Does anything really prolong cut flowers?

redsox_gwAugust 14, 2007

I'm not sure if these are all wive's tales or any of them work. In the past, I've been told some are remedies to prolong cut flower life:

sugary soda




salami (just kidding)

anything else?

Is there anything that really does prolong them?

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floralife ( and supposedly aspirin (this is not a plug for them, I have no commercial interests)

    Bookmark   August 14, 2007 at 6:16PM
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buford(7 NE GA)

warm water instead of ice cold will help open the blooms.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2007 at 6:42PM
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You may want to check out this recent and ongoing thread about this issue.

Here is a link that might be useful: gypsum and vase life

    Bookmark   August 14, 2007 at 7:25PM
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diane_nj 6b/7a

7-Up or Sprite (non diet) works. The citric acid keeps the water clean and the sugar provides a little nutrition. Bleach with sugar has the same properties. Listerine too, but the smell overpowers any fragrance in the blooms. And yes, Floralife or any floral preservative you can get commercially. I use all/any of the above (depending on what I have on hand, usually bleach and sugar) when cutting and preserving roses to exhibit.

In addition, some flowers you have to cut before they open fully, especially the "Austins". Many of the Austins have to be cut just as they open in order to have any hope of having them last more than a day as a cut flower.

When you cut your stems, make sure to have a bucket of water out with you and immediately put the cut ends into the water. You can recut the stems under water and let sit at room temperature for 30 - 60 minutes. When putting the stems into a vase, take off all leaves that will be under the water line, leaves decompose fast and cause bacteria to grow quickly. If you have the room and the patience, you can store your cut flowers in the refrigerator, but you must MUST remove all open/exposed produce, and you want to lightly cover the blooms with a plastic bag (produce bags from supermarket work well).

    Bookmark   August 14, 2007 at 7:32PM
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I don't store them in the fridge but just out of curiousity, what happens if you don't remove open produce?

    Bookmark   August 14, 2007 at 8:20PM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

The ethylene gas in the produce will shorten the life of the flowers.

"Ethylene gas is the ripening agent which occurs naturally in nature. It causes fruits to ripen & decay, vegetables & floral to wilt. Controlling ethylene gas after picking will extend the life cycle of your commodity-allowing them to be held for a much a longer period of time. While refrigeration & humidity slow decay, they don't halt the production of harmful ethylene gas.
Ethylene gas is also used in ripening rooms to color up the fruit then is moved to a regular cold storage room with other produce. Some fruits gassed with ethylene are Bananas, Tomatoes and Avocados. The ethylene gas turns Bananas yellow, Tomatoes red and make Avocados soft and ready to eat...

While ethylene gas is used under controlled conditions as a ripening agent, even small amounts of ethylene gas during shipping and storage causes most fresh produce to deteriorate faster. Automotive emissions, plastics, smoke and fluorescent lights all increase ethylene gas levels. A single propane-powered forklift can cause serious damage in highly ethylene gas-sensitive commodities."

Here is a link that might be useful: ethylene gas

    Bookmark   August 14, 2007 at 8:28PM
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diane_nj 6b/7a

What hoovb said! ;-))

The first two weeks in June and the second and third weeks in September, I usually only have roses, jarred condiments, milk, eggs, yogurt, juice and soda in the fridge!

    Bookmark   August 15, 2007 at 8:49AM
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roseman(Z 8A GA)

Nothing will keep them open forever, unless they are silk...Tee Hee :-)

    Bookmark   August 15, 2007 at 10:50AM
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michaelg(7a NC Mts)

I've been reading about this.

Acid-- pH 3.5-4.5 promotes uptake of water and discourages bacteria somewhat. Citric acid is typically used. You can buy it online for around $2/lb. Lemon or lime juice or diet soda could be used.

Sugar-- provides nourishment for life processes. Roses don't repond as well to sugar as some flowers and too much could be harmful. I saw one experiment where a very weak solution was beneficial, around 1/2 tsp/gallon of sucrose. Some use 1 tsp/qt. Sugar promotes bacterial growth, unfortunately.

