The Vase Life of Flowers
A flower begins to age as soon as the stem is cut from the plant. Meanwhile, it may travel far and wide and change hands numerous times between grower, wholesaler and rewholesaler until it finally reaches the retail store where we purchase it.
When we pick a stem out of the bucket at the store, there’s no way to know how long ago it was picked. All those involved try to handle the stems with care in order to prolong vase life. But there is a limit on what they can do. After all, flowers are perishable.
As consumers, what can we do about all this? First, be picky about what day you shop. Ask the store what days of the week and the time they usually receive fresh shipments. Plan to buy on the day the stems arrive. Normally, my supermarket will reduce the price for any unsold stems that remain from previous shipments. So you can tell right away that they aren’t fresh. When they are marked down, you know the vase life won’t be the greatest.
Another thing you can do is to always use a floral preservative and change the water frequently in your vases/containers. Also, don’t let the water level drops. By doing these simple things, you can preserve whatever vase life remains for the stems you have purchased.
In addition, I would urge you to practice proper hygiene for your flowers, floral buckets, and tools. The cleaner the better. Any bacteria that are present can affect the vase life.
Once you get the stems home from the store, always recut the ends before you are arrange the flowers. This makes it easier for them to take up the water and sugar they need to look their best.
Bear in mind that room temperature can play a role. Though it may not be true for tropical-like stems, most flowers will last longer at cooler temperatures. In other words, if you keep your house at 75 or 78 degrees Fahrenheit during the winter, you won’t get the same results as I do. I can’t stand a hot house, and keep the thermostat turned down. For that reason, mine will usually last longer.
In general, I suspect that the vase life listed in books and other sources for a particular kind of flower is given for optimal rather than true-to-life situations. Having said that, the vase life can vary not only from one species of plant to another but also from one variety to another within the same species. For example, snapdragons typically may last for about 7 days. But the range for all the tested varieties goes from about 5 days all the way to 18.
Some kinds of stems that we buy are tinted or dyed. A question that often comes up is whether this affects the vase life. In short, the answer is no with one exception. Apparently, dyeing calla lilies does shorten the vase life. In any case, dyeing calla lilies seems to be unnecessary. They come in a good assortment of natural colors from reds and pinks to white. So why even bother?
When buying flowers, we should use common sense and be realistic when it comes to vase life. For example, don’t expect roses that you buy or receive for Valentine’s Day to last long. To prepare for the holiday rush, rose growers begin harvesting weeks and weeks ahead of time. Once these eventually reach the consumer, their vase live can hardly be very long.
If we want to buy flowers with the longest possible vase live, we have some options. One way is to cut out the middle person and buy directly from the grower. Local farmer’s markets are an example. Some websites tout this approach. But you should check to be sure the seller is in fact the grower. Otherwise, the stems may not be any fresher than what you would get elsewhere.
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