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Neighbors of Kane County

Help flowers last longer this Valentine’s Day

ST. CHARLES, Ill. – Extend the life of your Valentine’s Day this year with help from University of Illinois Extension.

“Whether you receive or give a gift of cut flowers, it is nice to know how to make them last,” said Richard Hentschel, Horticulture Educator with University of Illinois Extension. “A few simple steps will keep your blooms fresher, longer.”

Clean Start

“It is important to remove any debris from previous arrangements and to thoroughly clean the inside of the vase,” said Hentschel. “This prevents the water from quickly being contaminated, which jeopardizes the health and longevity of your cut flowers.”

Fill the container with clean, cool water and add the provided packet of floral preservative or ½ half-cap of regular bleach.

Make the Cut

“Before you place those flowers in the vase, a new cut needs to be made,” said Hentschel. “Cuts actually should be made underwater, using a large clean container filled with water to prevent any air bubbles from entering the stem and disrupting water uptake to the flowers themselves. Do not use the kitchen sink as it is not as clean as you think.”

The clean cut will need to remove at least one inch of stem; possibly longer depending on how they fit the vase.

“It is important not to crush or splinter the stem in the process. Soft stems like carnations are easily cut using kitchen shears, while woody stems, like those of a rose, may need a pair of pruners to get the job done easily,” said Hentschel.

Immediately cut or strip away any foliage that would be below the containers water level, and add the stem to the vase of water, he added. “Leaves underwater will quickly die, contaminating the water in the vase.”

Keep it Fresh

To maximize the beauty of your fresh flowers, change the water every two to three days, remove any wilting flowers and fallen leaves, make new cuts to remaining stems and add in any remaining preservative or a new half-cap of bleach to the water.

“Flowers vary greatly on how long they will last in an arrangement,” Hentschel said. “There are multiple factors that impact longevity, but there are general estimates that may help when choosing or maintaining a bouquet.”

Carnations and mums are hardy and often last up to two weeks, while delicate daffodil and narcissus blooms last about four to eight days. Popular choices of roses and Gerberas have a wider range, lasting between four and twelve days. In addition, red roses seem to look better longer over time than white roses.

“As time goes on, consider moving the flowers to a smaller vase to help the arrangement look full even after taking away those faded blooms,” Hentschel said. “Proper care allows more time to enjoy this gift of natural beauty.”

For more information on University of Illinois Extension programs and services in DuPage, Kane or Kendall County, visit