Debra Lynn Dadd
Caring for Cut Flowers Without Chemicals
The key to caring for cut flowers is to remember that, even when cut, they are still living. Cut flowers drink, breathe, and eat, just as they do when they are connected to their plant. Some flowers, such as tulips, even continue to grow after being placed in a vase.
Most of the little packets of commercial floral preservative that come with cut flowers contain the basic components needed to support the life of cut flowers in their vase environment: a chemical biocide, an acidifier, and sugar.
But you can provide all these requirements and more, using natural methods.
The capacity of a cut flower to drink water freely is the primary determinant of how long it will last.
Plants have vascular systems much like the human cardiovascular system, only much simpler. The plant's vascular cells operate like a set of drinking straws, drawing water up into the leaves and flowers. In order for water to flow freely into the plant, these cells must be kept open.
The type of water you use also makes a difference. Water that is soft (with fewer minerals) and more acidic flows more easily through the vascular cells.
Water also needs to be kept free of the bacteria, yeasts and fungi that feed on the sap that seeps from the cut flower stem. The minute you place a cut flower into a vase of water, bacteria start to grow. Within 3 hours, there can be 30 million bacteria in the vase. These bacteria clog the tiny channels that draw water to the flower.
- Cut stems at an angle with a sharp knife. An angle cut exposes a larger area of the stem for water intake. Cutting with scissors pinches the stem, reducing water intake.
- Immerse stems in water as soon as the cut is made. A newly cut stem begins to scale over immediately, blocking vascular cells.
- Remove any leaves that are below the water line to prevent rotting and ensure a bacteria-free water environment.
- Change the water daily. Trim the stalks a bit each time you change the water to open up the vascular cells. Changing the water regularly also helps control bacteria without using chemical biocides.
- Adding a copper penny to the vase acts as a natural fungacide.
Arrange flowers loosely in the vase, allowing enough room for air to circulate between them.
Use sugar to feed your flowers, or a natural fertilizer, such as PlanTea.
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