowers you buy.

Joe Guggia, owner of JP Designs Floral based in Santa Maria, California, has been in the floral industry for over 45 years. He told me that many bouquets are shipped from Ecuador or California, so it’s important to examine each stem and leaf closely to make sure you’re not buying flowers that are older or damaged in transit.

Next, after pulling the bushel out of the display, check to make sure the water is clean and the leaves aren’t yellow, blotchy, or droopy. You should also be sure the stems are not slimy or broken. Lucy Bradley, a professor of consumer and community gardening at North Carolina State University, told me to look for flaky gray mold and drooping, damaged petals.

“Extend the life of the vase by choosing flowers that are just beginning to open,” Bradley said. “For roses and other single flowers, choose blossoms that have only one petal unfurled. For gladioli and other spike flowers, choose stems where only the first two or three flowers are open and are still greenish.”

A vase of yellow, orange and white flowers.

Clean water is key to extending the life of your floral arrangement.

David Watsky/CNET

Cut flower tips that actually work

While there are a lot of myths surrounding flower care, Guggia and Bradley have broken down some tricks that are guaranteed to work.

Change the water – and do it often

Adding fresh, lukewarm water to a clean vase is a surefire way to keep flowers healthier for longer.

“The most important thing for people getting vase arrangements is to replace the water as often as possible,” Guggia said. “If they just hold out the whole bunch, pour out the water and fill with fresh water and put back the arrangement that will last them days and days and days.”

Why? Bradley explained that simply draining water will remove any bacteria growing in the vase water that can clog the flower stalk and prevent water absorption.

Cut off the ends

Guggia and Bradley agreed that trimming the stalks of the grapes as soon as you bring them home is key to longevity. But don’t even think about reaching for blunt kitchen scissors!

Bradley said the best practice is to use a sharp knife or scissors to trim flowers to avoid damaging the stem and reducing its ability to absorb water. Wipe the tool down with rubbing alcohol first, then carefully make fresh cuts on all stems at a 45-degree angle at least half an inch from the end of the stem.

Cutting at an angle will result in most of the base of the stem sticking out from the bottom of the vase. It removes clogged tissues that are no longer carrying water to the flower, Bradley said.

Add pennies, but consider the age

You’ve probably heard of the penny method, or perhaps you’ve tried dropping a penny in your vase of water and flowers. But before you rummage around in your purse or jean pocket, you need to know that only pennies minted before 1982 will work. These are the ones with the natural antimicrobial properties that come from copper.

“Originally, pennies contained copper, a fungicide that prevents disease,” Bradley said. “However, pennies are now primarily made up of zinc and are therefore no longer effective.”

Vase of flowers on a table.

Make sure you cut off the stems before putting your flowers back in the water.


Some cut flower tips don’t do this Yes, really work

When it comes to flower care, there is also debate about which methods work and which do not. You may have tried some in the past – no judgment here! However, the experts I spoke to have debunked some of the biggest myths when it comes to keeping cut flowers fresher longer.

Put sugar in the flower vase?

If you were paying attention during a high school science class, you may recall that flowers benefit from the sugars produced by photosynthesis. However, this is mostly true when the flower or leaves are still attached to the plant, so think twice before dumping an entire sprite into your vase water.

Bradley explained that sometimes adding a teaspoon and a half of sugar per liter of water or using half water and half fizzy lemon-lime drink in the vase water can work as plant food to prolong flowering, but neither are as effective as a commercial flower preservatives.

Flower preservatives are those little packets that often come with your floral arrangement. They often contain sucrose and a biocide — an antibacterial agent — that gives energy to the flower, helps the stems hold more water, and prevents bacterial growth.

Does Bleach Help Keep Flowers Fresher?

As the saying goes, a little goes a long way when it comes to bleach. Bradley explained that a few drops of bleach (1 teaspoon per gallon of water) can help kill bacteria and fungi, but adding too much — which is all too easy — will also serve to kill plant cells.

Can vodka, vinegar, or aspirin prolong the life of your buds?

There are many, many tricks online on how to make cut flowers last longer, using vinegar, aspirin, vodka – you name it. And while these methods may work on a case-by-case basis, our experts do not recommend these tricks as they are based on anecdotal evidence rather than scientific evidence.

“Honestly, I wouldn’t do either of those things, as in most cases the arrangement will be a mix of different types of flowers that may not be accepted, whatever that item you put in the water,” Guggia said. “Keeping the water clean is the best.”

Looking for more fun Mother’s Day advice? Check out ours Recommendations for the best Mother’s Day gifts and ours Summary of the best Mother’s Day gifts when you can’t celebrate in person. There is a way to keep your Mother’s Day flowers fresher for longer

Chris Barrese

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