Cut flowers are beautiful, but their beauty can be short-lived. Bacteria and fungus can destroy the flowers, limiting the length of time they can be enjoyed. Cut flowers usually come with packets to extend their fresh appearance. These packets contain sugar for energy, acid to make the stem more porous and a biocide with antibacterial properties, according the University of California Marin County Cooperative Extension. If you don't have one of these packets, there are a few simple things you can do to keep your cut flowers fresh longer.
Holding your flowers under water while cutting the stems enables them to draw water up the stem. Recutting the stem every few days renews the cut surface and refreshes the flower. Remove the foliage below the water line and cut the stem at an angle to expose more surface area.
Adding a few drops of a clear spirit alcohol, such as vodka, can reduce the amount of bacteria in the water and limit future bacterial growth. Include a teaspoon of sugar, in addition to frequent water changes, to extend the beauty of your cut flowers.
Vinegar is often used as a cleaner for its antibacterial properties. Adding two tablespoons of vinegar or cider vinegar every time you change the water will increase the days you can enjoy your flowers.
The addition of 1/4 tsp. of bleach to a quart of water will help preserve your cut flowers by reducing bacteria. It also improves the appearance of the water by reducing cloudiness.
When flowers are first cut, submerging the stem in warm water (approximately 110 degrees F or 43.5 degrees C) aids in the uptake of water. This moves the water up the stem quickly and hydrates the flower. After hydrating the flowers in warm water, relocate them to a cool place in the house for maximum water uptake and flower preservation.
Exposure to heat or drafts can destroy the integrity of cut flowers by drying them out and using their energy resources, reports Mary H. Meyer, Extension Horticulturist at the University of Minnesota Extension. Avoid putting your flowers on the television, radiator or other electronics that emit heat.
When you are not going to be home to enjoy the flowers, put them in a cold area of the house. Your cut flowers can be put in the refrigerator, but store them away from apples, which emit ethylene gas.