Bactericide-- maybe the most important thing, since bacterial debris clogs the plumbing. Otherwise you need to clip stem ends and change the water every day. Bleach at 1/4 tsp/qt (1 ml/l) can be used. It needs to be renewed after a few days. Too much damages the rose.

Aspirin-- slows aging processes but can damage the rose in excess. It is sometimes used in temporary soaks.

Calcium-- slows aging processes and looks very promising in studies. You could try calcium nitrate fertilizer or calcium chloride ice melter at 1/2 to 1 tsp/ gal. Much stronger solutions have been used in temporary soaks. I don't know whether calcium chloride is compatible with bleach; you might get too much chlorine.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2007 at 11:03AM
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Re calcium nitrate - be careful and follow exactly Michael and Mike's measurement recommendations! I made a mistake: jotted down and used 2 tablespoon instead of 2 teaspoon for quart/liter water and I burnt the heck out of the stems and leaves. Needless to say the roses had not more but less vase life than without any additive or conditioner.

I tried aspirin in the past and I didnÂt have very good result probably for the reason Michel mentioned. 1 tablet for a vase was too much. 1/2 tablet was better but still not great.

Michael, how much citric acid should be used? I have a jar of citric acid but I do not want to OD poor roses again.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2007 at 1:21PM
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Sounds like lemon or lime juice would be the easiest. What concentration would you recommend?

    Bookmark   August 15, 2007 at 2:16PM
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michaelg(7a NC Mts)

Redsox, I don't know. Maybe 1 tsp/quart.

Ceterum, I see citric acid used in very small amounts, up to 1/2g/liter which is between 1/4 and 1/2 tsp/gal.

There seems to be a lot of variation in results using sugar in experiments. Some show big benefits for vase life, and others none. It may vary with the rose cultivar. They are not leaving the sugar in the vase water, but pulsing for 10-15 hours in a 3%-10% solution. I guess 10% would be around 3 TB/quart.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2007 at 2:59PM
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I have been most successful by simply making sure to clip the thorns from the stems (allows more water uptake along the stem), clip the roses early morning (not in heat of day), water them the day before clipping and finally, add 1 capful (about a tsp.) of vinegar per gallon of vase water.

Here is a link that might be useful: Perennial And Rose Gardening

    Bookmark   August 15, 2007 at 4:22PM
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diane_nj 6b/7a

I wonder if using diet lemon-lime with a small amount of added sugar would work better than sweetened. I'll have to try it in the next week or so...

    Bookmark   August 15, 2007 at 6:15PM
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I tried asperin, but that didn't work well at all. I bought the 'low dose" asperin and cut it in half, but apparently even that is too much for just a couple of small vases. Even just straight water is better than too much asperin in my experience (my water is a bit on the acidic side, but it also goes thru a water softner - maybe the salt helps?).

Maybe I'll try a drop of lemon juice or vinager in a vase and see how that works.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2007 at 6:43AM
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Hopefully this will go thru-message was rejected a few mins ago (?)

Used to use lemon/lime soda, went to Listerine...then used the little food sachets for my small bouquets (I sell locally for a little extra summer income).
I went to Rosemania's site and finally purchased the gallon sized bottle of Crysal Clear Professional solution...cost maybe $65 (no shpg.) but no shelf life and will take care of about 900 bouquets!

I do what everyone else mentioned, water well before cutting, strip the thorns, recut UNDER water, put in very warm water and let sit in cool place.

:0) Phyl

    Bookmark   August 16, 2007 at 9:22AM
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I really don't think anything you use is worth the effort.
I have tried several of the things posted above and I
think the best thing to do is: through them away and cut
some new ones. I know this may sound like an answer no
one will like but, I really believe this.


    Bookmark   August 16, 2007 at 12:00PM
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michaelg(7a NC Mts)

This sounds like good advice:

Flowers in most arrangements collapse early because they are unable to obtain enough water to keep them looking crisp and fresh. There are a number of ways to ensure that your flowers get enough water:

(1) Recut them under water to ensure that no air gets into the stems.

(2) If you live in a hard water area (you find white deposits in teakettles and on faucets), use demineralized water sold in supermarkets for filling steam irons, to make your vase solutions. Never use softened water in a vase solution as it contains sodium, which is bad for cut flowers.

