The old wives tales of flower care

Exploding the myths

Plenty of myths exist about extending the vase life of flowers by adding certain substances to the water. Lemonade, vinegar, bleach and even aspirin are supposed to extend the life of flowers, but do they really work?

The simple answer is no, although in fact the myths are based on an element of scientific fact. For example, lemonade, or more correctly, the sugar in it, encourages flowers to open, whilst bleach will kill bacteria in the water. However, where there's a positive, there's also a negative, with lemonade and the sugar encouraging bacterial growth, and bleach damaging the flowers as well as killing the bacteria. So, 'homemade' remedies should be avoided!

Where possible, the best food for your flowers is the sachet of flower food that is delivered with many bouquets, which have been researched for a number of years to create the correct mix of sugars for food, biocides to kill off nasties and acidifiers to encourage water intake into the flowers. In the absence of flower food, simply changing the water regularly will help. Also, avoid placing flowers next to fruit, as the ethylene gas produced by ageing fruit doesn’t do flowers any good at all.

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Some homemade flower foods to avoid

The metals used to make pennies are among the chemicals needed by a plant to flower. So, you would think that putting a penny in the vase would work – wrong! Pennies are covered in bacteria, which soon multiply in water, so you’re doing more harm than good.

When a flower is cut, nature’s way of repairing the ‘wound’ is to generate a substance that heals it. This substance also promotes ageing or wilting in cut flowers. Aspirin slows the production of this substance. However, with nearly every cut flower stem treated for this before it reaches a florist shop, you’ll be wasting your time.

Bleach will kill bacteria, but it pushes up the pH level of the water, which negates any benefits immediately. .

Lemon juice
Lemon juice does reduce the acidity of tap water, so on the face of it should prolong the life of flowers. However, salt will also increase the browning of foliage and inhibit the water intake through the stems.

Sugar will indeed feed your flowers, but it also speeds up the development of bacteria, so only gives a short-term boost.

Fizzy drinks
Fizzy drinks contain sugar, so avoid if you would like your flowers to last as long as possible.

The research that goes into flower food

The flower food manufacturers invest millions of pounds every year researching the best formulation for flower food.

Vase life tests provide the basis for much of this, with new formulations tested in strictly controlled environments, ensuring temperatures, chemicals in the atmosphere, water quality and much more is consistent. Literally hundreds of bunches can be in the lab at any one time.

Interestingly, plenty of research goes into creating a food that also keeps the flower water clear – so there’s an aesthetic benefit too!

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The YouTube evidence

Handily, one of the leading manufacturers and suppliers of flower food and flower care products, Chrysal, has uploaded a series of videos to YouTube highlighting the differences correct flower food can make. Click here to see for yourself the difference.

Other care tips

A few additional steps will ensure that your flowers last as long as possible:

1. Change the water regularly – flowers love fresh water.

2. When the flowers are delivered by Direct2Florist, recut the stems at an angle to ensure maximum water intake.

3. Keep cut flowers away from fruit and don’t stand on or next to a radiator.

4. Wash vases thoroughly before and after use to kill bacteria.

5. Avoid placing in sunlight or in draughts.

6. Remove any leaves that will be below water level.