Keeping Cut Flowers Fresh

By Susan Littlefield

One of the joys of having a flower garden outdoors is being able to bring some of that beauty indoors. Whether you have a cutting garden from which you can harvest armloads of fresh flowers or just a few plants for picking a nosegay or two, the longer the cut flowers stay fresh in the vase, the longer the enjoyment of them.

There is no shortage of suggestions for ways to keep cut flowers fresh, including adding aspirin, bleach, vinegar and sugar to the water in the vase. Some of these recommendations hold up to scientific scrutiny, others turn out to be "horticultural myth." For example, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of sugar and 1/4 teaspoon of bleach in a quart of warm water will help prolong the life of cut flowers, according to University of California Extension specialists, while aspirin and vinegar are rarely effective.

Now some new research suggests that disinfecting your pruners or scissors before and between making cuts to the stems of flowers may keep them fresh longer. The research, which was presented in The Cut Flower Quarterly, Summer 2010 issue, as reported in the July-August issue of Hortideas, was done on gerbera daisies. When the pruners used to cut the stems were disinfected with a 10% bleach solution before using and between cuts, vase life was extended by as much as three days compared to those cut with pruners that were not disinfected. It was also suggested that disinfecting vases before using might keep cut flowers fresher longer.

For more information on The Cut Flower Quarterly, go to: Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers. For more information on extending the life of cut flowers, go to: Master Gardeners.

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