(3) Use a vase solution which is hot but not uncomfortable (100 degree F).

(4) Use one of the following suggested vase "preservatives."


Flowers are living things, and like us they need food for proper growth and healthy color. Amazingly, you can provide much of what a cut flower needs with one of the following simple vase solutions. They contain acid to improve water flow in flower stems, sugar to help buds open and last longer, and a preservative to reduce growth of bacteria and fungi.

(1) Mix one part of any of the common lemon-lime sodas with three parts of water. Do not use diet drinks or colas. Diet drinks have no sugar and the colas contain too much acid for flowers. Adding 1/4 teaspoon of household bleach (Chlorox or similar) per quart will keep the solution clear.

(2) Put 2 tablespoons of lemon juice or bottled "Real Lemon," 1 tablespoon of sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon of bleach in a quart of warm water. Add another 1/4 teaspoon of bleach to the vase every 4 days.

(3) Use a commercial flower preservative. These are sold in florist shops and supermarkets but may not be as effective as the above recipes for improving flower vase life. However, they are inexpensive and very convenient to use; simply follow the directions on the packet.

--Santa Clara County Ag Extension

    Bookmark   August 16, 2007 at 3:07PM
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jbcarr(7 VA)

Is there scientific evidence to support cutting the stem underwater? Its always mentioned, and not that I doubt it- just more curious than anything.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2007 at 3:46PM
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michaelg(7a NC Mts)

jbc, that's a good question. I haven't seen a trial of it. Sometimes I take roses to work, 20 min without water in the morning cool, and just plonk them in a vase without clipping. They don't do much worse despite the allegedly deadly air bubbles.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2007 at 7:22PM
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canadian_rose(zone 3a)

I agree. Nothing scientific here, but I've done both, and now I just cut the stem vertically up the stalk (more surface area) and just plonk it in with the bleach and sugar. I don't see them lasting any less time.


    Bookmark   August 18, 2007 at 1:35AM
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buford(7 NE GA)

Don't forget that most soda is now made with High Frutcose corn syrup, not sugar. I don't know if that makes a difference to the flowers.

I recently bought some 'gourmet' soda that is made with real cane sugar. You should taste the difference! I now remember how soda used to taste before they changed it.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2007 at 7:56AM
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Cut the flowers early in the morning or late at night.
Put them in very warm water and cut the tip of them off.
Let them set until the water cools. (over night)
This is known as conditioning. Early means early and late
means late. I posted earlier and made a smart remark
but, really this is the only proven method I know. Thats
after 30 years of trying everything else. When I say
proven, there was a very wise person that told me this
and I will not say there are no other methods. Try them
all and see what works best for you.


    Bookmark   August 18, 2007 at 3:03PM
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During hot days, in California, our roses can shatter within 3 days of being picked, but doing this extends their vase life by a day or two:
1. Cutting the blooms in early morn, or after sunset, when it's cooler, and carrying a bucket with 2" of water in it so the stems go in water within 8 seconds. I read an article that said that roses form a callous over the cut end within 8 seconds and to avoid this they must go into water within that time. The author did not supply any scientific documentation to support this occurence, but my roses have remained perkier for longer since I started doing this.
2. Then I recut the stems under water, and also slice up the stems for a distance of 1/4th of an inch, this really makes a difference in extending vase life for roses with slender pedicels, especially Polyantha and Noisette class roses. I also do this when propagating own-root H.T.s and H.P.s
3. Add a tsp. of mouthwash per quart of water, to reduce bacteria,with a 1/2 tsp. sugar. This works better for my roses than bleach.
When I use the mouthwash (my favorite is Scope for this purpose) the cut roses appear fresh, even when I don't change the vase water until the third day.

Perhaps, some of us could do a trial experiment, with all constants identical, using different products, and posting the results.

