Is it true adding aspirin to the water prolongs the life of florist flowers, or is it an old wives’ tale? I’m never quick to dismiss old wives’ tales, because some of the best gardeners I’ve known have been old wives.
Other questionable home remedies for keeping flowers fresh include a shot of vodka, a smidgen of wine, a bit of vinegar or a dose of 7-Up. Let’s do some investigative reporting to discover what works and what doesn’t.
I looked to the Universities of Minnesota, Illinois and California for advice. Here’s a summary of their recommendations for coaxing fresh-cut flowers to last their longest:
• Seemingly small details have huge impacts on fresh flower longevity. Wash vases in hot soapy water to discourage fungi and bacteria that clog flower stems and block water uptake.
• If flowers are purchased in a loose bunch, rather than in a water-filled container, “condition” them by cutting one to two inches from stems on a slant, preferably under water to prevent air bubbles from entering the cut surface. Place in a container of 110-degree F. water (about bath water temperature) to which floral preservative has been added. Keep in a cool location for two hours until the water cools. Flowers take up almost as much water during this brief period as they do during their entire remaining lifespan.
• Floral preservatives added to the water can double the longevity of cut flowers in loose bunches and arrangements.
• Most florists sell flowers with a small packet of preservative included. Follow directions, but most packets are mixed with one quart of warm water and stirred.
• University research has developed several homemade recipes that are as effective as commercial preservatives. Recipe 1: Combine 2 tablespoons fresh or bottled lemon juice with 1 tablespoon sugar and ¼ teaspoon bleach in 1 quart of water. Add ¼ teaspoon bleach to the vase every 4 days. Recipe 2: Combine 2 cups non-diet, non-cola soda such as Sprite or 7-Up with ½ teaspoon bleach and 2 cups of water.
• Aspirin has been extensively tested and has been shown repeatedly to offer no benefit in flower longevity.
• Vodka has been widely publicized as having preservative benefits, but the quantity to add is questionable.
• Unless they’ve been tested and approved in the right proportions, home remedies can clog the water-absorbing surface of cut stems.
• Acidifiers in preservatives help stabilize pigments, making flower colors remain more vibrant.
• Never use softened water or well water that is alkaline for cut flowers. The salts shorten flowers’ lifespan. Distilled or reverse osmosis water is best, combined with preservative.
• Keep flowers away from hot or cold drafts, especially near hot spots like heat ducts, radiators and television sets.
• When you’re not home, flowers can be put in the refrigerator for added longevity.
• Never store flowers where fruit or vegetables are stored. The ethylene gas produced causes flowers to age.