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Centerpiece Napa Valley Florist presents: Keep your flowers longer: With Science!

That fresh bouquet is beautiful, but it can’t stay fresh forever. Old wives’ tales abound about how to preserve their beauty. Pennies, aspirin, sugar, soda, vodka… Which of those flowery tales stem from wisdom, and which are just myths? Here at Centerpiece Napa Valley we did a little research to find out the truth.

First of all, no matter where you got your flowers (hopefully from us!), they probably came with a little packet of flower preservative. These packets aren’t just magic or wishful thinking; they work, so use them if you have them. They contain three important things 1- Food for your flowers, usually sugar in the form of dextrose. 2- Acid to lower the pH of the water to be more like the sap in flower stems. 3- An anti-bacterial agent, to stop infections that can spoil your flowers.

However, you might not have saved that packet, orflowers last longerperhaps you took that beautiful wedding centerpiece home with you, or maybe you even picked the flowers yourself. Which of these home remedies actually work? Well, let’s start off with the things you shouldn’t do.

What Doesn’t Work

Pennies. Copper can indeed act as an anti-bacterial chemical, but the copper in a penny, even an old pure copper penny, is not water-soluble. That penny just lurks at the bottom of the vase, doing nothing.

Aspirin. We’re not sure the origin of this myth, but it has been repeatedly tested many times, to no effect. From cut flowers all the way up to full sized Christmas trees (as tested by the MythBusters) aspirin doesn’t do a thing except help the headache you get from looking at wilted flowers.

Vodka. This one is tricky. As a flower or a fruit wilts or ripens, it produces a gas called ethylene, which further speeds up the ripening or wilting. It’s nature’s alarm clock, telling your flowers to stop attracting insects, and start making seeds instead. Don’t forget, every fruit was once a flower! Vodka can inhibit ethylene production, but getting the exact amount just right so that it works, but doesn’t also kill your flowers is very tricky and best done in a lab. So skip it.

What Does Work

Soda. Holy cow! Yes. Soda actually packs a one two punch. It has both sugar for the plant to consume, and it is acidic to lower the pH. Use a solution of about 1/3 clear soda to 2/3 water for good results. If you don’t have any soda, you can make your own version with sugar and lemon.

Bleach. Pennies may not kill the bacteria in the water, but bleach will. Just a few drops in your vase will keep harmful bacteria at bay.

Proper trimming. Flower stems are full of capillaries that act as little straws, drawing up water and nutrients. Tiny air bubbles in those straws can inhibit the flow, so trim the ends of your stems under water and keep them wet at all times. Also trim away any leaves that fall below the water line in your vase. Wet leaves will rot and grow bacteria.

Environment. Keep flowers cool, out of direct sunlight and away from any source of ethylene gas (see Vodka above) such as older flowers, or a bowl of fruit. It might look like a still-life painting if you put flowers near your fruit bowl, but it won’t last as long.

In a Nutshell

Trim your flower stems under water, and keep them wet. Trim away any leaves that might be submerged in the vase. If you have a packet of flower preservative, use it. If not, use a solution of soda, water, and a few drops of bleach. Display your flowers in a cool place, away from direct sun. Then sit back and enjoy! Your flowers will stay beautiful for much longer.

And when you need new, fresh flowers, don’t forget Centerpiece Napa Valley!

Sources: Scientific American, LiveScience, MythBusters


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