I could just cut more roses, but it takes quite a bit of effort and time to arrange them. Also, come November there are very few roses in bloom
and I would have every cut bloom last as long as possible.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2007 at 7:17PM
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michaelg(7a NC Mts)

Well, there are any number of scientific experiments that show preservative solutions can extend vase life quite substantially. One thing that seems clear is that measurements matter. In the past I've been guilty of slopping in a glug of this or that, but too much of anything can reduce vase life below that in plain water. I killed some cut flowers a couple of days ago by combining only 1/4 tsp bleach with 1/4 tsp calcium chloride per quart. Too much chlorine, as I suspected it would be.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2007 at 1:46PM
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michaelg(7a NC Mts)

Correction, it was only 1/8 tsp calcium chloride per quart.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2007 at 2:27PM
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Michael, where can one get calcium chloride?

By the way, just occurred to me another panacea magna for extending vase life. H. Kuska once posted an abstract in which Australian and Israeli researchers summarized their finding. Namely, that Viagara extends the vase life of roses. So, pharmacists and doctors who have this stuff, could try it.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2007 at 4:53PM
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michaelg(7a NC Mts)

Ceterum, do you all see ice melter in the stores during winter? It's usually calcium chloride rather than rock salt (sodium chloride). Cheap, handy-sized bags and it dissolves almost instantly, unlike gypsum.

I have a vase going now with calcium chloride and sugar, seems to be doing well, but I don't have a control to check it against.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2007 at 7:14PM
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Ice melter in a coastal town? If there is any I never registered it. But I'll ask around. By the time I'll find it I will not have enough flowers to do a control group. Ten days ago I had very few blooms and those I had I burnt with the OD calcium nitrate.

Right now most of my roses are blooming like crazy; I guess they appreciate that we took the risk and watered them once. (Watering is allowed twice a week between 1 and 4 AM. that is the time frame when I certainly would avoid watering or even step outside into the 90+% humidity) Cl. Peace never bloomed in August nor did Paul Neyron. Like they enjoy this weather. I cut a lot for inside because the flowers fry in two days on the bush. So this would be an excellent time to do an experiment with a control group. I may try calcium nitrate again but with a very small dose.

I gave a pinch of citric acid and a pinch of sugar to the water in every vase.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2007 at 11:13PM
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Something new I just came across. A few drops of Hydrogen
Peroxide. (Makes tap water like rain water). "Great for any plant". Can't hurt to try it I guess. At a buck a bottle, I guess we can all afford it. (If it works). I
am going to try it. If it works out I will share it with
all of you. I bet everyone of us has it at home at this moment.


    Bookmark   August 20, 2007 at 12:57PM
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Something new I just came across. A few drops of Hydrogen
Peroxide. (Makes tap water like rain water). "Great for any plant". Can't hurt to try it I guess. At a buck a bottle, I guess we can all afford it. (If it works). I
am going to try it. If it works out I will share it with
all of you. I bet everyone of us has it at home at this moment.


    Bookmark   August 20, 2007 at 12:58PM
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Pennies ruined the fragrance of my roses. It made them have a stinky metallic smell. I like to use a little soda like sprite in ice water. Floralife or other preservatives work great but are toxic and I don't like to be exposed to them. I like to use antique glasses for vases and I worry that the residue will hurt someone if they use it to drink from accidentally.

Years ago, I heard that someone invented a filter that went over the end of the stem to keep out the bacterias and what nots that cause the stem to decay and not take up water. This wonderful invention was supposedly bought up by the floral industry and kept from the public. Sounds like a fish-story to me. Cutting the stem ends and putting in a fresh vase with new water works very well. A little bleach is said to work well- I have not tried this although I always bleach my vases after every use.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2007 at 2:32PM
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After reading about a hundred articles. There are
a lot of ways and a lot of disagreement among the
"Pros". Here are some common things that most agree on.

1. Recut the flowers at a 45 degree angle. (do not
pinch or squeeze the stem.) Put them in 110 degree
water. No folige under the water.

2. Use a commercial type floral preservative. (No home
concoction will not have everything they need.

3. Keep them in a cool place. Away from lamps,
tv's etc.

4. Always use a clean vase. Should be glass and
never metal.

5. Change the water often.

Roses should last around seven days.

These things are not my ideas. Please be easy with me
on this.


    Bookmark   August 21, 2007 at 9:30AM
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I tried Freshaflora from a company called aquamidas, this seemed to work really well. I did not need to change the water so the food was not wasted and amazingly the water stayed clean!

    Bookmark   May 29, 2008 at 3:34PM
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