I hate when flowers wilt and die. I do all that I can to keep them blooming for as long as possible, but I refuse to waste time and money on strange florist rituals that might actually be doing more harm than good. I’ve worked in several flower shops, and have seen my share of strange practices- banging on woody stems of hydrangea with a hammer, piercing the necks of tulips with pins, dunking flower heads in water- what is this, a flower torture chamber? Not to mention liquoring up the flowers with vodka and gin.
In an Introduction to Floral Design class I took years ago, our teacher passed out a fabulous article called “De-myth-tifying Cut Flower Care” written by Terril A. Nell, PhD, who actually heads a flower care research program. Yay for science!
Here are a few flower care myths from Dr. Nell’s article. You can see for yourself by reading the entire article:
1. MYTH: Homemade flower foods- such as mixtures made with water and aspirin, gin or vodka, 7 Up, pennies, and/or bleach- keep flowers fresh.
TRUTH: There’s logic to some of these “flower cocktails”. For example, they say dropping a penny into the vase allows copper to enter the solution, which can extend vase life. But as Dr. Nell points out, the copper in pennies isn’t even soluble. Who knew? People who use vodka or gin as a bacteriacide may be wasting their alcohol- bleach is much cheaper and much more effective in curbing bacterial growths. Or opt for a pre-made flower solution, but be careful to follow the instructions. The wrong proportion of water to solution can be deadly. In that case it’s better to just use clean water and change it often.
2. MYTH: You should smash the ends of woody stems to promote water uptake.
TRUTH: Don’t! Smashed stems = more bacterial growth in the water. Bacteria-laden water can plug up the stems and prevent water from making it up to the flower.
3. MYTH: Soaking birds of paradise heads in warm water will cause the flowers to emerge from the sheaths.
TRUTH: This won’t solve the problem of stubborn birds of paradise that won’t open. Simply cut a slit in the top of the flower and gently pull the flower petals out of the sheath.
4. MYTH: Removing the anthers (those pollen filled nodules that stain everything in sight!) shortens the vase life of lilies and alstromeria.
TRUTH: Nope, removing the anthers has no effect on vase life, but will prevent pesky pollen stains from ruining pristine white dresses! I learned this lesson the hard way when I did my own flowers for my wedding (early on in my floral career mind you!) I made my bridesmaids’ bouquets 2 days before the wedding, and didn’t realize that the anthers on the gloriosa lilies had matured and released pollen after I had made them. The bridesmaids were gracious with me as they tried to remove the bright orange stains on their champagne Vera Wang dresses. Doh! See picture below…
5. MYTH: The ideal way to store tulips is in newspaper, in buckets, in the dark… Keep flowers from blowing open too quickly by piercing them just under the flower.
TRUTH: Wrong! Tulips bend not because of light, but because of gravity. Therefore, storing them in the dark is not necessary. You should actually keep them in their plastic sleeves, upright. If they’re even a bit sideways in the bucket, they will bend. As for the piercing idea, I actually set up an experiment years ago testing this notion. Both I and Dr. Nell agree that this is bogus and doesn’t do anything benefitial for tulips. The best way to keep them from opening is to keep them nice and cold.
6. MYTH: You should snap the ends off of tall line flowers, such as gladiola, tuberrose, and snapdragons to extend vase life.
TRUTH: This doesn’t extend vase life, but may serve an aesthetic purpose. The ends of the tall flowers usually don’t open and can turn brown, so snapping them off may make them look prettier.
Now, I think you should all buy yourselves a little bouquet of flowers today, stick them on your desk or next to your bed, and marvel at how they add sunshine to your day. Everyone deserves fresh flowers once in a while! Just take care of them and don’t do anything bizarre, ok?